Another year, another silly and confused seasonal attempt at cultural manipulation.
According to the Observer, Oxford council is planning on replacing Christmas with a “Winter Lights Festival”.
I’m sure that this has been tried before somewhere, although it may have been called a Solstice Lights Festival or something equally uplifting.
Whatever, it sounds a hoot.
The report mentions that the word ‘Christmas'” is being dropped in order to make the festivities more “inclusive”. This has the whiff of multiculturalism about it to me – multiculturalism being the misguided, though usually well-meaning, attempt to give diverse cultures equal standing within society.
Unfortunately this usually involves the suppression of the dominant culture, which is seen as being oppressive simply because it is dominant. The fact that the dominant culture is dominant is not seen as a valid aspect of the cultural make-up of the country (and thus worthy of respect or at least consideration) but is seen as a hindrance. A holistic approach is not taken, in which the balance of the whole of society is considered – and thus as a result separate cultural groups are looked at in isolation to each other and are given distorted status.
These cultural groups are usually religious, although unfortunately my own religious stance – atheism – doesn’t get much of a look in. (Please give me a bit of distorted status!)
Looking at the suppression of the word “Christmas” from my own perspective as an atheist I really don’t see the point of the whole exercise.
I don’t really care that Christmas is a Christian festival, as I can easily ignore that part of it (although I do quite like bits of it). I personally look forward to the day when people may say that Christmas used to be a Christian festival (and that that’s were the name came from) but the idea of banning its name is at best daft and at worst counter-productive, serving only to get Christians’ backs up and helping to brand those who are opposed to Christianity as being either soulless or authoritarian.
I would never want to deny the Christian history of the Christmas festival. Even if Christianity were to die out I would still want to be aware of the Christian aspects of the season, simply because it’s wrong to deny the history of an event – and an awareness of that history will almost inevitably make the event more rich and interesting – just as it’s interesting to know how Christianity appropriated various pre-Christian festivals and moulded them to its own purposes (such as by substituting the cute Easter bunny in place of the much more pagan and sinister hare).
The fact that Christianity did this does not make Christianity a bad and scheming thing by the way (although it may be those things if you wish to think so, but not for those reasons) – it’s perfectly normal for recently arrived cultures to graft themselves onto whatever convenient aspects of the host culture are available. So as a result Christmas is linked to the winter solstice and Easter is linked to the vernal equinox (and the full moon) simply because festivals were there already.