Merry Christmas

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I am tired of everyone being afraid of saying Merry Christmas Sooo... Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas,Merry Christmas, For unto us is born a child which is Christ the Lord. That is the true meaning of Christmas Chuckie
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First off, there's at least two holidays in our culture going on under the one name of Christmas. There's a winter festival that is symbolized by evergreens, holly, and mistletoe; by our culture's embodiment of generosity in Santa Claus, and related presents; and by wintertime snow and sleighs. There's also a Christian holy day, celebrating the birth of Christ, which, for various historic propagandistic reasons, occurs on the same day. Christmas, as winter festival, and to a lesser extent, Christian holy day, is a pervasive holiday in our culture. Capitalism has a lot vested in the "presents" aspect of the festival, so it gets remorselessly promoted.
Most Christians don't have any difficulties with this promotion. Yes, sometimes you hear from time to time, phrases like, "He's the Reason for the Season" or "Put the Christ back in Christmas", which decries the materialistic aspects of the holiday. But generally it does them no harm to have their holy day in everyone's faces. It reinforces their viewpoint of themselves as the majority religion, and it underscores their superiority.
People who are not practicing Christians but who come from a Christian background still usually have no major problem with Christmas, as they can fully participate in the winter festival and skip the holy day aspects of the holiday.
People from flexible religions like Hinduism or Buddhism have some difficulties, but not major ones. Buddhism has adapted itself repeatedly to local deities and festivals. If Bodhi Day, the celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment, which usually observed on December 8 gets moved out a little to December 25 - what harm is there in that? You can even string lights on your house to symbolize the Buddha's enlightenment, no problem. Our local Hindu community had their own ceremony honoring Christmas, as they see Jesus as a holy man and prophet. NBFD for these folks.
Jews are in a different situation. Their 2000-year history of being a minority religion has caused the Jewish tradition to be very strict in non-participation in the majority culture's religious festivals. Because of our own culture's confusion between the winter festival and the Christian holy day, most Jews feel that even the winter festival portion of the holiday is off-limits. They will say that "Santa Claus" is a Christian saint, for example, and therefore something Jews can have absolutely nothing to do with. And to some extent they are right - at one time, Santa Claus sort of was a Christian saint, who had a saint-day some time near solstice, and somehow he got mixed up in the big winter festival. These same Jews will point the Christmas tree, and say, look, it's a *Christmas* tree, for heaven's sake, the word "Christ" is in it, there's no way it can not be a Christian symbol - or, if you point out that it was originally pagan, well, why should it being pagan make it any more off-limits to them as Jews than if it were Christian? So, most Jews feel that they can't participate in any aspect of Christmas.
At the same time, Jews are confronted with the holiday at every turn. Christmas is this 400-pound gorilla of a holiday. *Everyone* is participating in it. It's one of the few times of the year where one's religious beliefs and practices are out there for public comment and discussion, even by strangers: "Merry Christmas!" "Uh, actually, we're Jewish, but thank you anyway." Anywhere in out in the world, you have to be aware that the entire culture is preparing for and participating in this massive event. It can not be ignored. Further, and annoyingly, the winter festival is tremendously appealing. Christmas trees are beautiful. Christmas lights are beautiful. Christmas parties are fun. Getting presents is fun. Sharing in a generous spirit is fun. Many Jews then respond to Christmas with deep resentment. Many Jews hate, hate, hate Christmas with a passion.
One Jewish response in North America to the pervasiveness and appeal of Christmas is to take what was once a minor wintertime festival, Chanukah, and pump it up. I personally think this is a mistake. Why?
A. Chanukah, because it is a minor festival, can never be as big and wonderful as Christmas. It is always destined to be a junior Christmas. It will never be as fabulous as what everyone else gets to do, and therefore will just make the larger culture's festival seem that much more appealing, and the situation Jews are in seem worse. B. Having Chanukah around means that Christians can give it a little lip service, and then do their own holiday in a Big Way with a clear conscience. An example is the extremely annoying practice of having 15 Christmas carols at the concert, and a little sop to the Jews with "I had a little dreydel." "Why should you complain, huh? You *get* a damn Chanukah song, so shut up."
A sensible Jewish response, I think, is to promote genuinely important Jewish holidays at home and in the culture. String little lights and hang decorations on your sukkah, so it looks as pretty as Christmas tree. Do a big pile of holiday baking at Purim, and hand out Purim baskets of cookies to friends and neighbors. Have a big family get-together at Passover - still the most widely-celebrated Jewish holiday in North America.
My personal response is to indeed decorate the sukkah, and do holiday baking at Purim, and get together with family at Passover - and still enjoy the winter festival aspects of Christmas. I have done enough genealogy to know that I have relatives at each generation going back 150 years that have intermarried into the larger community. If we don't have a reason to participate in the religious holy day of Christmas, I still feel we, as a household, have some claim on the larger cultural winter festival.
I carry a lot of ambivalences about Christmas. I feel I've also taught many of these ambivalences, for better or worse, to my children. I hate the smug triumphalism of it, but I like the honoring of the evergreen, the marking of the darkest days of the year, and the celebration of the spirit of generosity.
--
Warm Regards,


