The use of a Nativity scene on the CRE’s Christmas Card is an interesting and contemporary choice. It is at this time of the year, every year, that the ‘Political Correctness’ phoenix rears its ugly head, and indeed Jamie Doward’s article about the card in The Observer veers onto precisely that reserve. We hear from the Archbishop of York, who complains that “crib is in danger of being thrown out of Christmas” and it is secularists who are being blamed for this decline. On Saturday, The Daily Mail found that only 3% of Christmas cards now carry a ‘traditional’ message – that is, some depcition of the Christian Nativity:
Religious groups and MPs last night warned that the multi-million pound Christmas card industry was losing sight of the real reason for celebrating the festive period. … Conservative MP Philip Davies said card manufacturers who ditched Christmas symbols were falling victim to “politically correct madness”.
No. It is the MPs who are falling victim to the propaganda put out by the religious groups. In fact, it is the Christian establishment who are peddling the politically correct line here. And, just like the worst examples of ‘PC gone mad’ which infuriates so many people, they frame themselves as the victims of prejudice. Then they demand everyone else make changes to fit their (Christian) agenda.
And so we endure this sanctimonious talk about Christmas, and its “true meaning”. The complainers forget that a Winter Festival long pre-dates the celebration of Christ’s birth. There were pagan, ‘Yuletide’ festivals held in the winter anyway. Indeed, a feast period during the coldest days of the year is hardly an innovation unique to the followers of the Nazarene! I tell you what: If I was the founding father of some cult or culture, then I reckon this month would be ideal for a festival of some sort. Now is the perfectly logical time to take stock of the year gone by, (and in agricultural communities, literally ‘take stock’), make plans and resolutions for the year to come, and, with my family, welcome the light and prosperity promised by spring.
And, Lo! In this age of technology, mass communication and commercialisation, this is precisely what we do. For all the whines about us ignoring that Bethlehem story, we still see most people in this country spending time with their family, feasting, and spending some of the hard earned fruits of their labour. Sure, in pagan times, these were actual fruits and other farm produce. That in today’s world, the fruits happen to take the form of, say, a Nintendo Wii is, I think, merely a matter of detail… I wish people would stop forcing upon us the lie that this is, in itself, a bad thing.
We should remember that for the past thousand years or so, the dominant religion has succeeded in labelling “The Winter Festival” with the brand-name “Christmas”. On the surface, the focus was narrowed to just the Nativity… but all the while, up-and-down the continent, ordinary people also retained the wider traditions of family, feasting, and welcoming the new season. Festivals can and do have more than one meaning.
In the twenty-first century, we see the older meanings bubble back up to the surface. Some will sneer, and label these values ‘secularist’; I call these values simply ‘human’ and inclusive. The pious, exclusive dogma is marginalised. No wonder those who see their power, influence and world-view on the wane are beginning to complain. Their own re-branding excercise, imposed by the Christian Roman Emperors, is now being reversed, and “Christmas” once again becomes “Winter Festival”.
It is nevertheless ironic that they complain about this. By lobbying to retain the Christian label for what has clearly become a secular festival, it is Christianity that is undermined. “Christ Mass” is obviously a word invented by Christians, with a specific meaning. If people really want to celebrate this ‘true’ meaning (i.e. The Birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ) then perhaps they should do so on December 7th, along with their friends in the Orthodox Church. Free of the guilt that their chosen religion inexplicably ladles onto their heads, they could then celebrate a more generic festive season on 25th December with the rest of us.
Adherents of minority religions have been doing this for centuries. Jewish people celebrate Hannukah at some point in December (this year, I believe it begins this Saturday, 16th December). This observance does not stop them enjoying the festive season with the rest of us, indulging in an excessive feast just like everyone else. They do not winge that their neighbours’ conception of this time of year might be diffferent from theirs.
So, it is actually all these MPs, Bishops, and Stephen Greens who miss the point of these imminent celebrations. Worse, they seek to hi-jack it, by trying to define for everyone else what the winter festival is for. This impedes and bores the rest of us, who are just trying to have a bit of fun with our family and friends.