Christmas time is not suited to journalism. No one wants to be political now, not when they have family to spend time with, a break from having the shoulder to the wheel, the easing of the mental load that comes with the school year.
So the voice of indignation at some injustice, or smug appraisal of some new government policy is not only out of place, it is unwelcome. And so shall be suspended until the New Year, God willing.
But neither is this a time to be fluffily sentimental. Until recently, the Christmas tradition gave echoes to a baby who would later die a gruesome death for the love of mankind. The traditional carol The Holly and the Ivy reminds us:
The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good
Similarly, The Coventry Carol speaks hauntingly of the babies a jealous King Herod slew. Yet, all the while, the hopeful message was driven home too, and the carol God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen sings of tidings of comfort and joy.
The words that continue to be celebrated – and this is a good thing – are “hope”, “peace”, and “joy”. But one word has been conspicuously dropped from the season’s lexicon, so obvious it is easy to miss – “Christmas”.
Next time you visit your local shopping centre, take a look around. You will readily find the cheery words “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holiday Season” but the ancient greeting, “Merry Christmas”, is receding.
And words matter.
Firstly, because words are our surest way to knowing things truly. To having a grasp on reality. Over time, words accrue certain connotations, good and bad, and in a highly subjective way, but the fundamental fact remains – words convey truth.
But why is the word “Christmas” – the very thing we are celebrating – now an utterance the powers-that-be see fit to eradicate from our public sphere and thereby (they may hope) our private imagination?
The only explanation I can see is that it carries the word “Christ”, reminding us – all too obviously – that this colossal celebration, which annually boosts the global economy, is a Christian festival.
That Western societies, which boast cultural diversity and tolerance of religion, want to obliterate Christ is concerning, because in failing to recognise its roots, contemporary culture divorces the celebration from meaning. And individuals are too intelligent to have this cultural plagiarism not play on their minds. Perhaps not this year, or next. But, “If it be now, ’tis not to come, if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come.”
The “holiday season” betrays the fact someone has designated this time of year, this day, December 25, as a holiday. And why should that be? And what sort of power must such a person have to affect so fully, every Western society on the globe?
In truth, the only person who could give nations inspiration enough to throw such energy and soul into the celebration of this “season” is…Father Christmas.
Hang on. Wait, not even he can, come to think of it. Even a gorgeously rotund and rosy-cheeked jolly man, has not the power to move nations to this degree. Santa Claus, is simply the growing legend around the beautiful story of a saint who earned a sizeable inheritance and showed great generosity, sharing it with those in need secretly.
Compare this tradition, however, with the anaemic salutation “Greetings for the holiday season”, which has no secular or religious explanation, is steeped in no tradition nor in any logical justification.
Back to work you lot!
The question then, is not who will be standing beneath the mistletoe, but why are we disconnecting our culture, including our festivals, from our heritage?
We acknowledge the original owners of our lands. By the same token, we ought to acknowledge the original owner of this festival. But I promised I wouldn’t get political.
Till next year, Happy Holiday Season!
(Awkward note: The word “holiday” comes from the Old English word hāligdæg; hālig meaning “holy” and “dæg” meaning day. But we don’t do “holy” now, do we?)
Veronika Winkels is the mother of three young children. She writes from Melbourne.