Nothing brings people together like good food and conflict. As the holiday season approaches, the media is showing their appetite for both with early talk of the "War On Christmas." Now don't get me wrong: I love the Christmas spirit. As a young girl, my family would collect gifts for the needy, deck the halls and throw a mean Holiday party. But I don't know why an inclusive celebration negates the "meaning" of Christmas. If we're honest, Christmas' origins are inclusionary, incorporating many different cultural and -- dare I say -- pagan traditions.
The Day of Christ's Birth? Really?
I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but there is no scriptural or historical basis for December 25th actually being the day that Jesus was born. The earliest recorded celebrations of a nativity come from Christians in Egypt who celebrated around the 20th of May. This doesn't mean that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, but unlike many traditional Jewish holidays, we don't seem to be quite as strict with our dates in the Christian tradition. Our celebrations were institutionally implemented outside of doctrine and have been rather fluid. The celebration of Yule was a Norse winter holiday. The Roman celebration of Saturnalia, which took place the week before December 25th, included gift giving, decorations in greenery, lights, feasts and markets. Sol Invictus celebrated the birth of the sun around Winter Solstice.
It has been suggested that Christmas was, in fact, a strategic act of tolerance, allowing harmless traditions to take on religious meaning and enable the conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity.
What Would a Real Christian Do?
I am not recommending you dumb down your celebration, but Jesus' whole thing was to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn't say to love your Christian neighbor as yourself. He said to love whatever neighbor you have. And I don't know where you live, but I have neighbors who celebrate all sorts of different things. And if they don't celebrate Christmas, it doesn't hurt my Christianity to wish them a happy holiday or a joyful season. Going to their iftar doesn't encroach on my Christmas bash and spinning a dradle doesn't dim the lights of my Christmas tree. Call me crazy, but I don't think Jesus really cares about us celebrating His birthday. He cares about us following him every day through our thoughts and through our actions; he cares about us feeding the hungry; he cares about us tending to the sick; he cares about us doing good to those who don't seem to deserve it; he cares about us helping the poor, the depressed, the downtrodden and the weak.
As Christmas helps us to accomplish those goals, more power to it. But literally, for Christ's sake (or whoever else you may or may not be celebrating), let's make this holiday season about love and food, not war and conflict.