Yesterday, I read an old post by Andreas Moser about how he used to hate Christmas. It emphasized the point that this thoroughly Christian ritual is forever being rammed down everybody’s throat, no matter what religious beliefs they hold or do not hold.
And that’s true. But for many non-Christians, and I dare say for some Christians as well, the religious aspect is irrelevant; what matters is that Christmas is stable and recurrent, and that it gives you an opportunity to connect with the people you trust more than other people (it doesn’t have to be family), and also to rest.
With the stability and recurrence of any ritual, it makes those of us who always hurry to achieve more stop and consider what we have now. It makes us remember about those special people I mentioned – yes, we have forgotten about them again! It makes us consider the people that are missing, too. And other things.
Some of us don’t like to stop in our hurry, and for those, Christmas comes to unwanted rescue. Because sometimes, you just need to stop and think – about the life you’ve been living, about your relationships, about your problems and plans for the future.
And even if that moment when you stand alone by the window – if there’s anyone else, they’re busy talking, staring at the TV in a food coma or they’ve already gone to bed… Even if that moment is a dark one, difficult to bear and you don’t want it, I really think that the essence of Christmas is in there, too. Paradoxically, in the stability and recurrence of those solitary moments, you can learn a lot of new things.
And if churches benefit from our weakness for ritual? If they gather many more people than they usually do, and kindly, in a Christmas spirit, force their ideology upon them? Even if, in the end, they cash in on the fact that we want to feel connected, and need the stability and recurrence that religious ritual gives?
Well, that part sucks.
Of course, we could be stronger, and reject the religious aspect of Christmas. We could just focus on what’s more important for us: connecting with people, rest, self-reflection, the stability and recurrence of it. A ritual can do without a religious back story.
But I guess most people won’t do that even if they don’t like the religious aspect of Christmas. Perhaps they’re too attached to the Christmas they know from childhood, and in their minds it seems criminal to alter it in any way. Isn’t that so?
We follow in the old footsteps… whose footsteps these are, we don’t know. They’re old, so they must be right. We will continue in this way for a long time.
…But who can blame us for being weak?*
* In Poland, people say that one’s point of view depends on the point where one sits. So just to explain mine: I was raised Catholic in this very Catholic country but later lost personal interest in religion, and now I’m just watching how the church here piles up reasons to be rejected by the people but nevertheless remains privileged and strong.