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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Bah, humbug! Opting out of Christmas
You’re such a Scrooge! What a Grinch!
Anyone showing the faintest signs of dislike or even apathy toward Christmas is jokingly referred to as Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ classic anti-hero from A Christmas Carol, or the Grinch—the mean, green, hairy creature from Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. These characters “saw the light” in the end and embraced the jolliness, but reality is, some people simply aren’t into Christmas, including the secular, atheist, and religious. Here are some views from people who have opted out of Christmas.
Don’t call me a Grinch
Television producer and writer Paolo Kernahan said life in the media forever ruined Christmas for him. He said: “Working as a journalist, I often had to work many Christmas days. It was very difficult to see other people and all of their merry-making while I was stuck in an office or, worse, forced to do stories about how people celebrate the season.” Kernahan, who is Catholic but “not particularly devout,” has nothing to do with it any more. “Now I cannot bear to hear any Christmas music and typically change the radio stations playing any sort of seasonal music. I don’t put up Christmas trees nor any other decorations. I certainly don’t do any shopping. A life in the media unfortunately ruined this time of year for me.” Before feeling this way, Kernahan said Christmas was a time to lime with loved ones.“Christmas for me was principally about spending time with friends and family. There is something very unique about the way in which Trinidadians celebrate Christmas. It is difficult to describe but the sort of vibe you get when you are mixing with friends and family is very special.”
Even though Kernahan is self-employed, his documentary making still requires him to work on public holidays. “My last working Christmas Day was last year. I did not take into consideration that when you work for yourself, every day is a work day. I’ve worked Sunday to Sunday for the past five years, so I kinda numb to it now. For me, too much time has passed without honouring my favoured pastime of the ‘Christmas lime.’ “It’s not that I’m a Grinch or anything, I want people to enjoy themselves, I just don’t want to know about it.”
Ritual vs Religion
Writer and columnist with the T&T Guardian BC Pires said Christmas to him meant performing meaningless rituals, comparable to any other religious holiday. “Christmas doesn’t have any religious significance for my family. But we celebrate the festival itself, the same way we light deyas for Divali and drink sawine at Eid. The ritual is empty, but it’s pleasant, and it’s something we do as a family.” Still, Pires indulges in a special Christmas breakfast, a habit born out of once having to protect his children’s beliefs in Santa Claus. “I have my own ritualistic Christmas breakfast of chocolate biscuits and milk, a hangover from the days when my children were young enough to believe in Santa Claus and I had to finish the biscuits and milk we left out for him on Christmas Eve.” Pires said his children obviously became more realistic as they got older. “We don’t leave biscuits out for Santa any more, since our children are old enough to know that Santa Claus, like God, is a lovely story for kids, but extremely unlikely in reality.”
FYI: ‘Christ’ was never in ‘Christmas’
Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, the Bible gives no hint about the specific time of year he was born. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth either. The earliest gospel, written about 65 CE, begins with the baptism of Jesus as an adult, which suggests the earliest Christians lacked knowledge about his birthday. Beulah Latchman, who identified with Christianity but more so described herself as a believer in the Messiah, does not celebrate Christmas for this reason, describing it as a “pagan festival.” “Jesus was not born on that day,” she explained. “The Bible says nothing about Christmas or a birthday. It commemorates his death.” Added to that, as the story goes, there were shepherds in Bethlehem who were outside tending to their flock of sheep when Jesus was born in a manger. Latchman said that was not possible because of the weather at that time of the year. “It was winter in Bethlehem. It was too cold for shepherds to be sleeping outside with their sheep, or sleep on cold, open fields at night.” Scholars have pointed that out, suggesting it was more likely Jesus was born during fall or late spring, when it was warmer. Latchman said she used to exchange gifts with family and friends, but gave up that tradition completely. Still, she confessed to humming along to Christmas carols on the radio now and then.
Significance of December 25
In ancient Rome, December 25 was celebrated as the day of the winter solstice as well as the last day of Saturnalia, during which people feasted and exchanged gifts. The Roman church formally celebrated December 25 in 336 CE, when Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Historians have speculated that choosing this date had the political motive of weakening the established pagan celebrations. Emperor Constantine managed to blend pagan symbols and rituals into Christianity, effectively converting pagans to the religion.
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