She asked it with a snide tone, an accusatory tone. It wasn't a polite question. It wasn't some feel good, love the season, tinsel, candy cane, bows on baby's brows, family dinner and wassail kind of question. It was a sharp tongued, you're not Christian, what do you know, how dare you cross my path whilst shopping, heathens ruin Jesus' America, thank you for corrupting our second-most-holiest of days, kind of question. Like I said, with a snide tone.
No, I'm not Christian, but Christmas is, nonetheless, a holy day.
Christmas, to me, has nothing to do with miracle births, overbooked inns or trekking wise men. It's not about shopping, eating, giving or receiving. Sure, these things happen but they're not what it's about. It's not about snowmen. It's not about company parties. It's not about knicknacks on trees or mistletoe. It's not about any of those things but still, the day is holy, holy indeed.
Why? Why is Christmas holy to a Pagan like me? Because Christmas isn't just Christmas. Christmas is simply the modern, Christian, western dominated incarnation of a global phenomenon. Whether the customs are the same, whether the theological justification is the same, whether the cultural significance is the same, or not, this event is recognized by virtually all people on Earth. The solstice, the apex of the planet's orbit, the shortest day of the year, is observed, in one form or another by all peoples.
To Pagans like me Yule is a literal holiday; we celebrate the end of the sun's waning and the brightening of the new year. In much of the Muslim middle east the day of Shabe Yaldā is celebrated with feasting and family. In China, Tāngyuán dumplings are shared to symbolize family unity during the festival of Dōngzhì. Jews, of course, have Hanukkah commemorating the miraculous dedication of the Second Temple. Though, in the Talmudic tradition, the the solstice day is properly called Teḳufat Ṭebet, commemorating the day when Judge Jephtha of Gilead sacrificed his daughter to the tetragrammaton god. And, to the followers of the Nazarene, it is the day that the King of Kings was humbly born. Two billion people, a third the world's population call this day Christmas but the other four billion still have names for this day, or a day shortly adjacent. This holiday may be one of the only cultural universals, one of the only things that everyone, everywhere can understand and agree upon.
That's what Christmas it to me. It's the one day when everyone is of the same mind. It's an annual reminder that, despite the strife and pain in the world, beneath the tragedy of the human-invented condition, beyond the distrust and the misdeeds each group of people seem so intent on heaping upon all others, there will always be some stripe of similarity. For all of our hard work dwelling on colors, nationalities, ethnicities and, yes, faiths, this day has significance to all people, regardless. If that does not spark reverence, awe; if that does not lead one to say, "today is holy," then I don't know what will.
Christmas is the single best reminder that we are all so much more alike than we will ever be different. That's Christmas to me.
Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.