Christmas and Other Holidays – A Frank and Open Discussion

I am unapologetically a Christian, I regularly attend church, and I exercise faith through daily scripture reading, prayer, and other works synonymous with being a Christian.  Being a Christian, I embrace freedom, especially freedom of religion; “Let [all people] worship how, where, or what they may.”  I am not smart enough to tell anyone, convince anyone, or try to force anyone to believe anything.  As a point of fact, my articles very specifically encourage you to find your answers, much as I have done, through study, learning, and faith.

Yes, this is a discussion!  I do not understand Christmas in any way, shape, or form; while this also applies to all accepted holidays, Christmas is my focus.  If you understand Christmas better or any holiday mentioned, feel free to teach me so that we both may learn more perfectly.  Christmas, as a child, was only once a time of wonder.  I remember that Christmas; I must have been 6 or 7 years.  I do not remember what I got for Christmas, but I remember how I felt.  I have not felt similarly since, and while I know why, I do not understand how to put the wonder back into Christmas.

Annually, Christmas, New Year, and the rest of the mid-winter holidays are a time for deep depression.  I struggle to feel anything from Halloween to mid-February; think London Fog as a mental condition, and your close to understanding what is happening between my ears annually.  As a child and teen, the holidays were always a time of stress, increased drama, and tons, and tons, of dishes.  The holiday season brought increased torment as parents’ stress (especially) resulted in increased violence (physical and mental).  Thus, I learned not to appreciate the holidays but loath the workload, violence, and abuse and view the holiday season as a time of greater pain and suffering.

Don’t even get me started on how to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day.  There are holidays, and choosing to celebrate or not is just as important as how to celebrate and whom to celebrate.  The biggest mistake society makes is trying to force everyone to celebrate the same holiday!

As an adult, mainly due to the depression, I avoid stores between Halloween and mid-February, like the plague!  The music of “Christmas” does not lift, and I find it difficult to hear.  To me, the people during Christmas are more challenging to be around.  I do not understand their choices and changes in attitude, their happiness, nor share in their wonder and excitement.  The pagan beliefs Catholicized into Christmas traditions blow my ever-loving mind!  I do not see Christ in a decorated “Christmas” Tree or other Christmas pageantry.  Simply put, every Christmas Tradition, generally accepted by Christendom, is stolen from mid-winter pagan holidays.  As I have studied the origins and beliefs inherent in Christmas, Easter, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc., I see more and more of the historical imprint of early Catholic Church leaders, and I stand aghast that these beliefs have turned into traditions that bind and hold fast the human mind.

Yet, to not wish someone else, especially another Christian, “Merry Christmas” is to be judged less a Christian.  I do not understand!  I believe in Christ; I believe in and have a knowledge of his reality, birth, life, death, resurrection, and visitation to all the Twelve Tribes of Israel after his resurrection.  I accept Christ as my Savior and advocate before the Father.  But, I do not understand Christmas celebrations or why these celebrations “speak of Christ, rejoice in Christ,” or promote Christian beliefs!  I understand the underpinnings of, and like the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  I see Christ in this celebration of lights and appreciate those who celebrate this simple holiday simply.  But Hanukkah is not a holiday I can fully enjoy either, not for the lack of trying.

I have the same problem with Passover, not for the lack of trying, but I cannot celebrate this holiday, for I feel something is missing.  Easter, will someone please explain to me the lines of logical congruence between a bunny rabbit laying eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  None of the “traditions” of Easter make a lick of sense to me.  While I feel different at Easter than I do with any other holiday, I do not celebrate this holiday either, even though I respect and honor, follow and try to emulate Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, advocate, and hopefully friend.  While we’re on the topic of incongruent traditions, Santa Claus creeps me out!  The fear of being judged without an advocate or appeals process is anti-Christian, but Santa Claus continues to play a fearful role in Christmas.  Worse, the mysticism prevalent in a belief in Santa Claus fills my mind, not with Christ’s giving of himself, but of Halloween!  Tim Burton’s movie, “Nightmare Before Christmas,” is closer to how I see Santa Claus, put him in Halloween, and leave him there!

