Ah, Christmas…

…possibly the oddest time of year (humanly speaking), for it is the one time of year that a huge chunk of the human race suddenly and simultaneously decides to pause its regular imperative of large-scale self betterment, and instead starts taking pleasure in smiling, and giving people things, and spending quality time with their family.
Originally this could be put down to this as a function of Christmas as a religious festival, but in today’s secular times there seems almost no reason for it to continue in this way. Cynics will tell you the only reason we go on celebrating Christmas at all is because we cannot stand the idea of turning down an annual opportunity to receive lavish gifts, and they may be right. But if that is the case, why all the familial gatherings? Why the messages preaching goodwill? Why is this the one time of year so many people choose to go to church, breaking from the regular habit? Is it just tradition? I think (just my personal view here) that it is more than that- I think it is because of Christmas’ intimate connection to Jesus.
I should probably explain to all the angry atheists out there that I am not actually a Christian- I like the music, I like the carols and hymns, like the architecture and so on, but I am an atheist and do not believe in God. I could fill an entire post with my religious stance, but I said this blog wouldn’t be about my views so stuff it. However, like it or not, however much cynics tell us how commercial Christmas has become, it is still, technically, a Christian holiday, and one that all of us have probably been educated about to extraordinary depths while at school (although this is based only on my personal experience- if you have different ones, feel free to share below). And it is not just any old festival, not like all saint’s day or Easter, who’s Christian significance is all but forgotten, for this is one of few Christian festivals that is entirely about Jesus as a person.
To a Christian, Christmas is about the miracle of the birth of their Messiah, and is really about him and his life. ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ sings of how ‘like us he grew’, and his early life as a child, and the holiday reminds us of how God’s son was once a ‘weak and helpless’ little child, reliant on a mortal mother for support and sustinence. And this brings us on to Jesus himself, the epitomy of the perfect Christian and, in many ways, the perfect person in moral terms. He was generous, he cared for the sick and lowly, he cared not for class or creed, and he symbolises all that is good about Christian ideals. And so by basing a festival around him, and remembering his generosity by giving to others ourselves, we remind ourselves of how to be good people, and for this short time of the year we all try to be too. To me, therefore, what makes Christmas special is its link to this special man who (to misquote the great Douglas Adams) “was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to each other for a change”.
It might only be my theory, but I still think religion has one connection left with Christmas, and let it not be one we forget, lest the spirit of goodwill be lost. Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope you didn’t overindulge on yesterday’s dinner.

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