Friday, 30 November 2007

Just call it Christmas

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When our editor emailed New Humanist contributor Michael Bywater to invite him for a "Winterval" drink the other week, he triggered a fantastic rant on the absurdity of referring to the period as anything other than "Christmas".

With the onset of December we've published this on our website as part of our new web-only content, as it really did deserve a wider audience. Have a read and let us know what you think. What do you think of alternative names like "Winterval", and how should us heathens refer to Christmas? Leave your suggestions by commenting on this blog post. Should we even observe or celebrate it? Does anyone really care?

Also, make sure you let us know what you think by voting in the poll at the top right of this page.


jeepyjay said...

Being of a scientific turn of mind I like to refer to the period as the "Winter Solstice" (days either side of 21/22 December).

I take it "Geol" is old Anglo-Saxon, or Norwegian or something, for "Yule" is it? I quite like Yule as an alternative. It is possible to be a secular pagan.

proud Christian said...

I don't care if you don't celebrate Christmas. I do. Alot of us do. Celebrate your own holidays. I won't mind at all if you pray your prayers, put up your decorations and attend your houses of worship. I don't care if you are athiests. No problem. Just leave me and my beliefs and celebrations alone! I am sick of politically correct speech. If I went to Iraq, would they stop all mention of Islam so I am not offended? If I went to Israel, would they stop celebrating Passover for my sake? NO!!!! I would not expect them to and they shouldn't. America needs to stand up and proclaim that it's people are free to believe and celebrate their beliefs!

Paul Sims said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jeepyjay, does that mean that in general conversation at this time of year you say "Winter solstice"? And that you celebrate on 21/22 December rather than the 25th?

Matt said...

Ah, the Ghost of Arguments Passed has once again come to haunt us. Once again I wonder why no one ever seems to be bothered by the days of the week, which are all named after things that were worshipped at one time or another: Moon-day, Tyrs-day, Woden's-day, Thor's-day, Frigge (or Freyja)'s-day, Saturn-day, and Sun-day. Surely the religious fundamentalists of today could agree with atheists on this subject? Indeed we are united, but in apathy, not outrage. Perhaps, then, the solution to the Christmas Controversy is simply to start spelling it incorrectly.

Remember also that Christmas is very much a multi-faith festival, no matter what the Christians would have you believe. After all, the traditions of Santa, elves and christmas trees have nothing to do with Christianity, nor does the Bible say that Jesus was born on the 25th December. In fact the roots of the Yule festival are long and tangled in history, and while we don't typically sacrifice boars and male slaves any more, feasting, merriment and kindness to fellows through the darkest days of the Northern-hemispherical year are worthy traditions that served our ancestors well. If there's anything to argue about at all, it's that Christians are hogging the whole thing for themselves, but I see very little evidence that this is the case.

Arnfinn Pettersen said...

As to Jeepyjays exercise in etymology: The Norwegian name is "jul" (as is the Swedish and the Danish). It is a pre-christian name, but no one really knows its original meaning. It is easily translated into Engslish as Yule, and you are all very welcome to use it.

Norwegians humanists, who are often criticised for celebrating a humanist confirmation, is quite happy about it. We have suggested that we stop useing the term confirmation as soon as Norwegian christians stops useing the term jul.

But if we did call it "kristmesse", I would very much agree with Mr. Bywater.

jeepyjay said...

I tend to call 25 December "Newton Day" since Newton was born on christmas day 1642, according to the Julian calendar then in use.

As for naming the days, I see them as named for the sun, moon and planets rather than the gods.

Instead of taking the supposed birth year of the supposed Jesus as datum for counting the years I favour counting the modern age from 1564, the birth year of Galileo and Shakespeare. We are thus in the year 443 of Scientific Humanism.

Of course others will prefer 1543 (publication of Copernicus and Vesalius, viz: John Gribbin in History of Western Science) or other equally arguable dates.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with people like GPJ is they're more mired in the past (and also doubly more annoying) than the organised religious types they purport to rise above.

We know Christmas is not what it used to be, or how it was set out to be, by whoever, but we call it Christmas (or Xmas) because it is convenient for the modern age and keeps us all reading from the same hymn sheet, so to speak.

As long as it's not Winterval - that dreadful PC Nu Labour term.

brianna said...

cristmas is christmas - what's the big deal? i expect my beliefs to be respected, and therefore i choose to respect the beliefs of others. solstice is the 21/22nd. i celebrate a sort of christmas (hey, it was bastardized to start with, right?) because i enjoy having a tree and lights and so on, and i like an excuse to get friends and family together and celebrate the passing of another year, a little light in the winter, and what amounts to a historical celebration of the birth (albeit 5 months off)of someone who had some good things to say. i'd be just as happy doing this for, say, Lincoln's birthday if i wouldn't have to answer a lot of questions and feel a little silly. so, i've co-opted christmas back as a celebration of life and friends and family, on a day that conveniently makes it easy for me to buy lights and not have to go to work.

Proreason said...

I call it Christmas, but if you want some fun, why not the annual Cannibal Feast? After all, isn't it descended from the killing and eating of the king in pre-patriarchal tribes?

jeepyjay said...

Thanks for the insults Anonymous! Perhaps you could explain them.
How am I "mired in the past" and what is it I'm purportedly purporting to "rise above"?

Anonymous said...

I though the Christians Hijacked December the 25th ? Wasn't it the Celebration of the sun God Mithra ? So Christmas is not Christmas as Michael Bywater says , but Christ-mas ought be Mithra-mas ?

Anonymous said...

I think that the word Christmas gives christians a mistaken belief of ownership of the yule celebration (which christians stole from existing traditions centuries ago). Jesus was born in in the middle of the year, not Mithras birthday of Dec 25th. They modified the pagan festival to overwrite it with a christian one - and rather succesfully! But calling the time wintermas or winter solstice excludes the southern hemisphere from celebrating, as it is in our summer time. If Christians want to get nasty about a small part of ancient pagan practices, it is all too easy to do the same back to them. What about the 300 years and 7 million people (accused of being witches) murdered brutally by Christians during the 16-18th century Europe & America? The church acquired their properties and riches after their deaths. You can also read about Martin Luther, who was so appauled by the corruption in the catholic church that he created his own religion and was issued a death warrant from the Pope of the time! This is only a few hundred years ago! There are far more historical records of what the Christian church has done to innocent people than any other indigenous religion. Calling Pagans cannibals reminds me of when upper crust whites called anyone of colour 'cannibals'. It only displays a persons ignorance.

I think we might be stuck with calling it christmas for a while. With education, people are pulling away from organised religion, learning about history and thinking for themselves about their beliefs.

Gan Eden said...

'proud Christian' is in cloud cuckoo land and sadly like most xians which are deluded! if they KNEW and read the Bible and NT they would SEE that christ-mass is NOT of God and certainly NOT a Biblical nor NT festival, just like easter!

If their hearts truly loved AND WERE SEEKING YHWH the God of Israel, they would be honouring HIS FESTIVALS instead of referring to them as "Jewish", when the very same Covenant Promises to Jewish people apply to ALL in the (re)new(ed) Covenant (Jer 31:31)!!!

It's time God restored the lost trasures of His Word and the "church" repented of its MIXED WORSHIP and come out of BABYLON where it abides!!!!

Baruch Yahushua HamMashiach!!!