Over the last week I was bombarded with a thesaurus of festive wishes - these include ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Seasons Greetings’, ‘Merry X’mas’ and ‘Merry Christmas’. Along with these rainbow of felicitations are messages denouncing some of these greetings as not kosher given that they seem to ignore the religious aspect of the festival. You could say that this once again shines a spotlight on how divisive religions and their practice can be. It may also suggest that the interpretation, practice and celebration of religions must expand to embrace the evolving human mind.
This Battle-for-the-Correct-Christmas-Greeting had its most famous proponent in Donald Trump. During his 2016 election campaign he had promised to bring back the usage of ‘Merry Christmas’. On Trumps election, his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said “You can say again, ‘Merry Christmas’ because Donald Trump is now the president”. Trump in a recent speech said ‘We are going to be celebrating Merry Christmas Again’, he also tweeted the following on the 30th of November ‘Today is a day that I’ve been looking very much forward to ALL YEAR LONG. It is one that you have heard me speak about many times before. Now, as President of the United States, it is my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!’.
Given Trumps track record it was par for the course for this leader of the freeworld, who has made his billions through capitalism and with his fathers money, to play to the blinkered evangelist gallery with this Christmas thingamabob. Capitalism is what has made Christmas so secular. Adam Smiths invisible hand of Laissez Faire directs this evangelisation of Christmas. It could also be argued that because Christmas celebrations, like other similar religious occasions, are socio-religious it provides space for everyone to partake in its festivities.
Sure people have forgotten that alcohol was earlier used as a preservative and to keep warm and not to bring in Christmas cheer. And that the ‘Christmas Spirit’ is not the name of some potent seasonal alcohol but the joy and gratitude which when shared is magnified manifold, something milked by marketeers today. So it comes as no surprise that malls have Christmas Trees and Santas at this time of the year and big named hotels organise the so called ‘traditional mixing of Christmas Cake’. But that has not prevented people from finding ways to keep this candle lit by coming together in homes to get their hands dirty with cake mix or from reaching for their wallets or from decorating Christmas Trees and constructing the Nativity Scene irrespective of religion.
Many fear that the reason for the secularisation is the watering down of the religiosity of this festival. There may be some truth in this dilution, but even so the cart is being put in front of the horse. This fear is an ill-informed trend in Christianity if not in other religions too. It has also percolated to how we practise our politics. The truth is that people are drawn to the person and not what s/he stood for. It is simpler to worship a person and celebrate the birth, sacrifice, victory or their return than to live by the ideals preached and practised.
Does one need to be of a certain persuasion to aspire and work towards being a Maryada Purush?
The words of the greetings for this season should not distract us from the life of the first Che’ Guevara born over 2000 years ago. It should not blind us to the fact that we don’t know the date of Christs birth and this celebration is more about the principles he stood for and is an opportunity to put into practice those which are acceptable to us.
The Spirit of Christmas cannot be bottled or sold. There is no one way to share the joy of what this birth and life stood for. By debating the form of greeting an opportunity is lost to share a moment of joy or do an act of kindness. Isn’t finding occasions to give back, to show gratitude and thankfulness part of what makes life worth living ? And if it is so shouldn’t the Spirit of Christmas and other festivals be around 365 days of the year?