Friday, December 15, 2006

And so this is Christmas

And so continue the annual skirmishes over terminology, iconography and civic values that have come to characterise Christmas. It does raise so many of the contradictions inherent in a society that proclaims itself as secular, but is built on centuries of Christian tradition. Although these skirmishes have intensified since September, 2001, this is really a conflict within the culture of the West.

It didn't start with PC or with Islamic assertiveness, but with the Pilgrim Fathers, who banned celebrating Christmas in Massachusetts until 1681, and with other Unitarian worthies, such as Charles Dickens, in whose hands it bacame a "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time" rather than a remembrance of the Incarnation.

Santa Claus is a Unitarian invention spun off the very real, heroic, and virtuous St. Nicholas. A Unitarian penned "Jingle Bells," a delightful tune, devoid of Christian intent or meaning.
Unbelievers such as myself have taken to this interpretation to cover our sentimental attachment to the festival, but as in so many aspects of this cultural schizophrenia we live with, it is exposed as hollow when opposed by those of stronger convictions. So we tend to return to the forms and play identity politics with them to match the claims from the others in the same arena. Somehow such assertiveness about this festival of light and plenty in the depths of Winter becomes 'meanness of sprit' and loses even the gentleness of Dickens' Christless version.

Although I share the annoyance and scorn felt by many at the antics of the PC Brigade, such feelings are not what I want or used to have at Christmas. Not that I can find a way to resurrect what I/we once had. Such are the times.

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