This could be a sign that I am getting old, or it could be a sign that as Bob Dylan once said, the times they really are a changing. It is easy to be seduced by rose coloured myths of the days of yore when all was joy and happiness set to a Bing Crosby Soundtrack, we want to think it was all better then, perhaps because if it was better once before, it gives hope that it can be better than it is now.
The reality is that with the global growth of communication has come a flood of information and with that a massive tidal wave of awareness of how broken the world is and how diverse the suffering and inhumanity of people really can be. We know more about human trafficking, slavery that happens now, the murders, rapes, mutilations, domestic violence and abuse than ever before. Human brokenness and evil has never really been laid open so bare at any point in history; the difference is perhaps that in some respects it has become unapologetic, institutional and how people have become indifferent as a way of coping with their powerlessness in the face of the overwhelming inhumanity and cruelty. We cling on to the kind, uplifting disproportionately to their overall worldly impact because we need to believe, like we need to believe in a different Christmas.
Christmas has become a feast of consumerism, debt, overindulgence, greed, gluttony, selfishness, comparison, putdowns, and ultimately smug sneering superiority of the privileged. Lately, the rise of the constantly offended adding a sprinkle of undue cynicism and misery, extremism, and self-righteousness and bigotry to the heady explosive cocktail of the “Holiday Season”. Such beautiful ideas as banning songs and changing Santa Claus to be non-binary or ggender-fluid are wonderful examples of a vocal statistical minority imposing through fear – a form of libertarian terrorism their own viewpoint on a larger group, who for the large part actually barely care and want to survive as best they can with as little conflict as possible. They miss the point of a conglomerate character in a story that is placed and has gained significance because the true centre character of Christmas has been marginalised.
Gone are the days when I would carefully explain how early Christians were fond of a party and persecuted, and so not having a party when all the “Pagan” religions were at the winter solstice was both expedient in terms of not standing out and getting them killed and something they would like being former Pagan’s and used to a good party. And having to add that given that Christianity wasn’t even called that when the Mass for Christ was invented, in fact, it wasn’t even called that yet, of course, they borrowed from what they knew because it didn’t have a handbook or starter kit yet.
Largely because no one is interested in the reality of the whole thing or being told that early Christians liked to party (see Paul’s letters!). Nope it’s all about Santa instead, which is cool, you got to have a reason. In my view, it’s all good as no one gets hurt and no one is being harmed really. Which is the problem, people are being harmed and they are getting hurt, it is looking less like a real celebration and more and more like a ritual sacrifice to the consumerist demon.
So where am I going, my main point is simple, we need to reclaim Christmas; by that I do not mean we all have to have a Jesus by the fire Puritan Christian Christmas, I mean we have to take it back from the Demon possessed debt fuelled carnage festival of real and metaphorical bloodshed it is rather quickly becoming without so much as a whimper of resistance from the middle ground majority.
The reason we would allow a gender fluid non binary Santa is so we don’t look like bigots and some sort of phobic, well I am that by being alive (white, male, middle class, married to a woman – I am beyond any redemption to ists and the isms that dominate the extremist world), so they can label me that if they want because as is their mantra, I will live by my own self-definition not an externally applied label, just like I always have, which is long before it became trendy, and way before you had to be at least vegetarian to prove it, which I am not either, oh dear.
My point is, let’s take a leaf from this vocal minority’s own play book and self-define Christmas and start enjoying it our way on our terms and not theirs, and not anyone else’s. Not harming ourselves, not harming others, no financial ruin, no fighting, no unnecessary comparison, and maybe a lot more love and understanding and even a big dose of kindness and compassion, if we feel like it.