Claire Petersky
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Thanks, Claire, for a very thoughtful and well-reasoned response. I come from a Christian background, but I have no problem wishing someone whose religion I don't know "Happy Holidays", since that also includes New Years Day, as well as Channukah. It's easy for me to save Merry Christmas for people I actually know. One of my teachers was Jewish, but raised in a non-religious way. She dragged home a bedraggled Christmas tree one year, as a child. Her mother, a Russian immigrant, had a fit when she saw it. Her memory of childhood Christmases in Russia in a time of pogroms, was that if men in the countryside had too much "Christmas vodka cheer", they'd grab a gun and go out looking for hapless Jews who might be unfortunate enough to be out on the streets at that hour. So it was a day and a season of visceral terror for many Jews living in shtetels throughout Eastern Europe.

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On Fri, 09 Dec 2005 04:01:14 GMT, "Claire Petersky"

[..]
You and those who share your opinion must have a lot of influence! News reports state that outbursts demanding use of the term "Christmas" forced, e.g. Target to change its holiday advertising to a more "Christian" slant. No doubt other retailers are facing a similar campaign.
It took decades -- literally! -- to get retailers to tacitly acknowledge that other religions/belief systems also celebrate the return of the sun, by whatever name they call it.
Personally, I think that these "Christian" pressure groups -- perhaps the same who constitute Bush's "base"? -- aren't acting very Christian or very American.
"My way or the highway"? That's toleration, diversity, respect for the other? That's the American way?
I don't think so!
Persephone
--
"While all other sciences have advanced,
government is a standstill -- little better
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Out of curiosity, if the true meaning of Christmas to honor the birth of someone, will you be giving gifts to friends and family? Or will you be giving the money you would have spent on gifts to the church instead? The wisemen didn't run home and give gifts to their friends and family, they gave it to the newborn.
Of course all of this assumes that Jesus was born in December and not some other time of year...but since just about everything associated with Christmas was borrowed from other cultures anyways. the true meaning of Christmas has more to do with spending time with friends and family then it does with any events in Bethlehem.
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wrote:
[...]

[...]
More likely in the Spring. "There were shepherds abiding in the fields..."
Point is, as another poster indicated, many, if not most, cultures have some kind of celebration or invocation at the darkest time of year, to bring back the sun.
Our early ancestors must have been terrified when they saw the days getting shorter and shorter. In pre-historic times, one wonders what kinds of sacrifices, rituals, etc. they engaged in to bring back the sun.
Today, it's become a hysterical race to buy (generally) useless tchatchkes for one's "Christmas list".
Some fed-up people, Christian or otherwise, have decided not to feed Moloch, but instead to donate the amounts that would otherwise be spent on Christmas "gifts" to charity. Think of the good that could be done if that idea spread!
Stan Freber's hymn to the commercialization of the festival, "Green Christmas", says it all! From an on-like article about the great, the ineffable, the ultra-talented Stan Freberg:
"Green Christmas" with Scrooge recast as the head of a major ad agency and Bob Cratchit as an account exec committing industry-heresy by not exploiting Christmas every way possible in his ads."
Finally, good wishes to the REAL Christians. May they celebrate the purported founder of their belief system with prayers and tzedakah.
Persephone
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Yes most likely the Shepperd's were in the fields in the spring instead of freezing in the winter. I though will continue celebrate Christmas at the traditional date. And I will continue to thank God everyday for sending his son Jesus Christ to earth for you and me. My issue is with this nutsy political correctness of happy holidays to make me feel bad because I celebrate the physical birth of the God of the universe. So Merry Christmas Chuckie in the frozen north zone 5
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I thank God that he appeared in the form of Krishna and Rama for you and me to to learn about his teachings. Us hindus got God to appear on our lands, you only got his son.

