Jeff Green | Dec 17, 2009
Back to HomeEditorial - December 17, 2009Christmas ramble onEditorial by Jeff Green
This is our final issue of the year, #50, and it starts our annual two-week hiatus from publishing. We look forward to this, because for a very small business like ours the only way anyone can really get a holiday is if we close the doors for two weeks. Our next paper won't come out until the end of the “noughties”, as the British press have dubbed this decade, on January 7, 2010.
This is also our Christmas issue, which we hope you will enjoy.
I have always had a bit of a strained relationship with Christmas. In my youth, it was a non-existent event in the Jewish community where I lived, except for the TV specials and the department store windows at Ogilvy’s and Eaton’s in Montreal.
It was always around, and full of glitz and promise, certainly more of a big deal than Hanukah, which only has candles and latkes going for it, but it was someone else’s event.
When I was older and living in Peterborough, I began to have friends who went home for Christmas, or who had to deal with Christmas in some way. It seemed rather stressful to me, especially all that family stuff.
The thing that surprised me was when people began asking me why I didn’t celebrate Christmas. When I said I wasn’t Christian, they would say “neither am I, but Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity”
It took me years to figure that one out.
I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but what follows is as far as I’ve made it so far.
It seems to me that there is a fundamental tension between Christianity and Christmas, a tension I never dreamed of as a young boy watching the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and wondering why I only would get a about $12 in Hanukah gelt (money) each year when the TV ads convinced me that the Christian kids were all getting new bikes, train sets, colour TVs, stereos, and more.
Christmas is at least three things. It is a religious holiday, it is a cultural event, and it is an economic event. People pick and choose which ones they celebrate, and in what measure.
In spite of all the arguments about the holiday having its roots in Saturnalia and pagan rituals, for 2,000 years Christmas has been, at its core, the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ. There are complex religious and cultural rituals that have developed around that particular day, from the crêche to midnight mass to the feast and the exchange of gifts.
For Christians the build up to December 25, all of the school concerts and dinners and tree lightings, are a part of Advent, the days before the big day.
As our society has become more secular, the religious implications of Christmas have diminished for many people. Still tied to the culture of their antecedents but lacking the personal commitment that is required for someone to be a Christian (in my limited understanding of Christianity), Christmas has changed over the past 100 years for many people.
It is a cultural event, tied increasingly to nostalgia, a nostalgia that is fed by every Christmas movie, every Christmas cartoon, every bit of tinsel, and every advertisement about what to serve at the perfect Christmas dinner.
The nostalgia for a mythical past is part of the “family angst” that my friends of 25 years ago were so keenly aware of.
Finally, Christmas now carries an over-riding obligation. It’s all about salvation - the salvation of the world’s economy.
At midnight on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, economists began analysing the spending patterns of Christmas shoppers. At stake, as those poor souls rushed into the Walmart stores at 4 am, was nothing less than the fate of the world economy.
Are we on the other side of the global recession? Are workers in China and the United States going to be back at work? Will Windsor be rejuvenated?
It all depends on whether more X-boxes and 46 inch TVs are purchased this year than last year.
That’s a lot of pressure for a holiday like Christmas to bear. No wonder so many people are stressed at this time of year.
Merry Christmas to all.