Yet, here we are, another Christmas celebration is upon the world, and I do not understand!  I like the lights of Christmas and enjoy them year-round, but they are not symbols of Christ lighting the world; they are just lights to me, with no particular holiday attachment.  I am a foodie, but food is just that, food.  No special holiday attachment; worse, as a diabetic, I have to watch how, when, where, and what I eat.  There is no fun in that, no holiday significance, and frankly, no joy in Mudville.

A friend declared, Christmas is about love.  What is love?  I know from significant study what love is not.  Love is not sex!  Love is not punishment, abuse, torment, and throwing all the dishes out of the cupboard and forcing a young child to wash every dish in the house repeatedly until that dish somehow passes an arbitrary level of cleanliness, with frequent beatings for failure to meet that level of cleanliness!  Love is not inflicting pain, causing tears, and being violent.  It has been easy to identify what love is not.  But defining what love is, what it feels like, and how to share love, I have no clue!

Often, I am referred to as a “Cold-Hearted, mean, bastard,” many times, other adjectives are thrown in to describe me.  I wear a “bar-sinister” proudly; I am a bastard!  I fight this nature of myself every single day; sometimes I win, more often I lose.  Sometimes I have thought, maybe this aspect of my character is why I cannot fathom the meaning of holidays, find wonder, or experience joy as readily as others.  Sometimes I think the method of how I was raised is inherent in being that bastard I despise.  Yet, I am a survivor because of the ways and manners of my childhood upbringing, and I have gratitude for being a survivor.  Meaning somewhere in there is gratitude for how I was raised and being a bastard.  I fully appreciate how paradoxical that thinking is.  Remember, a paradox is where two points that appear contradictory at first glance but in deeper understanding are closer than they are apart.

What does being a bastard have to do with Christmas and celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ; thankfully, I can answer that question.  Only in and through Jesus Christ can my nature change.  That single hope is precious to me, remains an impetus in motivating me to change, and powers my striving.  Without the birth of Christ, there could not be a death and resurrection.  Without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, man could not change his nature, understand and possess freedom, or comprehend the higher laws of giving of self, choosing a different method of living, and rising above the natural man and comprehending why man has to rise above his natural beliefs into a higher understanding.

Yes, I celebrate Jesus Christ!  Make no mistake; I am grateful for my Savior; but, I do not understand Christmas!  I cannot fathom a celebration of Easter as currently celebrated and understood in Christendom.  I long for further light and knowledge to more appropriately commemorate the birth, life, reality, resurrection, and example that is Jesus Christ!  I know that only through the merits, mercy, and justice of Christ can I eventually gain the further light and knowledge I seek.  Please don’t think I do not celebrate when I wish you the happiest of holidays; it is an honest expression of a heartfelt desire for you to celebrate and worship how, where, when, and what you may.  Please understand, though, I am not participating, not because I do not believe, but because I do not understand.

A well-intentioned person told me to “Fake it until you make it.”  I have tried following this advice, and while it worked in other aspects of life, I learned more, and faking it stopped working.  Where holidays are concerned, I cannot “Fake it, hoping to somehow, make it.”  Faking it requires a method of belief with a hope.  I have hope and knowledge; thus, I do not have a belief, or reason to believe.  In possessing knowledge, my belief can take wing with confidence, and in that understanding, I can no longer “fake it.”  As a respecter of religious belief, and as a seeker of light and knowledge, there have been times I have thought how easy it could be to be an atheist; but, in possessing knowledge, I understand I cannot live without the belief and knowledge of a Savior, a Heavenly Father who had the sense to hand man laws, cover his mind with a veil of his past life, and tell man to live by faith.  The atheist cannot understand the value in living by faith, for they choose not to believe, even when presented with evidence.

