Christmas is like a Christmas stocking…

Christmas is a bit like a Christmas stocking: not everybody gets the same out of it and there are a lot of different types of stockings.

By Bernie Comaskey,

I heard my good friend, Frank, recently complain that after looking at 200 Christmas cards on the internet, he failed to find even one with the word ‘Christ’ or ‘Christmas’. I would be with Frank on this one.

It seems that those who feel they can influence the attitude of the rest of us are ‘hell-bent’ (no pun intended) on removing Christmas from Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas is being pushed further and further to the back of the bus year after year.

At the risk of repeating myself here, just don’t let anybody wish me a ‘Happy Holiday’ ‘Yuletide’, ‘Festive Season’ – and above all, don’t write ‘Happy Xmas’ when you are sending YCBS my well-deserved Christmas present!

We don’t wish to come across as pompous or pious (no, I’m not Pontious Pilate, Gorls) but Christmas celebrations are surely meaningless if not incorporating at least some aspect of what the whole thing is meant to be about; the birth of Jesus Christ.

If we are to be honest though, we have to admit that feasting and ‘what’s in it for me’ was forever a big part of Christmas. Even as children, in poor times, when the churches were filled with pomp and ceremony, ‘writing to Santy’ and ‘what Santy brought’ was top of the Christmas agenda.

But the ‘bit of religion’ has to be a part of the proceedings in order to enjoy and appreciate its full significance. That is why it is just so awful to see the symbols of Christianity, such as the crib and pageantry, being removed from public places – just on somebody’s ‘say-so’.

It is just crazy to suggest that the crib (or the Angelus Bell, while we’re at it) is offensive to our minority of non-Christian brethren. There are said to be more than 4,000 religions in the world and many of them mark Christmas as a religious feast.

It is celebrated all over the world and even atheists respect the fact that we are marking the birth of Jesus. Buddhists celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day – even though they see Jesus as a teacher rather than a messiah.

Muslims are welcomed here – and rightly so. People go to great lengths to ensure that non-Christian religious freedom is guaranteed and protected. Again; rightly so; but does it not sound a bit strange to you that a group of worshippers can prostrate themselves on the ground, nose, hands and feet touching the ground in prayer and that is totally acceptable to all; but if a lad at a supermarket check-out hears the Angelus bell and blesses himself, he is ‘gone a bit religious mad’?! Now, if the same guy is a professional soccer player coming on as a sub then the same sign of the cross has become the most natural thing in the world.

Coming back to my friend Frank’s complaint; isn’t it only fair to acknowledge that Christianity took several pagan customs and incorporated those into what has become a big part of Christmas celebrations?

I don’t like writing about something I know so little about, (ah stop it Lads… ‘tis the season of goodwill) but aren’t the date itself and several of the customs we have come to associate with Christmas taken from pagan traditions and the celebration of the winter solace?

The tree, such an integral part of Christmas decoration, draws a straight line back to the ‘Pagan Tree’, which was an elaborate part of the ritual in pagan times. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman pagan festival in mid-December. Wreaths, candles, feasting and gift-giving was all part of the celebrations. Sound familiar?

Hindu families celebrate Diwali at this time of year as well. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. The celebrations are at an altar which is adorned with oil-lamps, candles and fireworks. Jewish people too, enjoy a wintertime ‘festival of lights’, called Hanukkah. Why don’t we invite the whole shebang and have one big fire on the Hill of Uisneach next year?

So you see, dear readers, throughout the world, there is a global connection as so many of us pay homage to a higher power in different ways. Wouldn’t it be great if all could agree on one simple philosophy; ‘live and let live!’

And we need two volunteers to help make up the three wise men…

Nollaig Shona

Wishing you, dear readers, a very happy and peaceful Christmas. Thank you to those of you who took the time to comment on these jottings during the last year. It means a lot – whether you are agreeing or disagreeing.

Every year at this time, our final thought is for those of you who will read this away from home, separated from where the heart is. Beannachtaì na Nollaig daoibh go léir.