Today’s post from The Daily Libertarian will not be political. It will be a rare religious post, in observance of Christmas.
At midnight mass last night, my wife and I were reminded that the word ‘Christmas’ has two roots: ‘Christ,’ as in Jesus Christ, and ‘Mass,’ as in what a congregation does at church. The word ‘Christmas’ means, quite literally, ‘Mass of Christ,’ and as such, the joy and wonder of salvation – salvation from the bondage to our own sin – is central to the Christmas message. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, when God entered the world as a mortal man, to live among us, and to act as the sacrificial lamb in payment for the sins of all mankind. We celebrate the fact that God loves us so much as to suffer for us, in human form, for our sin.
Most Christmas traditions are actually Roman. Roman Emperor Constantine Romanized Christian holidays, including by moving dates around, to make Christian holidays as palatable to Romans as possible. The majority of biblical historians believe Jesus was born in June or July – not December. The Christmas Tree, Christmas lights, wreaths, feasting – all of these things come from the Roman holiday Saturnalia, celebrating Saturn, the Roman god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. December 25th is very close to the Winter Solstice, and as such it is a natural day to celebrate the annual rebirth of the world.
Regardless of how, and when, we celebrate the birth of Christ, our Christmas celebrations are still fitting. What better time to celebrate the rebirth of our souls, as eternal beings that are free from sin, than on the day the Romans celebrated the rebirth of Earth each year? What better way to celebrate the gift of heavenly salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ than to give gifts to those we love? What better way to remember our own rebirth than to decorate a tree in our living rooms, in winter? The rebirth of spring, celebrated so close to the start of winter, parallels our own spiritual rebirth at the hands of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the use of a spring holiday at the beginning of winter serves as a reminder that no matter how cold it may get, spring is coming. Death is always followed by rebirth, and our rebirth comes at the hands of Jesus Christ.
I have to laugh a bit when people say, “Happy Holidays,” to avoid offending people – pretending that this is not predominantly a Christian nation. ‘Holidays’ is a plural word. What ‘holidays’ exactly are being celebrated? One holiday, obviously, is New Years, but what other holiday(s) are celebrated? According to recent Gallup polls, 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas directly as ‘Christmas.’ How can someone say that Christmas is not an American holiday when 95% of the country celebrate it? The use of plural in ‘Happy Holidays’ is a clear and undeniable reference to Christmas, so say the word proudly.
The first holiday that comes to mind when people try to avoid ‘Christmas’ in the holidays is Hanukkah. Hanukkah, however, is a minor Jewish holiday celebrating a miracle that occurred during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The Israelites had a tradition of burning an oil lamp at all times in The Holy of Holy Places, which was the part of the temple where the Word of God resided. It took eight days to make oil, and after Maccabean Revolt, the Israelites only had a one day supply of oil. The Israelites lit the lamp in the Holy of Holy Places anyway, and one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days – long enough to produce additional oil. As such, the Holy of Holy Places stayed lit, and Jewish people celebrate those eight days with the burning of eight candles – one for each day. This is a minor holiday that originally had nothing to do with gifts. Gift giving was added only as Jewish people, after the second exile from Jerusalem, began to live in Christian areas. Christian children got gifts at Christmas, and so Jewish families began giving gifts to their children during Hanukkah to keep Jewish children from feeling left out. The prominence of Hanukkah is directly related to the Christian holiday of Christmas, and as such the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is also directly related to Christmas. Without Christ, Hanukkah would still be a minor holiday barely celebrated at all.
Other holidays celebrated during the Christmas season, such as Kwanza, were created to allow people to celebrate Christmas without the reference to Christ. You can’t separate such holidays from Christmas, as the need to celebrate at this time of year is still based on Christmas, and as such, the birth of Christ. There is no major Islamic holiday on December 25th, nor a major Hindu holiday, nor a major holiday from any other major religion not already mentioned. Everyone celebrating in relation to December 25th is either celebrating Christmas, or celebrating something else to allow themselves to take part in the Christmas tradition without the reference to Christ. We’re all celebrating Christmas whether we like it or not.
We have convinced ourselves that saying “Merry Christmas,” is offensive to non-Christians, and that as such, saying “Merry Christmas” should be avoided. Our children no longer have Christmas Break from school – they have ‘Winter Break’ instead. How dumb are these avoidances when the whole purpose of ‘Winter Break,’ and of celebrating at this time of year, is Christmas? What are we afraid of? According to Gallup, 77% of Americans today are Christian, meaning that the believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, and a human embodiment of God who died for our sins. The proportion of Americans who were raised under Christian traditions brings the total up to about 97%. 97% of Americans are either practitioners of Christianity, or are cultural Christians, raised under Christian customs and values, albeit without the belief in Christ. This is, statistically speaking, a Christian nation whether we want to admit it or not, and without Christmas there is no reason to wish anyone ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than just ‘Happy New Year.’ I get the establishment clause in the First Amendment, but acknowledging our cultural heritage does not violate the establishment clause, and there is nothing ‘politically correct’ about ignoring truth. The truth is that virtually all Americans celebrate Christmas.
Christmas is, and will always be, the time to hold a mass for Christ. My wife and I were a part of Christ’s mass last night. I am free to believe what I will (as is everyone else), and I subscribe to the majority belief that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, who lived to teach us how to be closer to God, and who died to save us from bondage to our own sin. I use pagan traditions that have, over almost two thousand years, become a part of the Christian tradition, thanks to Emperor Constantine, but even with these pagan traditions, we are still celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. Jesus was probably born in July, but we celebrate on December 25th, just as Christians have done for almost two thousand years. Christmas is a Christian holiday, and anyone celebrating today is celebrating because of Christmas, even if they are not celebrating Christmas itself.
This is Christmas for all of us, so please take a moment to say it with me: Merry Christmas!