Christmas irritates me. For one thing, nobody seems to care what it is about, and I pass time with a recurring state of agitation that some well-meaning buffoon will actually buy me something. A cursory perusal of television in November and December shows the grim reality of this; Christmas is about buying stuff, because we should all be happy at Christmas, and buying people stuff makes them happy. Well, it does not make me happy; it makes me irritable and annoyed. For starters, how long am I supposed to keep things before I give them to charity?

I have already shared my thoughts on these matters in two other articles:

Greeting Cards

Gifts (Never Buy Me Any)

So, to Christmas itself. We often hear how we have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. The meaning has been lost amongst the commercialism, the gifting, and the commercial, gift-based atrocity that is the latest Disney farce. Disney, the lair of which is The Magic Kingdom, where parents are encouraged to believe that spending a small fortune on travel, hotels, entry fees, fast food and rollercoasters is something incredibly valuable to a child's sense of happiness, all surveyed over by some giant rodents and their filthy rich capitalist overlords. Christmas is them, Christian Dior, Chanel, Coca-cola, and a massive handful of other big C's.

We are then supposed to be grateful that we have such abundance of cash that we give to each other. We see and enjoy a greater variety and surplus of food than millions of people see in their lifetimes. To me, the idea of throwing money at each other, with the wayward view that cash is attached to happiness, and that if we throw the right amount in the right direction, good cheer is had the world over, is dystopian to say the least.

We then have Christian groups who find cause to complain that there is some war against them, and that Christmas is exclusive to them. Even the idea of a 'happy holidays' greeting is considered a serious battleground. Well, perhaps it is time to consider the true meaning of 'theholidayseason'.

On December the 22nd we have the winter solstice. The sun will reach its lowest position in the sky, as the Geographic North Pole points away from the sun to an angle of about 23.5 degrees. In the northern hemisphere - where we see the sun in the south - it might be considered that the sun is dying. Those who have a particular inclination towards fun, might, at this point, consider that the 'sun' is dying on the Southern Cross (the constellation).

Neolithic populations were defined by the advent of agriculture. Early religions worshipped the sun, because the perceived amount of sun during the year and its effects (in terms of precipitation, cloud cover, temperatures), had an effect on the success of their crops. Thus, religious festivals evolved around worshipping the sun-god / God-sun / sun-of-God, and its death on the Southern Cross, before it began to noticeably resurrect itself and shift northwards again, hailing a new year and hope for a good harvest. Indeed, it amuses me that it is the winter solstice and the spring and autumn equinoxes that are most important to Neolithic people, yet thousands of people congregate at Stonehenge for the summer solstice, when it is least likely anyone historically gave it much thought.

When the Christian religion spread across Europe from Rome, so the Pagan's were encouraged to believe that there was no real difference between their old gods and the Abrahamic God and JC. Religious festivals changed the names of their characters and the story, but the original dates and theme remained the same. 'Christmas' is about the death and resurrection of god, about the death of the old year and the bringing-in of the new year, and it is about hope and good-will to others, because we must all toil together for the good of each of us.

This, of course, has nothing whatever to do with any of the commercial prospects we are bombarded with each year. This holiday season is certainly not owned by Christians, and originally it is certainly not a Christian festival. Indeed, the date of December 25th is not Christmas all over the world, with the actual date being different according to the country and Christian denomination. The 25th is the Catholic and Protestant date in Western Europe, which was subsequently adopted in Australia, the US and Canada, and by denominations in those countries. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th, for example.

Hailing back to the origins of the festivals at this time of year, it would be more fitting to consider the annual harvest and what that means. We can see that many of us are fortunate enough to have been born in a wealthy country, where colonisation and trade agreements now allow us to enjoy food from all over the world. When productivity has not been so good in one country, our supermarkets can easily shift to increase supply from another country. Let us think about where our food comes from and, indeed, where the food comes from for every person on this planet. Let us think about those who were not as fortunate as ourselves and who struggle to afford food. Let us think about the farmers in countries where their local communities really depend on them to provide them food for life.

Let us think about the consequences of climate change on growing food in different parts of the world. The current Syrian conflict followed years of climate-change-based drought, which forced rural communities to shift to cities, where they needed help from a regime that tortured and attacked them in response. Our current refugee crisis is a direct result of climate change, manifested through the needs of rural, farming communities, and year after year of poor harvests.

Food is a necessity for our survival, and, acknowledging this fact, people once worshipped the sun. The mid-winter festivals are a time to think about all those less fortunate than ourselves, and the greatest gift we can give is to share what we have with them, however we can. That might mean pro-actively helping the refugees - tired, hungry and cold this winter - by volunteering at a refugee centre or donating needed items or cash. It might mean opening your home to someone who has not had a home-cooked meal, a good shower or washed clothes for an extended period. It might just mean going out and buying some food for a homeless person, or donating to a charity.

We also need to encourage our governments to provide housing for the homeless, and to find ways to supply home-grown food throughout the year. 100,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas, and that is entirely unacceptable and unnecessary. The government chooses this fate for them - it could ensure every person were housed and fed, but chooses not to. 2015 has seen some wonderful initiatives around the world to provide homes for the homeless, and these need to be made the rule for all regions. Churches and other religious buildings should use the privilege of tax-exemption to invest in providing shelter, food and sanitation for those in need. What good is there is praying to a god for personal benefits, when we each have the power and ability to directly help each other and raise all humanity to new highs?

Whatever the mid-winter festival might be about, it is absolutely not about materialism, commercialism or capitalism. It is not even about JC, although if you choose to celebrate Christmas as your religion's mid-winter festival, that is absolutely fine and I hope you have a great one. Whether you wish to celebrate Christmas, Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, Newtonmass, or anything else around this time, happy holiday from me!


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