Every holiday season brings with it an onslaught of calls to celebrate properly. You’ve heard the sentiments: “Jesus is the reason for the season!” “Keep Christ in Christmas!” Et cetera.
By that logic, devout Christians should celebrate pagan-style, because humankind has always had celebrations during solstices and equinoxes (solstii and equinoxexx?). And there’s pretty much a consensus among scholars that Jesus wasn’t literally born on Dec. 25.
But I’d never suggest that anyone observe the holidays in a manner other than how they choose. That’s what makes holidays so wonderful: they mean something different to everyone. Different beliefs. Different traditions. Different memories. Real things for real people. If that includes shout-outs to Jesus, terrific. If not, that’s terrific too.
I used to marvel at how cool it was that all of our holidays were spread so perfectly throughout the calendar. Kind of like highway rest stops right when you need them. Even at the height of my spiritual phase (probably ages 10-15), I figured that Jesus probably didn’t enter the world and die for our sins at such convenient times for school breaks. And many of the other holidays came not from God, but from America’s twin loves of honoring people and not having to go to work.
For many years, I felt at least a twinge of guilt over celebrating the holidays my way. And this was largely because I listened to the judgmental voices of those who insisted holidays have to be done a certain way to be correct. Such thinking is hardly limited to certain times of year, really. Pick any random day on the calendar and you’ll find someone high on the nitrous oxide of their self-righteousness who thinks they know better than you do about how you should live your life. And, conveniently enough, it’s their way. Better to go through the motions of what’s deemed as correct than to have a genuinely good time while failing in their strict eyes, huh?
Forutnately, I got better.
Holidays with my family and friends are some of the happiest memories of my life. And just as I respect anyone’s chosen mode of celebration (or lack thereof), I will ask those who insist that there’s a right way to celebrate to respect mine.
The differences between us are what make us interesting. And human.
There is one exception, though. “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” I don’t think anyone should bend on that. But come to think of it, who should need religion — or even a holiday — to embrace that?