Sunday, December 24, 2017

Will "Christmas" collapse as a cultural celebration in the West?

A thought popped into my head recently. As they occasionally do.

Will the cultural insanity of Christmas (shopping, parades, decorations, work festivities, community festivities, family festivities) implode?

Will the implosion come when we wake up as a secular society and ask ourselves what we are celebrating? Many will not know. Some will remember a connection with the Birth of Christ. Will the collapse be hastened when those who so remember think to themselves, "This is nuts. 20??* years after his birth, WHY are we celebrating his birth when we never think about him on the other 364 days of the year?" (*I am predicting this will happen sometime this century.)

As sometimes happens with popped in one's head thoughts occur, I noticed a couple of related items on the internet.

One - don't know where now - was an observation that in 19th century England, Christmas as a social festival was waning. Then Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, revived it and the rest, thanks to Disney and Coca Cola, is the history of modern Christmas. My point: what has been revived can yet die.

Two - this article posted on Stuff recently. While the point of the article is not quite my question-come-point, it is pretty close to it, especially with the sentence in the headline, "Christmas has had its day."

Now, not to misunderstand, what might happen.

Here Down Under, 25 December is near the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the major summer holiday period. I am not envisaging Christmas and Boxing Day ceasing to be public holidays (which will be helpful for Christians who will keep wanting to worship the Christ-child on Christmas Day). Nor am I envisaging "end of year" festivities ceasing in schools, work places and so forth: the events of the past year are worth celebrating and giving thanks for. But maybe singing Christmas carols or at least having the music of carols in the background will stop featuring at these events.

But I am envisaging a time when the commercialism which drives Christmas, focused on "gifts" (and the tradition of "gifts" which sends people to the shops), but also fuelling parades and decorating streets, collapses. It could happen pretty quickly when a few people ask themselves why gift giving is associated with the end of the year. There is no association (other than, say, thank you gifts to those whose service through the year we have appreciated).

It is not as though children do not have another annual occasion on which to receive gifts (their birthdays). It certainly is the case that adults repeatedly ask themselves why they give and receive completely useless things!! Once that asking translates into sufficient numbers saying "Let's not give gifts. Let's put the money into more booze and chocolates", the cultural Christmas of 21st century Western societies is over. Unless there is a 21st century Dickens ...

We manage to celebrate Easter with public holidays, festive food and no fanfare in the streets. I am prophesying the same for Christmas Down Under!


Anonymous said...

Peter, I am not sure that worldly customs have to have life-changing meanings to be an excuse for family reunions and general merriment. But here up yonder, it is reasonable to wonder whether a holiday that has been reified so much in public space (creches, lights, street banners, window displays, piped carols, etc) can survive as a public event if commerce decisively shifts from brick & mortar shops to online warehouses. We may end up with the Twelve Days of Janus.


Andrei said...

"Will "Christmas" collapse as a cultural celebration in the West?"

Not anytime soon - Christmas as we know it has even migrated to non Christian Nations, in particular Japan and Korea

"One - don't know where now - was an observation that in 19th century England, Christmas as a social festival was waning. Then Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, revived it and the rest, thanks to Disney and Coca Cola, is the history of modern Christmas."

Christmas has been celebrated differently in England at different times - in Victorian England it took on elements that we associate it with today, in particular the Christmas Tree which was German in origin and came via the German Royal Family.

The Victorian celebration of Christmas of course is recalled in the Victorian imagery often seen on Christmas Cards, another Victorian innovation In Oliver Cromwell's England Christmas was banned of course.

The anti Christian brigade will tell you with great glee that Christians hijacked Saturnalia with Christmas and that it is really a pagan celebration of the winter solstice

What they don't credit is that Christmas is not the most important feast on the calendar but Easter or Pascha is and that Festival's timing is based on the Jewish Passover not Northern European paganism

Even Epiphany was more prominent in days of yore and still is in some places

Most Christians in protestant lands are unaware of the great Christian Festivals beyond Christian and Easter but some of them are public holidays in Southern and Eastern Europe

Christmas as we know it today is American and doesn't celebrate the Birth of Christ but consumerism and capitalism

Luckily I'm an adherent of the old Calendar and so the Feast of the Nativity of Christ a.k.a Christmas occurs after the Mickey Mouse version you are stuck with.

The "reason for the season" folks should consider using the old calendar and/or celebrating Epiphany.

There are a plethora of gift giving traditions not associated with Christmas that have been bundled into it by the way

"Santa" St Nickolas as the gift giver belongs on December the 6th not Christmas day and there are also gift giving traditions associated with Epiphany but these have all been bundled together

Peter Carrell said...

Fortunately, Bowman, John Newton has already written the first Janus Carol for the online shopping festival season: Amazon Grace!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
All understood but I remain keen on Christmas as the Festival of the Incarnation (without which Pascha would not have any meaning) and, with respect to the emphasis on Epiphany in other traditions, I appreciate that December 25th is the beginning of our Down Under summer holidays, whereas Epiphany is in the middle of it!

Andrei said...

I am not suggesting for a minute that you forego celebrating the Nativity Peter - not at all you should

Rather I'm suggesting that you celebrate it separately from "Santa", the girls behind the checkouts wearing rein deer antlers and the soundtrack of crooners singing about white Christmasses and the jangle of "Jingle Bells"

" I appreciate that December 25th is the beginning of our Down Under summer holidays, whereas Epiphany is in the middle of it!"

What is the etymology of the word "Holiday" Peter? Isn't it Holy Day?

And in the Eastern Tradition Epiphany is a festival tailor made to be celebrated at the Beach, the Faithful of Siberia are reduced to cutting holes in ice frozen lakes and rivers for their Epiphany celebrations whereas you have sunny golden sanded beaches at your doorstep for this one :)

It is not an either or proposition

Father Ron Smith said...

While faithful Christians exist, there will always be a reason for celebrating the Nativity of the God-Man, Jesus. A Joyful Christmas, everyone.

Christus Natus hodie!