Another Christmas has come and gone. Despite fanatic claims of a war on the holiday, we are at peace in that respect. Christmas is wonderful in three ways. First, it is a time when people get together with family and friends to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate. Second, it is a time when people traditionally express their wish for peace on earth. This is important to think about when we are fighting to wars ( and chasing terrorists around the globe), Syria is torn by a horrible civil war, and the Palestinian- Israeli conflict is worsening. Third, it is holiday that actually unites three traditions.
The name , of course, reflects the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. The root of the holiday, however, is pagan. The winter solstice was originally celebrated around De. 25. This occurrence was the happiest day of the year, in Europe at least, because it was the date that the Sun stopped moving down ward in the sky every day and reversed directions. The ancient Roman empire, after it had become Christian, made this day, known then in Rome as Saturnalia, the date of Christmas to facilitate in the conversion of pagans.
Finally, a secular tradition centering around the myth/legend of Santa Claus developed in Europe and was brought to this country by Unitarians (now Unitarian Universalists). This tradition has two problems. One, Santa has always been a white man. The idea of a black version has finally been articulated this year. hopefully this is only the beginning. The idea that such a ubiquitous fantasy character should always and only be a white male is inane.
The second problem is that the whole Santa Claus thing is overtly commercial, serving to sell a myriad of products. In fact, Rudolph, the most famous of Santa Claus’s reindeer, was invented by a department store. As with all things, we must take this in moderation. Besides, in a time when a horde of reverse santas (the Republican majority in the U.S. House, Republican rogue governors, Walmart, McDonald’s, etc.) are sucking up money from the poor and funneling it to the rich, imagining a benevolent Santa Claus is slightly refreshing. It also serves to remind us to turn the reverse santas out of office next year.