Definition of fest for those who want it:
an assembly of people engaged in a common activity (often used in combination): filmfest; gabfest; love-fest; poetry fest.
Over in Scotland, Dundee has declared December to be Christian Christmas free. No overtly religious symbolism will be allowed to honour that time of year in any public venues.
IT IS a story that could have come straight out of the pages of Dr Seuss’s The Grinch that Stole Christmas.
IT IS NOT. The Grinch wanted to kill any and all celebrations that were fun and full of songs and joy and gift giving. If anything, the Grinch was a Puritan. That he failed is evidence that joy and fun cannot be quashed for long and even the Grinch has a change of heart about surrounding one’s self with friends and being joyful. He was lacking it, thought he didn’t need it, and he was wrong.
City leaders in Dundee are planning a spectacular festive celebration – but with no references to Christianity.
So? December belongs to everyone, not just Christians. Not everyone buys into the Christian way to explain the day. There are traditions galore over what to do with the shortest day of the northern year, and how to spend the longest northern night. The winter solstice is not the sole property of any group. Anyone can have a party. My Freethinker club is planning a Festivus celebration for the 20th. I’m going and I don’t even like Seinfeld.
Hailed as a celebration of Dundee’s contemporary culture and innovative past, festive season revellers are being promised a visual feast of projections and lights later this month. It will be a “Winter Light Night” of festive season illuminations, audiovisual displays, music, street art performances and a children’s torchlight procession.
Which is quite similar to honouring St. Lucy, Hanukkah or Advent, by the way. Bringing light into the darkness, be it with real candles, or an enlightening belief system that promises to change the world with a Word.
But yesterday the city council and the event’s organisers were under attack from church leaders, who accused them of eroding the religious significance of Christmas by removing all references to Christianity from the annual switch on of the city’s Christmas lights.
But that’s just it. Christmas is one of many ways to celebrate the season. It’s been around for a long time, but it’s never been a world-wide phenomenon that everyone celebrates. “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” Do they know where their next meal is coming from? Do they know why their country is in such dire straits? I’m sure that’s way more important than what day their benefactors think is holy.
And, instead of the traditional nativity story, the festival will feature a solar-powered disco, a continental market, a circus and a fairy on stilts.
That’s a flashing, sparkling, mirror ball of awesome, right there. Holy crap, do I ever wish my passport was up to date. That sounds like the best damn day ever organized!
Know what traditions existed before that nativity story got popular? Mithra had his birthday party on the 25th of December every year. Even ancient Romans acknowledged the existence of this Persian god of soldiers and chided Christian soldiers for lacking the same desire for “temperance, self-control and compassion — even in victory” that Mithras followers did.
Northern Europeans enjoyed the rituals of Yule for years before they heard of Christianity. According to Wiki, the secretly Christian King Haakon I of Norway started eroding Yule’s purpose and instigated the moves to blend the “heathen pagan” celebrations with Christian holidays and traditions until very little of the old Yule was left.
“The presbytery is concerned at the dropping of the term ‘Christmas lights’ in favour of ‘winter lights’ at the festival.”
Mr Webster said the Kirk’s convener was writing to the council chief exective to express concern. “Members of all the congregations within the presbytery are also being encouraged to take the matter up with their councillors.
“Christmas is a Christian festival, and the dropping of the term Christmas lights and the telling of the Christmas story is an erosion of the religious festival.”
I prefer to see it as reminding people that Christmas is not the only proper way to celebrate anything this time of year. It’s optional. Donkeys, inns, wise men. All optional. Santa, elves, reindeer. Optional. Candles, carols, mincemeat, date cake, all optional.
He added: “I don’t think there is anything sinister here. I think it is more a case of this having slipped through the cracks rather being any sort of politically correct move.
“The presbytery’s concern is that somehow, the Christmas aspect of the festival has fallen off the edge.”
Has Christmas ever been ruled as mandatory by a government? Celebrate Christmas or be fined and imprisoned. Hardly. I don’t think the town of Dundee is saying no Christmas decorations will be allowed anywhere in city limits. They’ve just opted to put on a faith free festival this year. Go ahead with your trees and tinsel and ornaments and baby Jesus displays in your homes and church yards. Nobody’s going to stop you. Celebrate the season in your own space however you see fit.
Dundee sees fit to celebrate the season without a label for a change, and I doubt attendance at their fest will be mandatory. Be a Grinch if you want and skip the whole thing. Nobody’s going to force you to join in.