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, speakers, and characters from history. He understood the chasm between choice and the consequences of choosing not to believe and live according to beliefs. Mark Twain is another character, author, and speaker who I deeply admire and appreciate, for many of the same qualities exhibited by C. S. Lewis, are found in Mark Twain.  Thus, we find both an exemplar of the principles discussed and another issue with the holidays.  Knowing what I know regarding the origins of the holidays, the traditions adopted and Christianized, and the chains which bind from traditions, I struggle with celebrating holidays.

As a child, I asked why do we decorate a Christmas Tree?  After removing all the religiosity, the answer was because their parents did it that way.  Why did we feast; remove the religiosity, and we find it’s because everyone else celebrates holidays (peer pressure and traditions) with feasting.  In the movie and play “Fiddler on the Roof,” the primary character sings, discusses, and lives under the iron fist of tyrannical tradition, and I am left with one question, “Why?”  Why do something just because it is tradition?  Jesus Christ brought freedom of conscience; believe how, when, where, and what you may, act and live according to your beliefs, and you are exercising freedom and liberty.  Where does tradition fit into belief and living according to choice, freedom, and agency?

Bringing the conversation back to principles of freedom, choice and showcasing how decisions determine destiny.  Again, I am not casting aspersions, nor trying to convince anyone to do something they are not comfortable with, nor am I denigrating or deriding anyone’s beliefs, traditions, or methods of worship or celebration.  My intent is not to cause a crisis of faith but to understand for myself.  Please, embrace your freedom to choose to worship, and celebrate, how, where, when, and what you may.  In possessing this freedom, allow others to worship and celebrate how, when, where, and what they may.  Enjoy your holiday traditions and celebrations.  But, please do not judge me as less because I do not understand, believe differently, and live according to my beliefs.

Santa Claus coming to town fills me with dread and despair, not hope, wonder, or joy.  A white Christmas is not a dream for me but a symbol of more snow to shovel, even though I LOVE watching the snow fall and playing in the snow.  Christmas trees do not thrill me but represent a ton of work to put up, more work to maintain, and more work to take down.  Food is not a celebration but represents more work, time, effort, and sacrifice, for momentary pleasure.  While I enjoy food, eat food, and talk about recipes to make food, I do not worship at the altar of food or see any connection between food and traditional celebrations.

I totally get it; the Children of Israel fled Egypt the Passover is a sacred remembrance and should be celebrated; but, Christ showed a better way, and through that better way, the bitterness of fleeing is swallowed up in joy.  Why eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as part of the tradition and celebration?  Joy is knowledge with aspects of painful experience encapsulated in achievement.  Thus, to me, the flight of Israel shows how faith, painful experience, and achievement are possible, and I want to shout and sing for joy.  I have always thought of Passover as a time for glorious celebration.  Strike up a band, sing, shout, and make merry, for we survived the Passover, escaped Egyptian slavery and harsh bondage, and now are free!  The same goes for Hanukkah, the resurrection of Christ, the birth of Christ, and every other holiday.  The holiday, to my understanding, represents, or signifies, a reason to make merry because those who came before achieved something through enormous difficulty, suffered dreadful pains, and achieved a better place.  They have joy, and we share in that joy.

Bringing up the final aspect of the holidays, sharing joy.  How do we share in the joy those who suffered experienced?  This is the crux of holiday celebrations.  How we answer this question determines the traditions we embrace; the decisions and consequences produce a destiny.  Consequences are neither good nor bad, simply natural actions formed from a choice an agent made.  How we choose to place a value on those consequences immediately determines how often we will make the same choice again, leading to determined destiny over time and repetition.  Using this understanding of choices and consequences, we revisit the question, “How do we choose to share joy?”

