It’s really easy when you are younger to have a blatant and boldly defiant disregard for culture. This is a good thing. It means that cultural practice is challenged by the young and that culture is a living, growing thing that isn’t static.
I think more than any generation that has come after it, my generation – the baby boomers – have let more bathtubs of cultural practice gurgle down the drain than any other. We ditched Sundays full of unbearably boring church and replaced it with Sunday brunch. Not quite the same opportunity to develop community spirit and have a good gossip about the neighbours but much more tranquil.
We replaced women being pinched on the bottom at work, being called ducky by their managers (that’s what my dad called his secretaries anyway) and only being entrusted to make coffee, take dictation and answer phones, with a commitment on paper at least to equal pay and conditions.
We ditched the stigma of being an unmarried mother, an unmarried couple or divorced.
Some cultural practices in all Cultures are well past their overdue date. These are any cultural practices that oppress any member of the population on the basis of culture or religion.
Some cultural practices need to be retained because – they are great! In my culture these include respecting elders, giving your seat up on public transport for elders (that means someone who is older than you, not just someone who has one foot in the grave already), pregnant women and women in high heels (– come on guys, if you wanna enjoy women’s legs help look after them and give up your seats because those shoes that make our legs look great are killers). Welcoming people into your home and treating them with special politeness whilst they are there, not borrowing money if it can at all be helped, not standing too close to other people in queues (us Aussies have loads of space and we treasure it) not eating more than your fare share at communal meals even if you are really really hungry.
I was shocked when I was in USA that it was happy holidays this and happy holidays that, holiday cards, holiday trees, holiday presents, holiday babies (there are always more born 9 months after Christmas than any other time). Not a mention of Christmas. A whole culture was being tossed down the drain with the holiday baby.
Respecting one cultural practice doesn’t mean negating and forgetting another.
Most days I am an atheist, some days I am an agnostic and some days I am a believer. Even on my atheist days I want my daughters and sons to love and know that Christmas is part of their Cultural Heritage.
I studied theology back in the day and I was told in lectures that “a holy spirit got me pregnant” was the common excuse of the rich powerful women, who used it a lot with their husbands who were away at war at the time of conception. Now some teenagers will copy anything a rich celebrity does, so Mary was probably an unwed Jewish youngster of 14 frightened and pregnant with enough nouse to know that if it worked for the rich bitches it would probably work for her too. It probably wasn’t a virgin birth and though Jesus had a very big impact on the world he might not have been the actual son of God.
But it doesn’t matter because those Christmas stories whether you believe them or not, are a big part of the cultural heritage of many people. The stories are about peace and reconciliation, about the power of birth and new starts to transform lives, the story of Christmas is about inclusion and of course – giving.
So daughters and sons and everyone, I beg you to hang on to Christmas for dear life (but not the church – it’s an institution that deserves nothing till it rectifies its past sins against women, children and gay people).
Go out there and be boldly defiant and challenge what needs to be challenged. Even though, like me, you might not be a Christian – wish everyone Happy Christmas anyway in honour of a great cultural practice and when Hanukkah comes around wish everyone that too in honour of the defiant few who sometimes, against inconceivable odds, win against the many.