Thursday, December 30, 2004

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

This Christmas message is, like, sooo late...

One of the unique things about the Catholic religion is its certain love for feasts and celebrations. Anyone who's aware of the Catholic calendar (or who lives in a Catholic country, whether he's Catholic or not) knows that every single day of the year has a Catholic significance; if not the feast day of a saint, then it's a celebration of an event of Christian importance.

Only a few of our Catholic celebrations are shared with our non-Catholic Christian brothers, particularly Christmas and Lent. A few of them don't even have celebrations at all. Some of these people see something un-Christian, even evil, about the idea of celebrating the birthday of Christ, for example. They seem to have a certain revulsion agents birthdays in general, apparently due to something about Herod being the first person to celebrate his birthday. But the connection is quite muddled and superstitious. Not everything associated with Herod is evil; he's just a man, after all, and not the Devil. But the point is that the two birthdays are utterly different from each other: one is a manifestation of unholy pride on the part of a false king, while the other is the righteous celebration of the coming of our Savior.

Still some non-Catholics ask why we assign a single day for celebrating the birth of Christ when we can't be exactly sure about the real date of his birth, and why we don't just try to celebrate Christ's birth as often as we could. Come to think of it, there are hundreds of things that we ought to celebrate in gratitude to God, from the birth of Christ to his resurrection, and everything/everyone important in between and beyond. Now we can't possibly celebrate so many things so many times, if only because we are not all monks. Wouldn't it be better if we could assign our different celebrations to certain parts of the year, just as a person would organize his schedule? And as we are a community of saints, wouldn't it be better to have a universal calendar of celebrations? Well by golly! That's exactly what the Church did!

But why do we celebrate at all, and why so numerously? Aren't we being too much like the pagan myth-makers with their regular feasts and abundant merry-making? In fact, isn't Christmas merely a replacement of some heathen celebration of old? The answer is this. Feasts and merry-making are good things in themselves, because man was made to be happy, and celebration is thus inherent in him. The pagan celebrations were wrong, not because celebration is wrong, but because they celebrated for the wrong reasons. But the Church taught the pagans the proper reasons for merry-making, replacing all their feasts in the process, and one of them is this: "For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."