The article Christmas Is Like a Snowball, opened a whole new world of perspectives that have never been brought up in topic when discussing this holiday in the past. As many of us can already guess, Christmas is most popular holiday in the United States. It is the most prominent holiday when we look at the number of people who celebrate each year, and also when looking at statistics like the amount of money spent, special songs being sang, or the amount of organized parties planned.
When referencing Christmas, it usually brought up as a remembrance for the birth of Jesus, as a religious celebration. This article, in particular, will focus on the intersection of popular culture and religion all through our history, proving that Christmas may not be as religious as it was once meant to be. After reading this passage, Bruce Forbes states, “It should become obvious that the religious celebration of Christmas has been profoundly shaped by cultural influences from many different directions.
Long before Christmas was celebrated, in northern and central Europe, early cultures would hold festivals that would help cope with the dread of the long, below-freezing winters. People in cold-climate villages would dress up the town with lights, candles, large campfires, and would then gather as a community with lavish dinners, a variety of drinks, and anything else that would help them overcome the harsh isolation of the winter months. Additionally, this included special melodies, and possibly even tokens from others. To me, this reminds me of collective effervescence because these communities came together as one to participate in the same “ritual” or action.
Not only is it in a close parallel to collective effervescence, these celebrations closely resembled what we call Christmas today, except one element was missing: religion. Europeans had these celebrations long before religion had even been known. This became known as the pagan roots of Christmas. Pagan is a term used to describe any tradition other than those held by main world religions.
Winter extravaganzas came first, and the celebration of Christmas was added long after. Lack of evidence exists to understand why Christians eventually started to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it is likely a mix of theological and cultural reasons. One thing that is understood is that Christians decided to place this holiday between Roman culture social holidays. Rather than beginning a pure, spiritual holiday, it overlapped with the pre-existing winter parties. Bruce Forbes noted, “From the very beginning, the church agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it always had been.” Christmas, has never been dedicated in its entirety as a spiritual holiday, thus making it difficult to balance the two from the very beginning.
Although we cannot directly state why the church decided to start the celebration of the birth of christ by overlapping it with the roman culture celebrations, the author included three speculations as to why this could be. The first being that Christians disapproved of the partying, and hoped that adding a spirituality into the mix would subdue these disgraceful celebrations. Next, Forbes notes that perhaps they wanted to join the popularity of the festivals in hope to promote Christianity amongst the people. The last, and final hypothesis is that the church wanted to compete with the Roman culture head on, defeating the traditions and make spirituality prominent worldwide. Possibly, maybe a mixture of all three?
Since Christianity was relatively new at this time, I believe they placed their tribute in the midst of the Romans celebrations to endorse religion across Europe. By doing this, the church created a widespread support of Christianity for the wrong reasons. Even though this seemed to work, it patronized the attempted commemoration of Christmas by making it even a more widespread celebration and distracting the culture from remembering the religious aspects of the day. Many who began to celebrate Christmas at this time, were doing so for the wrong reasons. These seasonal celebrations were a depiction of folk culture, or possibly even an early definition of popular culture. Indeed, there were people whom spent Christmas as a time of devotion, but these people only acquired a small minority. Nothing came to be religious from the start. Based on the history of this holiday, I presume Christmas is more secular than religious. To support my perspective, it is noted that in America 96% of people celebrate Christmas, which is a greater percentage than those who practice Christianity. Christmas emerged from folk-culture traditions.
Throughout the past eight weeks, we have discussed different ways in which religion and popular culture (formerly folk culture) have become intertwined overtime. Many may think of religion as a strict sets of rules that cultures follow with confined morals, prophecies, and different ethics that tend to relate humanity to a spiritual element. Now, through different examples, it can be understood that religion usually exists alongside popular culture as well. We closely examined how religion and popular culture can influence and reflect one another by having discussions over different comics, celebrities and their music, sports, different television shows, and more.
In this article, we can also see how popular culture shapes and reflects our society. Today, it is seen that holiday spending for Christmas is over three times greater than other holidays celebrated in America combined. Because of the exploitation by commercial interests, customers fell into the scheme and others followed. It is safe to assume that customers felt the need to be kind to one another, to show love, but also simultaneously abiding by what the rest of society was doing. If Christmas was a strictly religious holiday, why would gifts take part? Popular culture rises above religious aspects in this way. Although significant, commercialization isn’t the only modern cultural trend that has made an impact on Christmas: domestication of the holiday as a family-orientated time also provides reasoning as to why this holiday isn’t religious. Popular cultural ways of thinking assume that Christmas revolves around children. This first came to a few centuries ago when a news article came out with the King, Queen, and their family-centered upon a luxurious Christmas tree with an ample amount of gifts around the children, representing a perfect example of what Christmas should look like. Publishing this made families around the world strive to be just like them, a popular cultural effect, shaping the world to celebrate in similar manners. Alongside the royals, Christmas stories of Santa Claus would further morph the holiday to be centered around children and gifts, moving further away from religion than ever before.
Providing an overview, the earliest Christians observances were implanted in the middle of already existing festivals, which ultimately influenced the spiritual involvement of Christmas by surrounding it with pre-existing traditions. In terms of more modern culture, cultural influences became imbedded which separates us further away from spiritual encounters. Christmas has been heavily influenced by culture from the start, and a pure spiritual observance of Jesus has never existed. Christmas, meaning the “christ’s mass” is a Christian holiday, but in all actuality, the true religious meaning of the holiday is absent in most Americans today. Popular culture influences every decision we make, even when viewing religion.