Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas, Already

Playing in the background: "Earthlight" by Deuter

It occurs to me that there kind of isn't a Buddhist equivalent of Christmas. At least, I don't think there is; I'm kind of a casual Buddhist - the Buddhist equivalent of a Christmas and Easter Christian, I guess. I know there's one big holiday in the spring, which is your Lunar New Year or your Wesak or whatever it's called in your part of the world, and any number of smaller festivals scattered around, but I don't know of one around now-ish. Maybe there's a Winter Solstice holiday or other. By the way, I love the Solstice. It means the days are going to start getting longer again and there's some hope that light will return to my benighted corner of Dallas. But I've already ranted about how much I don't like this time of year, so, onward.

A colleague asked me yesterday if I celebrated Christmas. I kind of blinked a little and said, "Sure. I celebrate everything." Which was a typically flip answer but still true. I have a li'l Christmas tree up (more of a bush, but it looks pretty) with gifts under it, and we're having friends over for dinner on the appointed day, and so forth and so on. But if I'd grown up in a Jewish household, I'd probably have had up a little menorah and other Hanukkah decorations two weeks ago. I mean, it's a tradition. Even if it doesn't have a part in one's current religion, that doesn't mean one can't celebrate at the same time as the rest of the world.

By the way, Christmas isn't really a Christian holiday (!) Well, not in the sense we think of it. Christmas as we celebrate it was once called Yule, and in preChristian Britain it was the pagan festival where the Oak King kicked the Holly King's butt and reigned over winter. Which was why you decked your halls with boughs of holly and threw the Yule log on, Uncle John and drank wassail and went from house to house singing. When St. Paul showed up in Rome, the Roman equivalent got drafted into a new holiday celebrating the birth of Christ, who was probably actually born in April, and probably in about 4 or 5 B.C. and not the year zero, and who probably, knowing the guy, wouldn't have wanted a big festival for himself. Christmas celebrations were banned for several years when Cromwell was dictator of England on the grounds that they were pagan, and so when they came back, they came back in a big way, and that's why a comparatively minor Christian festival is this big universal hoo ha of presents and good cheer and "It's a Wonderful Life." And that's your history lesson for today, thankewverymuch.

I know a lot of nonChristians get annoyed when people wish them a merry Christmas. I also know a lot of Christians who get annoyed when people wish them "Happy Holidays," seeming to obliterate the above-referenced hoo ha in favor of some bland insignificant good time being had by all. And while I sympathize on all counts, I'd still like to suggest, in the spirit of the season, that we all just LOOSEN THE HELL UP about what holiday it is and think about, for a second, what "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or "Scintillating Solstice" actually means.

I mean, you say it all the time. You say it to total strangers. You say it at the post office, to colleagues you try not to speak to the rest of the year, to casual friends at parties. I'd like to postulate that "Merry Christmas" is the rough seasonal equivalent of "Have a nice day," said with about the same amount of sentiment and for about the same purpose; a social salve to soften the end of an interaction. And if you don't get het up when people tell you to have a nice day, why lose one's cool when one is wished a Merry Christmas? Or Happy Holiday? It don't mean anything different, folks. It's just an expression of goodwill. And let's face it, goodwill is one thing we could all use a lot more of these days.

So Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Scintillating Solstice. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Kwanzaa. Joyful Buddhist-holiday-to-be-named-later. Celebrate everything, says I.

1 comment:

Marcia Wall said...

So true.
"I'd like to postulate that "Merry Christmas" is the rough seasonal equivalent of "Have a nice day."

Thanks for keeping the blog up. I enjoy it.