Over at Less Wrong there is a discussion on the Winter Solstice celebration. It being Less Wrong there’s a great deal of introspective analysis. That’s fine. When I was younger I did the “Solstice” celebration thing, though today at this age I think that if you live in the United States you should just own or disown Christmas. If you look into the history of this specific celebration it becomes clear that it isn’t so clearly specifically Christian in origin. The reality is that really just reflects the cosmopolitan materialism of the West of our day. Most people have reservations about the materialism, but there’s obviously some social and personal utility in the holiday.
In relation to another winter celebration, David Frum expresses the Jewish ambivalence toward Hanukkah, a minor holiday which had the fortune to be near Christmas on the calender. But Hanukkah is another example of “owning” something, and recreating it your own image. Frankly, I feel that in some ways Hanukkah was originally a celebration of the Al Qaeda of its day, the Maccabees. If you listen to this episode of In Our Time you can easily read between the lines and see where I’m coming from. The irony, or perhaps an expression of an iron law of history, is that the later Hasmoneans (the dynasty founded by the revolt) were themselves the sort of cosmopolitan Hellenists their ancestors disemboweled for their heresies. The Herodian scions of Hasmonean maternal heritage were prominent figures in the court of the Julio-Claudians, before the Jewish Wars and the absorption of Hellenistic Judaism into paganism and Christianity threw up a barrier between Jewishness and the gentile world in 2nd century.
In any case, best wishes and happy holidays.
Image credit: Wikipedia