Let us begin properly by allowing me to assure you that the title does not allude to some kind of punk rock band (though that would be a pretty quaint idea). 🙂
As Christmas draws nigh, unbeknownst to plenty of us, it is not excitement alone that is abound — there also exist complaints and condemnations. It is often overlooked, and I shall not complain much about that; ignorance of which does not pick my pockets nor break my bones. Of course, to those who actually pay attention to such issues, I offer my respect. Much as we hate to admit it, thinking of politics is a more respectable deed than chowing down dead turkeys.
A typical Christian may find the idea rather obscene, but indeed Christmas has its own criticisms and/or controversies. These came from all sorts of directions imaginable; everybody’s a critic. With a bone to pick with Christmas.
First, Muslims. Some clerics ruled that to celebrate Christmas is forbidden to a Muslim, as it may cancel his or her creed. This might not seem to be a problem since Muslims are not likely to erect a Christmas tree in their household, but apparently to wish someone a Merry Christmas counts as an offense. Decent Muslims I know have been battling the fundamentalists for years now on this matter, and refuse to consider it to be sinful — indeed, in the name of religious tolerance (which Islam is claimed to be a supporter of), these good men and women claimed that it is in fact obligatory. As for me, it is less important as for whether this is scripturally sound. It suffices to me that it promotes peace, and the liberals and moderates hence gained my full support.
But let us end our digression on Muslim attitudes for now — after all, it’s “Christ’ Mass”, and Muslims don’t consider Jesus to be Christ, nor do they attend masses.
In short, it is inevitable that just about every other religions, with their own share of fundamentalists (though not of the same percentage), would potentially scorn at the idea of respecting a rival religion’s holiday. And, additionally, criticisms exist too internally; Christians against Christmas! Not against Christmas per se, but indeed Christians do not sing carols in unison and perfect harmony. To start with, the Eastern churches, for example, celebrate Christmas in January — a theological dispute, which may or may not incite some sort of ill relationships between denominations. Then there are criticisms on the current form of Christmas; it does not please many right-wing Christians that Christmas is more like a Santa Claus Show nowadays, and some vowed to “purify” the practice (“Keep Christ in Christmas!”).
Atheists — and agnostics and deists and pantheists and apatheists and all sorts of freethinkers, are no exception (anybody surprised gets a lifetime supply of ice cream). Apparently, Christopher Hitchens is not too happy with Christmas. Hitchens, a senior journalist renowned for his biting wit, moaned that Christmas is ultimately a “moral and aesthetic nightmare”. Hitchens himself, a member of the famous “Four Horsemen of New Atheism”, is indeed the most bitter of the four. If you took your time to read their books, that should be obvious: Richard Dawkins, while stern on religions, is rather mild on believers; conversely, Sam Harris loves Buddhism and spiritualities despite his fierce (and a little paranoid) stance against right-wing religionists. The third member, Dan Dennett, is the most diplomatic of the bunch. He is meek and mild all the way, playing Devil’s advocate against his own ideas all too carefully. But Hitchens, well, as you can see, is rather hostile to both beliefs and believers.
Returning to the Christmas issue, I must say that while I like Hitchens (his “adventures” are impressive; taking part in things from anti-polio movements in India to Friday prayers in Indonesia), I would beg to differ. And in case you don’t know, even the arch-atheist Richard Dawkins claimed to enjoy singing carols and wishes to preserve religious festivities (plus, I really savor Eid Mubaraks). 😀
Yes, of course, Christmas, seen culturally, is not all that innocent. It is reasonable to complain about the consumerism. Or, as it is claimed in the United States, the fact that it is religiously insensitive towards the increasingly diverse American communities (respectful concern; why don’t my brothers and sisters Indonesians start the same trend?). But then again, those are not exactly arguments against Christmas itself, and, Hitchens are not exactly talking about such things. His complaints are more about how he sees the solstice as a propaganda: a month-long, inescapable “Dear Leader’s birthday” observance (“and what about the children!?”). Ah, nevertheless, I’d hate to disagree with such an intelligent man, but I think Mr. Hitchens is overreacting. It’s holiday. Fun for all. Warm, feely times. Think of the lovey-dovey couple who waited all year long to go on a vacation together on Christmas, sir, think of the romantic snow-laden confession, think of the kids eager to build their own snowmen, and come, let us sing carols!
So I say we just celebrate. Why so serious? A happy Christmas does me no harm (it does not give me a prostate cancer), in fact, quite the other way around. Hence, whatever your religious view may be, Happy Holidays!
(Or Merry Christmas.)
(Or Good Winter Solstice.)
(Or Bon December 25. Whatever trips your trigger.)