What do you think of the controversy surrounding the sacred and the secular of Christmas?Must we keep this holiday sacred?
I have a personal bias for this topic. As a Christian, I find that while the secular world can concentrate on the feelings of love and giving that also accompany the spirit of Christmas for the Christian, the commercialism of the holiday turns nice people (even Christians) into screaming mimis. We are driven by the sense that if we don't give enough or give the most costly gifts, we somehow are not doing our best for those we care about. It's hard when we watch TV, to remember that the spirit of giving is the most important thing, remembering the gifts of the Maji.
However, secular Christmas misses the central element that Christians celebrate during the holiday season: it's that Christ is at the center of Christmas. So Christians love the emotional warmth of Christmas that comes from the secular world, but always we are looking to keep "Christ" in Christmas. For Christians, keeping Christmas sacred is of paramount importance: for us, it's the celebration of the beginning of all good things. I'll vote: Yes!
I'm afraid that there is no longer any choice. Christmas has become very much secularized and there is no way to go back on that.
However, if you are coming at this from a Christian perspective, there is no reason that a sacred Christmas cannot coincide with a secular Christmas. In our personal lives, it is very possible to emphasize to our children, for example, the true meaning of Christmas. That does not have to detract from their ability to enjoy the presents.
As a society, it is not so easy. It will be difficult to emphasize the sacred aspects of Christmas outside of church settings. However, churches can and should emphasize this aspect of Christmas with things like public nativity scenes on their own property.
I do not think that a secularized Christmas has to be a threat to those who want it to be sacred as well. They simply have to make sure that the maintain the sacred aspect in their own homes and churches.
There have always been strongly secular elements to Christian festivals. Michelmas, Carnival, Christmas, All Saints Day and others were often celebrated with raucous drinking, brawling, ball games, and other rituals that had little to do with Christian faith. This is why Puritans and some others tried to jettison the calendar of saints days and festivals- they thought them blasphemous. People define for themselves what the day and the season means to them. For some it is a secular holiday solely revolving around giving (and receiving) and family, for others it has spiritual meaning. My suspicion is that it has always been that way.
The sacred and the secular have definitely combined in our society. However, the basis for Christmas is a religious holiday; it is Christ's Mass. The origin of the holiday did not include rushing to the mall, on-line shopping or starting to shop right after Thanksgiving. Many people in society today focus on "things." The Christmas spirit includes kindness and generosity, but not necessarily in terms of the biggest gift, but rather giving to charities and helping our neighbor. I think that those who want to maintain the true meaning of Christmas will have a difficult time doing so, but will be happy they did.
It would seem that Christians would or should want to keep this holiday sacred, but for many others, people of any and all other faiths that don't view Christ as God, there are still reasons to celebrate this day as a holiday.
It doesn't have to be sacred to be celebrated as a family day.
I'd make the argument that Christmas in the USA, for non-Christians, is simply an "American Holiday", not unlike Thanksgiving.
The sacred celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is absolutely the central meaning and significance of Christmas for me. The greatest present I receive every year, beyond the revisiting of the story in the Bible, is the time spent with family and friends. Opening presents is well down the list of things I find enjoyable - shopping for presents is even further down. (I make as many as possible!)
Ideally, I would love for Christmas to be kept sacred. The problem is that we have gone so far towards secularising it as a festival that there does seem to be no turning back as Christmas now is something that is associated with materialism, want, and debt. For me I would love to go back to a much simpler way of celebrating Christmas rather than spending lots of money.
Here is another perpective that has the merit of being realistic. We should let people decide for themselves, which will happen anyway. For many it is sacred and this is great. For others it is just at a time to exhange gifts and get together with loved ones, which is good as well. In a world that is pluralistic, there is no other choice.
Interestingly enough, Christmas has long been a controversial holiday. It certainly was in the seventeenth century in England, when puritans wanted it abolished and managed in fact to get it abolished for a number of years. They felt that the whole holiday was rooted in pagan customs. Fierce debates raged about Christmas during this time.