I do not know how to answer this question!  Worse, I feel this single question forms the crux of all holiday celebrations, and I am flummoxed!  Some have suggested I perform more service to share joy.  Others suggest giving gifts.  Others have offered well-meaning opinions, ideas, and suggestions that I cannot fathom as connected to a holiday—leading to a need to understand why.  Why act differently leading up to a holiday when you act in an opposing manner the rest of the year?  Why not act the same year-round?

Again, there is no judging, no aspersions cast, no denigration of actions and choices here.  I am not your judge!  But, these questions are the questions I struggle with living, understanding, and connecting to holiday celebrations.  If you have answers, please share them with me, help me understand how you share joy, celebrate, and feel.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Juneteenth and Critical Race Theory: A Head Scratching Conundrum!

QuestionI fully admit, every time “Juneteenth” comes around, I have to look up the word and the history to make sure someone is not pulling my leg.  For those like me, Juneteenth is the celebration of the emancipation of slaves in Texas from 19 June 1865.  Apparently, President Biden just made the day an Official U.S. Holiday, the first since Martin Luther King Day in the early 1980s.  There are times I feel like, for all the work I invest in knowing what is happening, I am still living under a rock.

Included at the bottom of this article are references to the source materials and knowledge gleaned.  Unless explicitly linked, the references below can support both my questions and my conclusions.  Feel free to expand your mind and read; be warned, though, once your mind expands, it can never go back!

The historical celebrations of Juneteenth included prayer, new clothes, hymn singing, and expressions of gratitude regarding being made free.  A celebration of freedom by slaves in America also included food.  I have never seen race; plain and simple truth!  Your choice of race is your business; how you act and live is more important than race, culture, creed, religion, handicap, and gender to me.  While working on my MBA degree, I was introduced to two concepts, critical race theory and the fact that the United Nations claims race and culture are a conscious choice.

WhyIf the United Nations can claim that a person’s race is a choice, then I am an American.  I am not distinguished by color, several colors, or even my history.  As a point of reference, America was set up that way for a reason; it releases people from bondage to not be judged by their family, their financial circumstances, historical tribal connections, color, or any other line of separation.  When America as a “Melting Pot” was described to me in school, I cheered because it meant I am not the sum of my family’s actions!

Then along comes Critical Race Theory, and my mind took a sudden jolt.  Critical Race Theory is a loosely organized intellectual movement based upon a shaky legal framework and premise claiming that race is not a natural, biological, or physical distinction separating subgroups of humans.  The intellectualists embrace Critical Race Theory and attempt to make race a sociological invention to oppress other people.  They further adhere to an almost religious belief that America is inherently racist, especially to African Americans.

Question 3Here is where my brain disconnects, the questions asked are honest, and I would appreciate dialog without emotion to attempt to answer the following questions:

    1. If the United Nations is correct, and race is a choice, how does Critical Race Theory have any followers and adherents?
        • Since race is my personal choice, I can be any race I choose, regardless of skin tones, speech, mannerisms, etc. How can anyone claim to be oppressed by another race?
        • How can race be an issue if race is a sociological construct?
        • Under the Rule of Law, there is no distinction of race. The lady of law has a blindfold for a reason, so she cannot judge by sight, only by hearing, and weigh the results on the scale.  Where is the legal justification for Critical Race Theory?
    2. Is Juneteenth a celebration just for black people? If so, doesn’t this upend the Critical Race Theorists?  If not, then what is Juneteenth historically?
        • If Juneteenth is a celebration of liberty, why did we need another holiday when the 4th of July celebrates freedom?
        • When considering people’s kept as slaves across history, race becomes an interesting variable if race is not a choice but a biological, physical, and method of sub-grouping humans. Africa has seen a lot of periods where one tribe conquers another, and the conquered became slaves.  The same pattern has been witnessed across all the different tribes, countries, and human species throughout world history.  Does this mean that Critical Race Theory was just proven invalid as a concept?
    3. If Juneteenth is a holiday only for those emancipated from slavery, does this mean others cannot celebrate humans ending forced servitude?Bob Marley
    4. Why is Critical Race Theory all about black oppression? Didn’t the American Indians have it much worse than black people in early-American history?  Where is the holiday for the American Indians being freed from reservations, empowered, and promoted as a distinct culture worthy of respect and study?
        • Wait, if the United Nations’ supposition is true, that culture and race are a choice, does this mean that the laws against and for American Indians are now in question and under doubt?
        • What about other indigenous tribes across the world facing brutal oppression? Are those laws invalid due to the United Nations or due to Critical Race Theory?
        • Which minority groups are “more equal” and “deserving” than other minority groups under the Critical Race Theory? Why the distinction if race is a choice and not a biological, physical, or cultural tribal distinction in human sub-groups?
    5. Since the American Indians owned slaves, why are the Critical Race Theorists attacking white people only?
        • If the United Nations is correct, then those purporting to be Critical Race Theorists are broadcasting their ignorance by adhering to a group that pushes a lie about race being a factor, right?Commit

