Anymore, I’m happy once Christmas is over not because I am curmudgeonly or because of the commercialism, or the mad frenzy to have everything ready for the big day, or even the constant sound-barrage of Christmas music. It’s the big mud-pit brawl over whether Christmas is a holiday or a holy day that is sucking the life out of the celebration.
If there were such a designation as “The Biggest Brouhaha Over Nothing,” my vote would see the award go to the argument-cloud surrounding Christmas like smoke from a cheap cigar.
I have officially reached a personal melting point over the endless secular vs. religious bickering so, because I have no direct phone line to the Vatican, I headed to the Internet for some research into what I had long heard rumored about December 25.
Want to know what happened on that day in that Bethlehem manger oh-so-many centuries ago? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
• Jesus was not born that day. Sorry, that information is lost to an era of incomplete record-keeping and disregard for birth dates. No one knows when Jesus was born. Not the Christians, not the Jews, not the Muslims — all of whom have written record of Jesus being a real person. If the pope knows, he’s not saying.
• Nearly 200 years after the fact, a few religious scholars started suggesting various birth dates for Jesus, but the first record of a Christmas celebration wasn’t until almost 300 years after Jesus’ death.
• Prominent theories hold that December 25 was most likely picked because it was the date of the Roman holiday known as the birth of the sun god — part of a two-week long celebration of the solstice and the new year — suggesting that this was a way for the Christians to usurp one of the enemy’s holidays. It worked.
It also worked on other non-Christian religions and cultures that had solstice/mid-winter celebrations. Though Christmas isn't on a day marking the winter solstice, it was close enough for many celebrants. Plus, many religions and cultures celebrated the solstice over several days, so the 25th was right in the thick of things anyway, like a bonus celebration.
Prepare yourselves for more shockers.
Anyone still peeved that early Christians took over so many non-Christian holidays can find comfort knowing:
• Worldwide, even the Christians don't agree to celebrate Christmas in the same way or on the same day — some celebrations come as early as Dec. 6 or as late as January, and even May, some last a day, some weeks, some have presents, some none, blah blah blah. It has even been outlawed on occasion — by Christians.
• And, it's fair to say that good ol' Christian St. Nicholas has been effectively hi-jacked by the nonreligious and transformed from an actual saint into a mystical, jolly, red-suited man who flies magical reindeer. How's that for comeuppance?
Sure, December 25 in the manger undoubtedly saw the usual feeding and manure-mucking chores, but no shepherds were saying, “You did what? In the where? And he’s who? My God, that’s a miracle. Oh, look, there’s an angel.”
Though it’s not Jesus’ birthday, Christians use it as a date to recognize the event. And it's a good thing.
It's not the solstice, the new year or mid-winter, either, but for those people who celebrate those events — such as Hindus and Buddhists and traditional Hopis, Zunis, Iranians and Romans to name a few — it's a good time to make merry and be giving. That's good, too.
The December 25th holiday called Christmas encompasses many beliefs and traditions, from the non-Christian (decorated trees, mistletoe and North Pole) to the Christian (Christmas tree star, holly and stockings), so — oh hoho-holy night at the North Pole! — this means Christmas is for everyone.
My wish for 2014, then, is that everyone will agree that December 25 is both a holiday and a holy day, a time to celebrate togetherness in the spirit of one's own religion and family traditions, without the mudslinging and bickering that are contrary to what virtually every tradition says the season should stand for.
And if we can't all agree that Christmas is simply a widely interpreted name for an internationally varied holiday, then maybe we can just start calling it George or Mildred or Pat or anything but that argument-magnet Christmas.
Merry George and Happy New Year!
(Please quit harshing my Christmas vibe at firstname.lastname@example.org.)