Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Holidays Judeo-Christian Style

AOG, Madrid

Yesterday, a newspiece popped up on the El País website. It mentioned that the Catalonian School Council in Barcelona (Catalonia is Spain's most "on-again, off-again" progressive region- at least it likes to think it is) was putting forward a project to the Generalitat (Catalonia's regional Government) to rename the Christmas Holidays (Navidad in Spain) as, simply, Winter Vacations. And the same goes for Easter- Spring Vacations.

It also wants the school year to have a week of rest for the students in February, to start earlier than it does, and to debate the heavy workload of some public schools in June. All these measures it seems to have the full backing of the Council.

According to the article, in Catalonia 63% of schoolchildren go to public schools, and 37% go to private academies- and more than half of these are religious schools.

Of course you can imagine the outcry. Change Christmas? I posted the link to the article on Facebook and my take on it.

I am all for the name change. Why call it Christmas? Years ago I was informed as to why in the US and the UK we often say "Season's Greetings" on X-mas cards.

So as to 1- not offend non-Christians, and 2- take away the religious aspect of a Christian holiday in a lay society.

A couple of colleagues at work are also friends on Facebook. One of them is very religious. He blew a gasket. He did not understand how you could separate the religious from the holiday (btw...Holy-Day). He thought the whole thing stupid, but he was, however, open to debate and discussion. He is a journalist after all.

My other friend, not religious at all, had a similar reaction.

He did, however, went down a more cultural route.

Would the Catalonians be willing to rename Saint Jordi's day? Saint Jordi (Saint George), is the patron saint of Catalonia (and Aragon, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as Moscow, Beirut and Barcelona) and on the 23rd of April, Barcelona celebrates the day with lovers giving each other a book and a rose. On that day, Mexico, in accordance with UNESCO, celebrates what is known as Book Day.

I recall it very well from my childhood and when I was told about the celebration in Catalonia, I was surprised to hear about the attached Saintly celebration -Sant Jordi's days.

Needless to say, it is a very beautiful public festivity with the whole city of Barcelona awash with bookstands and flower sellers.

I don't know if they want to rename the festivity, but they might not care. Or they might do.

Part of his argument was tinged by Spanish nationalism versus Catalan nationalism.

In other words, regionalism versus regionalism.

His main argument against the name change was that "it has always been done like that".

I, of course, argued against the danger of any premise that starts with that sentence. Women in Africa are circumcised because it has always been done like that. Women in some Islamic countries are stoned to death if they commit adultery (not the men of course) because it has always been done like that. When I mentioned this, he agreed to the invalidity of that argument. But he still kept to his former view.

Another Facebook friend, who now lives in the US, reminded me that in the Soviet Union Christmas was celebrated eventhough the regime outlawed all religious dates. Much the same continued to happen in Cuba until the regime relaxed its stance. The Pope visited Havana not long ago.

I pointed out to my friend that Christmas was actually based on a previous, pagan, holiday.

Emperor Constantine thought of merging the two so as to not upset too much the pagans (of which, according to historians, he was one until almost his dying day when he was finally baptised).

So the celebration of someone who was, in theory, born in August, is performed in December.

Furthermore, how many people, I asked, do something religious at Christmas? Many do, of course, but here, in Spain, the younger generations are not that religious. And many older people aren't either. Yes, they like the tradition. The look of things. But I think the religious aspect is, often, forgotten or looked over.

I for one am not a great fan of Christmas. Jesus loves you so here's a Playstation. Somehow it does not compute. Yes, as a kid its a good chance to get things, if you are lucky enough to have parents who can do that, and you live in a country where that is done.

But as an adult, yes, I love the presents aspect of it, but little else. Certainly the religious part of the festivity pushes me away.

Would we still get gifts in December even if Christmas was re-christened? Probably. The gift industry needs dates like that.

Furthermore, the Japanese celebrate Christmas. But then Japan is a law unto itself.

1 comment:

Timbo said...

Excellent points. A very good read!