Friday, December 17, 2010

Non-Religious Religious Holidays Confuse Me

Christmas is coming up, and this year, I'm starting to get confused by the quasi-religious portrayal of Santa Claus.

I mean, they say that Santa Claus is really Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children. But Santa Claus doesn't seem to have anything to do with Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (in Turkey) during the 300's.  Santa Claus is a nice fellow and all that, but I've never once seen him go to church, much less perform Bishop duties like ordain priests. Plus, bishops only wear red on Pentecost and the memorial of martyrs. Santa wears red all year long.

And it's not just Santa Claus. Saint Patrick's Day and Saint Valentine's Day, as they're celebrated here in America, have pretty much nothing to do with Saints Patrick and Valentine. In fact, Saint Patrick would be extremely upset if he saw some of the things people did to "celebrate" his entry into heaven.

Oh, man, and don't get me started about Halloween.

Anyway, I just thought that it's weird that people still celebrate religious holidays, even when they take out the religious elements and replace it with something totally ridiculous, like consumerism or Easter baskets.  I like candy, but it has nothing to do with the death of Jesus Christ.  You'd think people would make up their own holidays and traditions, rather than keep the same holidays but completely change the traditions.

And here are some fun facts:
  • The "twelve days of Christmas" mark the twelve days from Christmas (December 25) to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 5).  I don't know why everyone mistakenly says that the twelve days of Christmas are the days that lead up to Christmas, but I think I'm going to blame the song, because it's long and annoying.
  • In ancient times, the Roman calendar was fifteen years behind the Greek calendar. So when the Greeks were in the year 650, the Romans were in the year 635. Neither calendar is still in use today.
  • This year, people were arguing about when Christmas season starts, because everyone started doing Christmas things ridiculously early, for instance, in September. For the record, there is an official starting date that the church sets, which is always on a Sunday after Thanksgiving.

14 comments:

JenMarie said...

I agree ~ Santa Clause is a farse just like the fushigi ball!! Hooray to you, Michael ;)

Alana said...

Didn't the affiliation happen because Saint Nicholas would always give gifts to the children? Then the movie and card companies took hold of the story and turned Santa Claus into the jolly, robust man known and loved by children today. That's what I was taught, anyway. Well.. the first part at least. :) haha

I think that's pretty much it, though... things become commercialized and then they loose the meaning that they began with. I don't know, I'm probably completely off-base. I'm not versed in much Christianity, let alone Catholicism, so I don't know anything about the specific saints. However, I do think the modern era has lost touch of what things mean, and is unnecessarily focused on what makes money, or sells books or movies and that's why holidays are so different from their origins.

Diana said...

I thought it was because Nicholas gave money to a girl who needed a dowry or something like that...
I hate the overcommercialization of christmas it bothers me that people are worried about material things rather than thinking about the true reason for the season!

Sofia said...

I think things like Easter Baskets and non-religious activities are just for the kids to enjoy. But they've become so symbolic that everyone pretty much considers them the traditional celebrations during these holidays. I mean, I don't consider it a bad thing. It's fun and everything for the kids. And boy, it's GREAT for television networks. So, I don't see any harm that it brings.

Fae said...

If I recall, Saint Nicholas became know as Santa Claus when, after the British took over the then-Dutch colony of New York, the Dutch children told their new British friends about 'Sinterklaas', their word for Saint Nicholas. The British couldn't say Sinterklaas properly, so it became Santa Claus.

And then we got into commercialization and all that lovely fun stuff.

Kira said...

Well, Saint Nick gave oranges and candy to kids in their shoes, whereas Santa gives kids candy in their stockings ... you can kind of see how they're alike. But then, they're not so alike. I can see your point, though. Not really sure how people took Saint Nick and transformed him into Santa ...

And it really does seem that a lot of people are forgetting the true meaning of most holidays, such as Saint Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, and Halloween. Mostly, people are running around wearing green t-shirts on Saint Patrick's day and bragging about how they're Irish. Not a lot of talk about Saint Patrick going around. And they NEVER mention Saint Valentine! Now that I think about it, I don't know a whole lot about him. And with All Saints' Day on November 1, right after Halloween ... you never hear about that stuff.

And personally ... all that Easter stuff, like plastic eggs filled with candy and neon-colored baskets and a Easter Bunny make me wonder where that kind of stuff even came from. Although I would never turn down a chance to eat chocolate on Easter. :-) It's just that holidays that are Catholic don't consist of the stuff that could be included, like, say, more talk about Saint Patrick. Really, he was a great guy.

Anonymous said...

I'M WITH YOU MICHAEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
marie

Anonymous said...

You make some very good points, Michael. It is harder than ever to remember the true meaning of nearly any holiday, due to the commercialization and materialism that has taken over our society. I find it sad.

I had to laugh when you called The Twelve Days of Christmas annoying! It can be, but I like to have fun seeing how many new lyrics I can come up with for it!("Five onion rings!"):D

--J.F.

Anonymous said...

I'd be inclined to agree on all points (though I did not know that fun fact about the two ancient calendars). I know Santa Claus in his current large, red, jolly form has only been around since the late 1800s or do. Harper's Weekly came up with it. I was under the impression he was supposed to be father Christmas, not Saint Nicholas when they drew him though. No idea how that wound up all jumbled together.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, most of the things we consider essential parts of our religious holidays (everything from Easter baskets to the day we celebrate Christmas on) actually come from pagan celebrations like fertility and harvest festivals. They got incorporated to encourage those groups to give up their religion in favor of Christianity.
I guess we're just keeping with tradition. Well, sort of.

Anonymous said...

What I dont understand is why some people I know celebrate Christmas and theyre not even Christian, or have never been to church in their whole lives. They probably just like all the candy and gifts and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Santa gave me a present when i was 9 i mean when i woke up my brother yelled and when i checked there were gifts for me ( a high school musical game in wii ) and for my brother a toy truck. i asked my mom if she bought it she saidd no so did dad ( btw they wouldn't buy these gifts cause they are 2 expensive ) and a letter from santa and says to be good and it's not my mom or dad's hand writing well i still believe he is real but can't tell you who i am so i believe santa is real

Anonymous said...

Given the commercial nature of Christmas and its seeping into every inch of life, some non-Christians do celebrate it in some form or fashion. As a Jew, I don't believe the same things as Christians. However, I celebrate the day as one to gather with family and share the love and bounty of the year.

We tried not celebrating the holiday, but the fact was that people we worked with and went to school with were horrified that we would ignore the day. I was even ridiculed at school as a child because I received no gifts from Santa Claus. The other kids told me I must have been very bad to have been skipped over. My parents were horrified that I had been ridiculed like that and began to honor the day in some way so that we didn't stand out as much.

Until such a time that people are open and accepting of other cultures, you probably will continue to see people celebrating a day we have off from work and school in their own ways.

Lexi said...

Not to be mean and all but... The feast of Epihany... Is January 6th :) I don't celebrate that certain holiday but, I know it's not January 5th... Sorry Michael but, it's true.