Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Insanity and other Christmas traditions

I do like all those wee familiar features that make up a traditional Christmas - turkey, stuffing, pressies - and the usual subjects complaining about it, either because it's too religious, it's not religious enough, or that it exists at all.

Jack McConnell joined the usual throng in complaining about the de-Christianizing of Christmas:
"First Minister Jack McConnell has said public bodies must not break "the link between Christianity and Christmas".
He spoke after it was reported that a hospital had banned the distribution of a Christmas CD over concerns it could cause offence to non-Christians.

Bosses at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh said the CDs were being distributed after carol services.

Mr McConnell said trying to ignore the core message of Christmas was "political correctness gone mad".
D'ya think McConnell really said 'political correctness gone mad' or that the journalist knocked off early and went to the pub? Jack, cliches; journalists, drink: 50-50 probability, I reckon.

Christmas just isn't Christian enough for, er, Christians - and not without reason, it's just that they're suffering under the illusion that the church ever completely succeeded in colonising the seasonal saturnalia.

In contrast, the atheist puritans, even the perfunctory religious content in Christmas is altogether too much. Christopher Hitchens' 'bah-humbug' Slate piece has been linked on a couple of sites, either approvingly or without comment. Is it just me that thinks it's a bit unhinged? For example:
"This was a useful demonstration of what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music."
From here he goes on to talk about the seasonal consumer frenzy in the same context as North Korea and stuff. A compulsory day off from being bad-tempered? How totalitarian.

For Johann Hari in contrast, Mammon's takeover of Christmas - along with the seasonal 'propaganda' is an excellent development:
"How much better for Christmas to be a celebration of Mammon - an orgy of buying things for your friends and family - than for it to be a religious dirge devoted to Christian fictions."
It's a strong field in which to compete but this wins the prize for the most insane thing I've read about Christmas this year. Take this for example:
"The Archbishops pine for the days when Christmas was a celebration of the birth of a quasi-mystical figure, a man whose hallucinatory teachings - remember his command to follow "every jot and tittle" of the Old Testament, beheading gays and stoning prostitutes included? - have been a gift to bigots and theocrats for millennia. So quick, get to HMV, toss your nativity props onto the bonfire as you go, and deck the halls with holly in joy at the commercial conquest of Christ's birth."
I know what you're thinking - I couldn't find the bit in the Gospels where Jesus caves Mary Magdalene's head in with a half-brick either.

Utter madness of course - but that's a seasonal tradition too. Christmas has always been about alleviating the sense of entrapment in the dark tunnel that is a nothern European winter, a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do - yet it can bring trouble because, as the sanest commentator I've read on the subject puts it, sometimes this time of year just gives you too much information.

Seasonal insanity can affect us all but spare a thought for the ideologues and the religious who clearly have a tougher time of it, the poor dears.

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