Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Carols for All

On the Political Gabfest one of the panelists who is Jewish (but went to a Quaker school, she noted) expressed some distress over the fact that she really loved Christmas carols. Even though the spiritual message was not necessarily in line with her beliefs, per se, she thought them to be exquisitely beautiful as pieces of music. She wasn't sure if this was some level of hypocrisy on her part, or if it was perfectly okay to appreciate them outside of their specific religious context.

I'd say that despite "Christ" being right there in the name, the holiday and the traditions associated with it in our society can hardly be considered to be exclusively Christian; the ubiquity of all that is "Christmas"—starting with, but certainly not limited to, the fact it's a national holiday—makes it somewhat of an American thing (and I imagine there's an extent to which this may be applicable in other Western nations as well) where enjoying the trappings without actually getting "trapped" into adopting the ostensible reason for the season. (Besides, a rudimentary investigation of its origins suggests Jesus unlikely to have been born around the winter solstice, but the pagan celebrations around then were the easiest thing to co-opt in order to convert those people to the faith.) You combine that with the stories about Santa Claus where the Jesus angle has become essentially eschewed and "Christmas" is about as exclusive to Christians as pizza is exclusive to Italians.

The strength of Christmas is how easily it adapts to operate without its religious connection, while still holding the option for the devout to follow it as the celebration of their savior's birth.

No, seriously.

And surely the only reason we can stand to hear the same Christmas music ever December, over and over, is because, when you get down to the melodies, the vocals, and the elements that make the songs what they are it's pretty good music, and certainly permissible to be enjoyed by people outside of the context of whether they believe Jesus to be the son of God or not.

Merry Christmas to everyone, no matter what you make of the first seven letters of the second word.

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