Sitting on the front porch an hour or so before sundown, slipping out of your shoes and listening to fiddle and guitar isn’t such a bad way to finish up the day. If someone is willing to get off their rocker long enough to fetch libations, then so much the better. This is Old Virginny. You know, “back where the cotton, corn and taters used to grow.” Right here where the Appalachians meet the Blue Ridge Mountains you could say we’ve pretty much got it all. Only thing about having it all, though, is that all just naturally includes one or two things you could really do just as well without; like the particularly unsavory odor that sometimes blows up the hills and through the hollows polluting the crisp December air. It’s nothing less than the foul smell of mendacity, and while everybody says they despise it, some folks seem actually to be drawn to it like a pig to a mud hole. As misfortune would have it, that particular odor seems to be at its most pungent right about this time of time of year. In the past few seasons it’s become as much a part of the Christmas holiday as jingle bells and Santa Clause.
So, with Thanksgiving now come and gone here in Old Virginny it’s time to begin the annual hackle raising fight over which holiday greeting is appropriate, and which ones some of us are encouraged to find offensive. It now seems that some good people in these parts believe that saying anything other than “Merry Christmas” is a hostile act. “Happy Holidays” or “season’s Greetings” are verboten expressions used only as code between non believers whose secret goal is to do what the Grinch couldn’t do and steal Christmas. Now really, is there any good reason for being so sensitive that someone’s offer of good wishes for joy and peace are considered offensive if “Christmas” is not one of the words used in the salutation? “OK, we know “Christmas” contains “Christ” and this is a Christian holiday; but taking offense at somebody or some merchant who offers you “season’s greetings” doesn’t seem a very “Christian” attitude. The Christians themselves have already transformed the holiday into a celebration of materialism and spending so how about coming off the high horse of self righteousness for a while and sharing a cup of hot mulled cider.
Most of us who can read or watch TV know this holiday originally belonged to Wicans and pagans. Saturnalia is the celebration of the winter solstice. It’s only “Christmas” today because Christians stole it. They stole it because after the very heart felt European over night mass conversion to Christianity, the people had no desire to abandon the revelry and good cheer that marked the winter solstice and replace it with another dreary high holy day marked by making offerings to Rome’s church. Following the early failure of Christmas to take hold, the church figured the only way they were going to get people to abandon the pagan celebrations and replace the solstice with Christmas was to ram Christmas down their throats while the church and its henchmen repackaged every aspect of the holiday. All the pagan gifts of fuel or food, the big burning Yule log, revelry, licentiousness and general merry making were simply repackaged in Christian wrappings.
We have been told by biblical scholars that the actual birth of Jesus took place sometime in March. March, of course, is getting very close to the pagan celebration of the spring equinox. In light of what happened to Saturnalia it’s a bit suspicious how Easter came to be celebrated right around the same time isn’t it? But this is all history, not news. What is so interesting about the situation is the very militant attitude of some of our fine churchmen who take issue with folks and merchants who offer to everyone “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” instead of ”Merry Christmas.” Their insistence on making this such a huge affront seems to be based on a nagging fear that non believers or pagans might be trying to steal the Christmas holiday away from them. Imagine that.
Come on people, can’t we do better? Oh. And a Merry Saturnalia, Happy Yuletide and a joyous solstice to all.