The “true meaning” of Xmas?
The Church of England has challenged the Royal Mail’s move to issue festive stamps without a Christian theme. Santa, a snowman and a reindeer are among the festive images on the Royal Mail’s 40th set of Christmas stamps. The church “regretted” Royal Mail’s decision not to launch “Christian themed designs reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas”.
So let’s get this straight shall we? What is “the true meaning of Christmas”?
When Christians talk about the “true meaning of Christmas”, they’re talking about their meaning – the Joseph, Mary and Jesus in a manger story. It didn’t used to be the church’s “true meaning”.
Christmas and New Year are celebrated at about the time of the midwinter solstice, the shortest day in the northern hemisphere – about 21st December. The mid-winter festival has been divided into two parts, Christmas and New Year, but used to be all-in-one, around the time of the shortest day, when people in cold climes depended on the vagaries of nature and their own resourcefulness more than at any other time. For thousands of years, in Europe, Scandinavia and around the Mediterranean, communities have celebrated life, and their survival in the depths of winter, with eating, drinking and other fundamental pleasures.
The early Christian Church disapproved of all this pagan jollity. They seem to have decided that, since people were determined to go on having a great time regardless, they’d hijack the festival to celebrate the birth of Christ – hence Christ-mass. Few theologians will claim that he was actually born on 25th December, or even that he was born 2006 years ago.
So let Christians celebrate the solstice their way, but leave us to celebrate it however we like. Some of us try to ignore it, some of us enjoy good food and drink with our families and friends, and most of us are fed up with seasonal commercialism.
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