24 December 2014

Blessings of the Season

Boy, that was a fast four weeks...

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays! Oh wait...

I actually had a person take my arm last week and admonish that I was to wish her a "Merry Christmas" as opposed to "Happy Holidays." I looked at her with my best Spock eyebrow arch and said, "Merry Christmas then. I won't insult you by wishing you a Happy New Year as well."

I find this to be a prevalent attitude among people of a certain age and a certain religion, so most of the time I just let them have their moment of self-righteousness and move on. But to be so adamant as so grab my arm? Whoa. How about a little HISTORY lesson?

From Neolithic times, people throughout the world have observed and celebrated the
Photo by Jude Johnson 2014
Winter Solstice: the North Pole is in twenty-four hours of darkness while the South Pole has twenty-four hours of light. In the Northern Hemisphere, ancient agricultural societies marked this time with feasting, mainly because they had no way to truly preserve meat. January and February were "starvation season" and every plant harvested back in the autumn was needed to ensure their own survival. Slaughtering livestock at this time saved resources, and the meat had to be eaten within two weeks. It also became a celebration of the increase in daylight hours, heralding another planting season. The Romans observed Saturnalia at this time, and the early Christian church arbitrarily adopted the Nordic/Germanic/Pagan observance of Yule (the Winter Solstice) to be celebrated as the birth of Jesus to accommodate conversion of people to Christianity, not because it was the actual birth date.

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir ring a bell with anyone? And of course, Snoopy's "Have a Cool Yule"!

When I hear "Put Christ back in Christmas" and "Jesus is the Reason for the Season", the historian in me bristles a bit.  If you want to get all huffy about it, the Winter Solstice is historically the reason for celebration of this season, dating from before the creation of Stonehenge. Have you ever wondered why so many religions celebrate LIGHT this time of year? It's prime sales time for candles from Yule and Hanukkah to Christmas and Kwanzaa. It comes from the fact that Neolithic societies observed the lengthening of the daylight hours from the end of December until the middle of June. Lighting candles symbolizes the return of the sun and daylight. Whatever your belief system is now, it can culturally and historically be traced back to this.

So let's lighten up (pun intended) and just accept good wishes from those who wish "Happy Holidays," for there are many days of wonder and feasting to celebrate in our many and diverse cultures. All of them are worthy of validation.

May you all enjoy peace and happiness in the coming year.

Happy writing,