Saturday, December 28, 2013

Winter Season Memes and Meme Wars

By Gary Berg-Cross

A Washington Post Editorial called The Christmas story, still captivating the world, published: December 24 stirred up some discussion about the contemporary meaning of the holiday.  They contrasted the story in radioDAYS of old (1947 to 1956, to be exact)” as they called it when the narratives were mainly:

“from the Bible, mostly from the life of Jesus, presented with the urgent energy of radio drama and the sort of background music, spirited dialogue and sound effects that made it a good deal more compelling than Sunday school. It was widely popular for a time

This pop-up style they contrasted with a more enduring story of generosity, the need for shelter, the feeling of home and a new start to things (throw in New Year’s). This universal appeal:

is a tale with universal appeal extending beyond any one faith or doctrine, a story of love and triumph over adversity and also of humility, of the good lay in their warmth, humanity and simplicity, …….an enduring reflection of both the “comfort and joy” of the carol and also of the spirit expressed in a seasonal exhortation last week from Pope Francis: “Let us act so that our brothers and sisters never feel alone.”

Washington Area Secular Humanist 
HumanLight Party 2013
Yes, it seems as Alistair Cooke noted, "Washington's birthday is as close to a secular Christmas as any Christian country dare come this side of blasphemy."
There were numerous responses to this more secular, humanist slant to the season. The following from FL-Chet represents a meme of a  more traditional, Christian view of the season.

The Christmas story without his claim that he was fully God while being fully man is like Christmas dinner without the main course. Yes, we can nibble around the table of the Christmas story and learn from these truths. But to ignore his claims to be God come down to rescue us leaves our hearts and lives wanting, and needing more.

Put me on the side of the universal Humanist appeal of the season. Long before there was Christianity we had people celebrating the winter solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year which falls (in the Northern hemisphere) on December 21 or December 22.  The harvest is in but some plants &  trees remain green thru winter and thus had a special meaning for people in dark, cold times. Today homes in Western culture are decorated with pine, spruce, and fir trees. In ancient times peoples also hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows (to keep away witches, evil spirits, and illness after all the sun-god gets weak in winter) but this seems mostly buried by the later Christmas story meme.

Washington Area Secular Humanist 
HumanLight Party 2013

I say let’s keep the non-spiritual side of the season alive with growing Humanist memes about kindness and sharing along with traditions like HumanLight and song.  For the latter I like Vienna Teng’s  The Atheist Christmas Carol.  It is by no means an atheist song, but rather a Humanist one as is Ode to Joy with its inspired message that 'all men shall be brothers'.


As to seasonal wishes there are many that I like. One builds on Mary Ellen Chase’s idea, beyond shopping malls and temples the winter celebration, people, is not a calendar date. It is a state of mind and one in which children can be grateful to parents who fill stockings and a natural sun that stays a minute or so longer each day.

"Keeping a holiday spirit is good, but sharing it is better."
after-- Arnold Glasow

No comments: