Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final Thoughts on Christmas

Tomorrow night we ring in 2009, and I for one will be glad to be rid of 2008 once and for all. This new year will see, if nothing else, the exit of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from any relevant political landscape. That alone makes 2009 worth looking forward to, in my opinion.

Like many of you, I have just finished up the Christmas celebrations. True, the tree still stands in my living room, in front of the window to declare to all passers-by, "hey out there! We're celebrating Christmas in here!" The stockings are still hung, and by all accounts the holiday season is still in full swing. But yesterday as I hauled the trash cans to the curb, bursting with wadded up wrapping paper, I felt a sense of closure. It's like when all the sporting events end at the Olympics, but they still have yet to do the closing ceremonies. For me, that will be tomorrow night. After January 1st, we collectively run out of excuses for slacking off - Christmas is over, Hanukkah's done, I'm pretty sure Kwanzaa is over, and the Solstice has come and gone.

Which brings me to a confession: I'm not a Christian. Neither is my wife. We were both raised Christian, in the Protestant stick-up-the-ass way north easterners have done since the Puritans showed up way back forever ago. We don't go to church, we don't believe in the divinity of Christ, and even if we did, we know there's no way Jesus could have been born at this time of year. Think about it - "Shepherds were watching over their flocks by night." In a field? In Israel? Not to bust your bubble, but it gets pretty damn nippy out Bethlehem ways this time of year, and it did 2000 years ago too. At night, this time of year the sheep were in their pens huddled for warmth.

I could go on, picking at all the loose threads in the Nativity account, graduating to the Bible in general, and then into Church thinking for the past few centuries. In the end, we are left with a simple premise: it doesn't matter if you can prove a belief system true or untrue. Jesus could show up tomorrow in all his Second Coming finery and there would still be doubters. Early versions of the Bible could be dug up with a final book called The Gospel According to Just Kidding, and there would still be staunch believers. Debating the absolute validity or lack thereof is a pointless exercise.

So why, with all my cynicism towards Christianity, do I choose to join in their celebration December 25Th? Well not to put too fine a point on it, but it was never "their" celebration to begin with. It's well known that early Christians nicked the Solstice celebration from the Celts and injected Jesus in a manger. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. It was traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of candlelight for obvious reasons, but moreover it was celebrated because even back then, they were able to pinpoint the time of year when the days started getting longer - the first step to spring. Sure, there's going to be a few more weeks of scraping the ice of your windshield for my relatives back east (neener neener) but the mere fact that this ass-bitingly cold day lasted a few minutes longer than yesterday's ass-bitingly cold day tells us there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope springs eternal.

And this is what we celebrate here at the Nutty Irishman's humble adobe. New life, the promise of spring, even the most subtle whisper that winter's days are numbered. And as we enter a new year, with a new President poised to take over it is indeed a time to celebrate the promise of new life and change. As we collectively say goodbye to eight years of bleak ideological winter for all thinking people and lovers of peace, we welcome the spring back into sanity, returning once again to peace and intelligent discourse.

Happy Christmas to you all.