So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all this sad world needs.
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American author and poet)
There will be no peace on earth unless there is goodwill to all children, women, and men. During this winter holiday season, will there be inclusive goodwill shown, and will exclusionary ill will be shunned?
Our goodwill season begins and ends with the secular holidays of Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In between are various secular, sectarian, cultural, ethnic, and seasonal celebrations.
“Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” refer to the entire festive period. “Merry Christmas” (Latin for “Christ’s mass”) refers to one day.
The inclusive celebration for all wishing to participate includes Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, sleigh bells, snowmen and women, fireplace stockings, decorated trees, gifts, eggnog, carols, cheer, etc. The exclusive celebration for Christians commemorates a fictitious birth date of a Jewish man whose name was questionably translated to “Jesus.” They are merging yet in fundamental ways separate and distinct holiday traditions.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” philosopher Aldous Huxley observed. Consider these truths:
• Neither Jesus’s birthday, month, or season is known. It was celebrated at different times for three hundred years until a fourth-century pope arbitrarily set December 25 to compete with the “birthday of the sun.” There isn’t a single birth story in the New Testament but three contradictory versions (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, Revelation 12). All were oral stories compiled into ancient Greek texts by anonymous, non-eyewitness authors long after Jesus. They cannot be reconciled when compared.
• The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation was an enormous exodus of Christians from the Roman Catholic Church in protest over its aberrant authority, corporate corruption, dubious doctrines, and egregious exploitation of people. It’s ironic that American Protestants would celebrate a Roman Catholic religious ritual called Christ’s mass on a false date set by a foreign pope to interfere with Europe’s winter solstice festival.
Seasonal ill will includes:
• Claiming a fictitious birth date with conflicting accounts as the sole reason for the season and perniciously promoting the boycott of businesses not exclusively using the phrase, “Merry Christmas!” Such misguided malice over problematic historical facts exhibits bigoted ill will toward others.
• Not knowing that colonists (Puritans, Congregationalists, Quakers, Methodists, et al.) opposed Christmas because it was a Church of England ceremonial. Southern states first began celebrating December 25 to feast, drink, dance, gamble, hunt, fish, and socialize. It later became a public holiday at the initiation of banks and businesses (not churches).
• Complaining that “Xmas” replaces Christ with an ‘X’ and therefore removes Christ from Christmas. “Xmas” originated in the early Christian church as an acceptable abbreviation; the Greek letter ‘X’ is deeply rooted in Christianity and traditionally used as a sacred symbol for Christ.
• Promoting our winter holiday season as exclusively “Christian” when it’s for all. Yuletide celebrations with decorative trees began as pagan festivals and are not even mentioned in biblical scripture.
• Publicly promoting religious beliefs without invitation, spoiling seasonal goodwill for many and ignoring biblical teachings that instruct to “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8), “show…compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9), and “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).
Knowledge of history shows goodwill, as does consideration for others. Good-willers care about neighbors, recognize different celebrations, keep religious beliefs in perspective, and respect belief diversity. Ill-willers do not. More holiday humility and less hypocritical hype is always needed. Hopefully, we will reflect the goodwill of inclusion and reject the ill will of exclusion during the winter holiday season.