Is Christmas Too Middle-Eastern?
Compared with my childhood, Christmas has almost disappeared from view.
In Britain, Birmingham City Council celebrates “Winterval” instead of the usual “Xmas”? That line is being followed up and down the country, egged on by laws emanating from central government. Is political correctness once again attacking the bedrock of our values and culture?
The answer is, yes, of course, because the PC agenda is basically Marxist and seeks to destroy every vestige of “bourgeois” existence. Western governments, particularly in Europe, are now dominated by Marxoid genuflectors whose every impulse is to root out the middle-classes and their way of life.
But is it more complex than that? Take this year as an example and using old-time language for better comparison :
In 2006 we’ve had a vicious war in the Holy Land, plus a Mahdi uprising in Mesopotamia. Sunni rebels have been fighting a bitter civil war against a dispersed Shia army in the lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates, with British and American troops caught in between. Meanwhile, in a resurgent Persia, a wild dictator is building a doomsday weapon to wipe an entire nation from the face of the earth. John Buchan or the Bible, take your pick.
Why then would we want to be reminded of the Middle East during Christmas?
And yet, remember those old-fashioned Christmas cards with the three wise men in their long robes and beards? Nowadays we see them as Osama bin Laden lookalikes. The timeless Biblical scenes of our youth, once so popular, remind us of the mujahideen rather than peaceful spirituality.
All over the Western world there’s a major retreat from Christianity. In America, probably the most ardently Christian nation on earth, you’ll only hear “happy holidays” these days, with scarcely a mention of Christmas.
Is it that we are shying away from the whole Middle East ethos? Has 9/11 changed the very nature of who we think we are? It may be that we no longer see the deserts south and east of the Med as benign. They never were, of course. But where does that flight from religious romanticism leave us?
Well, we could easily develop a Christianity without a Middle-Eastern favour, if only our Church leaders and others would recognize the problem.
Many of the early Gnostics, for example, like the Essenes and the Therapeutae, were “Christians” before the time of the historical Jesus — if he was a person rather than an archetype. Their ideas derived more from ancient Egypt and Greece than what we once called the Holy Land. It was the Roman Empire that stamped an ersatz “Christianity” on the rest of us to bolster its own power.
Rather than throw out the baby Jesus with the holy bathwater by adopting contrived festivities, like Winterval, a Christianized version of the Scandinavian Yuletide would be far more preferable, with European and American traditions overlaying a Gnostic, Christian spirituality.
Of course, the merry, Dickensian, English Christmas as imported by Prince Albert is the best of the lot. It’s a subtle blend of Celtic holly and mistletoe, with a big German fir tree, ample wine and ale, and boards groaning with non-vegetarian roasts and bakes. I’ll settle for that.
A very Merry Christmas — with a bit of Gnostic nostlagia thrown in — and a Happy New Year to all Syntagma readers.