Saturday, 26 December 2015

Time to cancel Christmas

In my view, it is time for the Church to cancel Christmas because:
  • the personal cost for those carrying it forward, often women who are also working full-time, is unacceptable. Their huge effort is mostly unappreciated too.  'Boxing Day' should be the day when others take over and serve them - as a national institution
  • the cost of Christmas 
  • the distress for those left out of Christmas - there are more suicides at Christmas than at any other time.
It is difficult to identify where the pressure on women to run the perfect Christmas comes from in the British culture. However, magazines start showing perfect Christmas meals, from October and TV shows present impossible menus as "stress free". Employers must take some blame. Christmas seems to ever expand. Christmas is now running from midnight on 23 December to 6 January. When I was young 'Christmas' was just Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Commercial manipulation of Christmas encourages everyone to receive one or more presents.  This results in Christmas effectively starting at the end of November and ending on 7 January with huge gaps in the bank balance. The added cost of Christmas is now unacceptable for those on low incomes especially for single parents or those in large families. There is no 'slack' given to them, either. When I was ill and poor, I was expected to give presents. No one showed any thought about whether one could afford it or not.

I would propose these changes:
  • The Western Church (Protestant, Catholic, Independent and Reformed) stops celebrating Christmas Day on 25th December and refocuses on Advent. This new festival could culminate in services, sermons and meals on 21 December. An alternative is to align with the Eastern Orthodox Church - celebrate Christmas on 7th January. 
  • This would take the celebration of the birth of Christ out of the current over-commercialised festival which has such mixed messages. Its secular self-indulgence is a serious stain on the Western Church. 
  • The new holiday ends after Boxing Day. Working Christian women take annual leave during the carolling season (which many run) so that they are rested by the actual feast day (21st) not fraught from working non-stop since summertime, before catering for everyone else.  
  • The Western Church redesigns this earlier festival as a time just for children, those left out generally, the marginalised, homeless and sick, and those without families.  This would reflect its original spirit when lords of the manor served their own serfs and their families - a reversing of the natural order in society.
  • The Western Church renames Christmas, to tackle the over-commercialisation that ruins it. Many think Christmas is not the celebration of the birth of Christ - but 'Saturnalia' a pagan Roman festival.  The secular world could then rename their own festival Winterval - or whatever they want on 25th December.
  • Advent is the start of the Christian liturgical year so a fitting time to celebrate His blessed Incarnation (the start of the plan of redemption).  I would suggest The Festival of the Incarnation which has carols, candles, plays, angels and starts on 8 December ending on 21 December with a meal. Presents would be for the elderly, children, the homeless, the sick and those in need only. 
  • Churches would be closed on 25th December. Christians would work from the day after Boxing Day, keeping clear of dreaded and expensive Sales. Their presence would help keep offices and services operational for two weeks, over New Year too.
This would make the Church distinctive and would celebrate a spiritual festival. It would take Christ out of the over-commercial Christmas and it would taackle issues of time, energy and money (for women and mothers). The Church is unlikely to have the leadership to do it but Christians can just do it anyway. They would also miss expensive office Christmas parties which can be deadly 'traps' for the innocent.

As the Queen said this year "Better to light a candle in the dark" - than for church leaders to bleat about Christmas being "too worldly and commercial" and for relentlessly hardworking women to end up weeping, in dark rooms, on Christmas Day.

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