Growing up and gaining the foundation of my ‘social experience’ in a Catholic Secondary school, I became aware of the church’s position in Christmas. There was a phenomenon I’d overheard some people talking about outside the local church when I first went to a Catholic mass as a overwhelmed and information-absorbing year 7; ‘twice-a-year Christians’. I didn’t, at this tender age, understand. A place of communal acceptance was shunning followers of Christ because they didn’t attend every Sunday. It was this phrase I heard repeatedly over each Christmas period and it almost became a given; there was always one family seated in mass who had been made an ‘outcast’. There was talk about there not being enough seats at midnight mass for the Sunday regulars because people, encouraged by priests to come and worship, were now sitting in their pews.
Every year, at school, we’d have communal mass and one of the last things we would be told before we broke up for the Christmas holidays was that Christmas wasn’t about presents, or stuffing yourself at dinner. It wasn’t about watching the next scandal in ‘Eastenders’ or fighting with your siblings over who got the most presents. Christmas was about Jesus and, indeed, putting ‘Christ’ back into Christmas.
For our church, at least, every year was the same; educating congregation after congregation that this Christmas, more than any other, was to be a festive period of celebrating the birth of Jesus.
I don’t deny that Christianity is the origin of the entire Christmas festival but perhaps Christmas no longer, solely, applies to Christians. It is a time of giving and thanking. Of sharing and being merry and maybe we should accept that, what with the commercial value of Christmas, this time of the year will no longer be an exclusive religious festival.
Nevertheless, there are those who argue that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and if you don’t believe in him then how is it possible to celebrate his birth? The church, it seems, is fighting a mass battle in coaxing people to stop their consumer habits and embrace the Truth.
But does it matter that, nowadays, Christmas isn’t about Christ for a large percentage of the population? The general English holiday calendar doesn’t give much reason to celebrate anyway. There are no other times when family is more special. Could a mass celebration of family be just as beneficial and worthwhile as the celebration of a religious King?
But, of course, everyone is different. There are those of you who believe. Those of you who don’t but, I would assume, no matter your views the 25th of December is special for its own reasons or perhaps not at all, in which case, you find this debate unfolding around you which is more strife than it’s worth.