Your God was born only 2000 years ago? A little late to the party isn't he? Earth is how many billion years old? Must have been delayed because he was visiting other cultures first...which also explains why he sent his son on his behalf.
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Chuckie, the introduction of "Happy Holidays" was never meant to make you or other believing Christians "feel bad". Please don't take it that way.
Au contraire, there came about (slowly!) the recognition that other belief systems also celebrate a holiday at the Winter Solstice, and THEY felt offended at the assumption that only the Christian holiday should be mentioned.
So, in a country where diversity is celebrated, it became somewhat "politically incorrect" to assume that the Winter Solstice celebrations were only for Christians.
One almost gets the feeling "Oh, they ccould dish it out, but they couldn't take it" <g>
You go right ahead celebrating your belief system the way you see fit and don't take offense at "Happy Holidays". Thank goodness you're in a country where the mullahs can't tell you how to worship!
Persephone
--
"The thing that causes the question
is the disparity between whatpeople
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Yes thank God that we live in country where any religion can be, and no one can tell them they cannot practice their religion. Chuckie in the frozen north zone 5
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snipped-for-privacy@myfam.com says...

In that case, Io Saturnalia, Chuckie.
        Bill
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Bill In article snipped-for-privacy@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com,
snipped-for-privacy@myfam.com says... Yes thank God that we live in country where any religion can be, an no one can tell them they cannot practice their religion. Chuckie in the frozen north zone 5
In that case, Io Saturnalia, Chuckie.
Bill
yes there are all kinds of different religions in our world an everyone of them have different beliefs and celebrations and we al must learn to respect that fact. i just wish that someone would come u with a sign that said merry christmas as well as other sayings so tha every sector of our religious communities are covered thereby stoppin all the bad feelings and upset that people sometimes feel. after all we do celebrate in many different ways and everyone i entitled to their beliefs as well as their different celebrations. chuckie i can understand what u are trying to say u dont like the wa that a lot of the signs say happy holidays instead of merry christma because to u christmas means the birth and celebration of the chris child so it makes u frustrated to see those signs. u are very muc entitled to your opinion but u also have to respect the opinion an religion of other ppl which i think u do even though u do end u getting frustrated and yup i dont mind saying Merry Christmas chuckie hope u have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, love an many happy memories. sockiescat
-- sockiescat
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Here are a few thoughts.
First, when I bestow a greeting on someone, it is for THEIR benefit, not mine. Get it? It is sort of like a gift. Therefore, if they don't celebrate Christmas I see no point in wishing them such. Frankly, it just makes the person utterng the greeting look like a schmuk when they make incorrect assumptions. It is like when someone calls a lesbian couple and asked to speak to the "man of the house." It would be like asking YOU what you are fixing for Passover.
Secondly, what is more "politically correct" than some paranoid nuctase insisting that private businesses include the word "Christmas" in their advertising or greetings when there are several holidays which occure at the same time and when some people don't celebrate any of these holidays?
Finally, it is entirely up to you if you want to feel bad.
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Oh grow up. Nobody with half a brain is afraid to say "Merry Christmas", especially to people to whom they know it applies. Season's greetings is for situations where we don't know the faith of someone we're greeting and wishing well. I can think of at least 5 celebrations that take place around the same time as Christmas and these people deserve respect too.
Put your persecution complex away and have a super holiday!
Jacqui
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Everyone I talk to is afraid of offending somone by saying Merry Christmas even though 95% of americans celebrate the holiday. Chuckie in the frozen north zone 5
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You should widen your circle of acquaintances or get them a referral to mental health clinic. Phobias can be treated.
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What do you beleive is the meaning of Chrismas? Chuckie in the frozen north zone 5
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Christmas. Originally a pagan celebration adopted by Christians. In colonial America, the holiday was banned by Christians. More recently, it has been co-opted by nut cases like Bill O'Crazy to pander to his audience of dunces and distract attention from other matters like the Abramhoff/Delay/Ney/Scanlon/Safabia/Cunningham/... scandals.
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Say whatever you want, recognize not everybody is participates in the religious aspect of Christmas. Apparently especially not Christians.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/12/06/churches.closed.christmas.ap/index.html
Some of the larger churches will be closed on Christmas day because of projected low attendance. So much for being religious.
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and a Happy Harmonika ;)
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