I need to understand something, and history, as well as archeology, supports the following:

“White slavery pre-dates black slavery in America. This fact has been verified by forensic evidence from archaeological digs and historical documents uncovered by contemporary scholars, including Don Jordan and Michael Walsh in White Cargo (New York University Press: 2009).”

The stories behind white slavery, indentured servitude, and other means of conveying the purchase and abuse of people are incredibly heartbreaking.  What man has done to their fellow man through all of recorded history is appalling.  Trying to further that oppression through Critical Race Theory is despicable on a level I can not describe.  Yet, what do we see, Critical Race Theorists doing precisely that, getting a person to choose a race, then choose to allow themselves to be victimized and oppressed because of their choice to join a culture, tribe, or race.

Knowledge Check!Hence, my conundrum!  If we accept that race, culture, creed, and religion are choices made by humans without compulsory means, what is Critical Race Theory talking about and preaching?  If we refuse the belief that race, tribe, and culture are not choices, then we still have a logical disconnect between Critical Race Theorists and the history of civilization.  The Critical Race Theorists seem to be missing the forest for the bark they are stuck seeing.  Unfortunately, I still do not understand most holidays, since I prefer to work than rest, I do not need to know to understand the holiday, just save me some food.

Slavery References

Davis, J.B. “Slavery in the Cherokee Nation.”
Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 11, No. 4. December 1993.

Gates Jr., Henry Louis. “Did Black People Own Slaves?”
The Root. 4 March 2013.

Gates Jr., Henry Louis. “How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?”
The Root. 6 January 2014.

Hall, Kermit L. The Oxford Companion to American Law.
New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2002. ISBN 0-195-08878-6.

Halliburton Jr., R. “Free Black Owners of Slaves: A Reappraisal of the Woodson Thesis.”
The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 3. July 1975.

Johnson, Michael P., and Roark, James L. Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1986. ISBN 0-393-30314-4.

Mintz, Steven. African-American Voices: A Documentary Reader, 1619-1877.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. ISBN 1-444-31077-1.

Rodriguez, Junius P. The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery.
Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1997. ISBN 0-874-36885-5.

Russell, John Henderson. The Free Negro in Virginia, 1619-1865.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1913. ISBN 1-480-03049-X.

Walton, Hanes and Smith, Robert C. American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom.
London: Routledge, 2015. ISBN 1-317-35045-6.

Critical Race Theory Reference

Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Peller, G., & Thomas, K. (1995). Critical race theory. The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. New York, 276-291.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction (3rd ed.). NYU Press.

Juneteenth References

Donovan, A., & De Bres, K. (2006). Foods of freedom: Juneteenth as a culinary tourist attraction. Tourism Review International, 9(4), 379-389.

Ellison, R. (2021). Juneteenth. Modern Library.

Taylor, C. A. (2002). Juneteenth: A celebration of freedom. Open Hand Publishing, LLC.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.