Merry Christmahanakwanzakah!

Ah yes, the holiday season. A time of year bogged down with sale commercials and political correctness, a time of a year that's easy to forget our secular traditions, why we get together, and why we are here.

But first, shall we delve a bit into where Christmas came from? And a bit of where Hanukkah and Kwanzaa come from as well?

  • Christians, or at least those who celebrate Christmas, gather to celebrate the belated birthday of Christ. Belated, because Christ was supposedly born in September, however the date was later moved to December by the Church to coincide with the pagan holiday of Yule and the Roman holiday of Saturnalia.
  • Kwanzaa began to be celebrated in 1966, when Dr. Maulana Karenga found this cultural event to bring African American together and strengthen their bonds between them. Kwanzaa, who's name is Swahili for first, is the celebration of the first fruit harvest in Africa. Such first fruit harvests are thought to have been celebrated as far back as 3000 BC.
  • Hanukkah is the celebration of the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Also referred to as the Festival of Lights, it is celebrated for eight days to commemorate the miracle of one flask of holy oil lasting for an incredible eight days, instead of the normal one day, before more oil could be manufactured.

I like my holidays nice and simple - same day, every year, easy and fun. Christmas is just that, in most cases. When I was growing up, holiday seasons were clearly defined, and you dare not cross those borders, under penalty of death. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November, and that whole weekend was for travelling and family. The Christmas season started after that, plain and simple. There never was a Christmas anything prior to that fourth Thursday.

But over the last few years, even before Thanksgiving, the commercials have begun, extolling the virtues of Christmas shopping. They proclaim advantageous deals on all sorts of crap, and that one must rush to the store. And let's not forget Black Friday - a day so hip and cool that it is associated with a dark and ugly color, a day that is the first official shopping day of the Christmas season.

Perhaps worse than the erosion of our holidays, is this commercialization of the season. Christmas is no longer about the spirit of giving - it is now a crutch for the retail industry. Our attitudes, as a society, have shifted from giving for the sake of giving to giving because its expected. Anyone I have talked with about Christmas, always mentions who they have to get gifts for. Whatever happened to gift-giving for the sheer joy involved in it, not because the recipient expects it.

And speaking of gifts, trying to get any shopping done this time of year is neigh impossible. The crowds are terrible, the attitudes are worse, and parking is simply hell. All I want to do is go and buy a book, and this involves hiring a caravan and Sherpa to navigate from the parking lot to the store! The worst part of shopping is the checkout lines. My sympathy goes out to anyone who works retail. I've seen some real assholes in the lines, screaming at the clerks about the wait. I try to be nice, but I can certainly appreciate their anger ? just not the target of it or their method of sharing. The part I hate most of all during the holiday season is, flat out, the shopping.

And with each passing year, the political correctness demon rises up. Lawsuits about cities displaying a nativity scene, or using the word Christmas abound. Offices and cities are left with no choice but to wish us a happy holiday and hold holiday parties in the hopes that the generic phrase will not offend anyone. Now, I can certainly appreciate the legal standing, separation of church and state, but what about my office. Here in the office we are regulated to holiday celebrations, but the official holiday schedule gives us floating days for Christmas but not Hanukkah nor Kwanzaa. What's an atheist to do? No one wants to offend, no one wants to be offended by anything or anyone. Give up, you can't please them all!

I mentioned that I was an atheist, and yet I celebrate or participate in the Christmas holiday. Hypocritical you say? Perhaps, not that I care. A lot of it has to do with me preferring to spend time with my family and friends, and they celebrate Christmas. Granted, doing so at this time of year generally means I have to get someone a gift, but that's not a bad thing. My family has all sorts of silly traditions, rooted in who knows what, that make the time fun. That and my mother's cooking is simply divine!

I know why I am here, and despite my complaints, it is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy seeing my family, taking part in our silly traditions, the passing of gifts, catching up on new events and remembering old times. But perhaps the best part is eating a nice big Christmas dinner.

And from that Virgin Mobile commercial - "Just remember, it's ok if you're a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. It's ok if you're agnostic and you don't know what to do. An all inclusive celebration, no contractual obligation, Merry Christmahanakwanzakah to you!"


  • Cool People From Akron


  • 8/28/2005 - Article published.