As Christmas day approaches, the annual debate has resurfaced over why it is celebrated as a national holiday and not as an Islamic holiday. However, Christmas is not seen in the same way as Eid for Muslims, Diwali for Hindus or Yom Kippur for Jews. In America, like in Liberia, which wrote our constitution, even if you don’t believe in the tenets of the Christian faith, most people are brought up as “cultural Christians.”
This means that even though some people are not Christians, the values of Christianity are deeply linked to American values. It’s the same in Liberia, where I grew up. Without absorbing Judeo-Christian values, one cannot grow up in America or be American. Likewise, anyone who has lived their entire life in India is considered a cultural Hindu. Someone from Sudan is a cultural Muslim, regardless of actual faith or lack thereof.
However, this is not the reason why Liberia and the United States have passed a law declaring Christmas Day a national holiday, but not Diwali, Yom Kippur, or Eid al-Fitr. Christmas is not a “religious” holiday, unlike the Hindu, Jewish and Muslim holidays.
I am a Christian and attended Ganta United Methodist Mission boarding school; I have learned that Christmas is not fundamental in Bible teachings. It is not referenced in the Bible and was not even mentioned by Christian theologians until centuries after Jesus’ death. None of the gospels give a date or season for Christ’s birth, certainly not in December, which is so narrowly confined to the nostalgia of North American whites and Europeans.
“Theologically, I find Christmas to have a two-dimensional meaning,” said Mark Nordell, a retired United Methodist pastor. “The first, in the first mythical angel telling us not to be afraid. The second is in John 1:14, where the vision of the incarnation begins for me. redemption.”
The first settlers of colonial Boston [USA] Christmas forbidden. Christians in New England continued their “war on Christmas” until the late 1800s, as they viewed it as a pagan holiday that had more to do with the “Saturnalia of the pagans” (an ancient Roman holiday honoring the god Saturn) than with Jesus.
Christmas is a religious, secular, cultural and commercial phenomenon with its reindeer, Christmas trees, elves and Sani Claus. It is celebrated around the world: in Kano, Nigeria, which is 95% Muslim; Christmas has become popular in Japan, although only 2% of the population is Christian.
Christmas is more of a cult of capitalism than anything else, accounting for over 20% of total annual retail sales in the United States alone. Christmas is all about buying stuff and exchanging gifts. I have no intention of insulting Christians, but Christmas does not have sacred significance as the holidays of other religions.
This is why most people in the world, regardless of their faith, celebrate Christmas but do not observe, for example, Easter. The first is a secular holiday, while the second is the most important religious holiday in Christianity. The establishment clause of the Liberian constitution was intended to prevent the government from “establishing” an official state religion; that is why Easter, Eid, Diwali, Yom Kippur and other religious holidays are not observed as national holidays.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!