For Christians, the most sacred days of the year are Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and Easter, celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the word itself indicates, the term Christmas comes from Christ’s Mass, a reference to the religious observance and church celebration of the occasion. Today in many countries the religious significance is accompanied by civil holidays. That word interestingly comes from the notion “Holy Days”, but is today applied to any dates of special significance where observance is warranted, whether religious, secular or otherwise.
Recently I have been pondering whether Christmas is dying out. This may be just a consequence of getting hold, that Christmas no longer has the same awe and fascination as in youth, no longer has the festive socialising as when I was younger.
Some thoughts and comments:
· This year the shops and shopping centres seem a lot quieter than in past years. Retailers must be hurting. I imagine that online purchasing must be making a dent in shop retailing. The shops and shopping centres have numerous “Sale” signs. I have also noticed “Sale” advertising.
· Over the years the religious significance of Christmas has become overshadowed by the secular holiday and the emphasis on giving gifts. Much of the responsibility for this should be attributed to the large retailers and their advertising.
· I have noticed an increase in cynicism towards promotion by the large retail stores of Christmas as a time of spending and giving gifts. This cynicism is frequently accompanied by a move away from larger spending in favour of simpler gifts and a focus on family get together. Maybe the GFC has also been a factor.
· Apart from the retail and marketing issues, the religious message also seems to be diminishing.
· Each census in Australia shows the main Christian denominations in decline, although no increase in those who identify themselves as agnostics, atheist or of no religion. Instead, the reducing Christian numbers are countered by increases in followers of Islam and Hinduism, attributable mainly to increasing ethnic immigration.
· Increased political correctness, sometimes to the point of absurdity, has resulted in the religious significance and trappings of Christmas being suppressed. More and more Christ is being taken out of Christmas in public displays, government messages, schools, kindergartens and business.
· Australia has always been a particularly secular country, a trend which appears to be increasing at Christmas even without the PC pressures. Christmas cards now rarely have a religious message or motif, Christian church attendances are declining and the most recognisable image of Christmas is no longer the nativity but Santa. Maybe “Silent Night” is still a symbol of Christmas, but is it any more powerful than Rudolph and his red nose?
· When I was a youngster we put up a real tree, the scent of pine being strong within the house. These days it is plastic but my experience is that less and less trees are being put up.
It may be just me but, to paraphrase a Christmas song, it’s beginning to feel a lot less like Christmas.