Christmas. Whats in a name?

East London Humanists article Barking & Dagenham Post 6.12.17.

Do Wednesdays worry you? The day is named after Woden, the God of death and battle.  Then there’s Thursday and Friday, derived from ancient Gods Thor and Freya. And of course Saturday, named after Saturn, the Roman God of agriculture. In fact our language is littered with words whose religious derivation is largely forgotten.  So it seems now with Christmas. Many Humanists are like others happy to join in this seasonal celebration without any thought for the word’s origin.

There is no religious meaning  behind the crowds that throng our shopping centres in an orgy of consumption at this time of year.  Or in reindeer, tinsel or the annual ritual of the office party. However, let’s not be cynical.  Christmas time is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of life and our common humanity. This requires no religious belief. There is the warmth of fellowship with family, friends and complete strangers and the joy of eating and drinking together and putting aside the daily grind for a day or so. And, for all the downside of consumerism, the pleasure of giving shows the best side of human nature. So whatever your belief, and wherever you are from, let us together make the most of this special time.

By the way, the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia began on 17 December and lasted for 7 days. It involved lots of food, drink and merrymaking and featured lights and decorative greenery. Does that ring any (jingle) bells? 

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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