Posted tagged ‘christmas’

What Is The Christmas Holiday?

December 27, 2014

Recently I was listening to Dr Dan Gottlieb on WHYY, a public radio station in Philadelphia. Gottlieb’s guests included three religious clerics, a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian. The subject was broadly how each viewed Christmas.  Hmmm.

Both the Muslim cleric and the Jewish Rabbi noted that they lived in a predominantly christian country and their opinions were based upon looking from the outside in. While each of their traditions had religious holidays of celebration, nothing was like the merriment of secular Christmas.

While Santa Claus and Christmas trees were not a part of their traditions, there was no doubt that children were drawn to it. How was it not possible living among so many others who visibly celebrated the secular aspects of Christmas not to wonder. They also allowed that it did feel good to be wished or to wish someone else “seasons greetings”.

The Christian cleric, on the other hand, began by stating that “Christmas was the beginning of a religious story which begins with Christ’s birth and ends with Christ’s death and resurrection” at Easter. (How up lifting).  His words also seem to suggest there was no room for “seasons greetings”.

As the discussion continued, the Christian cleric allowed that many of the secular Christmas aspects were both popular and worthwhile. But, “Christmas’s” real meaning, he insisted, was religious and inseparable with christianity. He could not see why a Muslim or a Jew would want to partake in Christmas.

Dr Dan proposed that Christmas was a time when one can wish others (of any faith or no faith) health, happiness and respect. The secular christmas allowed such tidings to be exchanged. “What could be wrong with those wishes from a religious sense”, Dr Dan asked.

The Christian cleric tried weakly one more time to emphasize the religious Christmas’s significance, but gradually seemed to understand he was waging a losing argument.

Christmas, Weihnachten, Noel, and Navidad, however one says Christmas, traces its roots to early Christianity. Along the way, plenty of pagan rites have been incorporated. In the US today (as in most of the world), secular Christmas has a large commercial content.  In Commercial Christmas motivation is applied via advertising to encourage the gifting of many presents (at much cost). Christmas decorations adorn most homes and public spaces. Success or failure of the Christmas Season is often implied by cumulative commercial sales numbers, now listed in billions.

So when someone suggests that the “spirit” of Christmas might lie upon wishing others good will and unconditional respect, it would seem to me that was an idea worth supporting. Within Christian places of worship, church leaders are entirely free to emphasize the nativity to crucifixion story and celebrate it however they wish.

From strictly a brand management perspective, Christian church spokespersons are missing a bet to remain relevant by discounting the power of less commercial secular Christmas and instead emphasizing the religious story as the only relevant meaning.

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Thanksgiving Perspective

November 28, 2014

Yesterday was Thanksgiving 2014. It’s a toss up over which is the biggest and most important US holiday, Christmas or Thanksgiving. Commercially, Christmas takes the prize, at least in the minds of most businesses. For college students, Christmas offers the charm of a longer break from the class room. Judging, however, from Thanksgiving travel options, buses, trains, and planes are book solid and tend to cost the most of anytime during the year. Hmmm.

Probably the biggest advantage of Thanksgiving is that it is secular. Christmas comes with the baggage of christianity and does not resonate with non-christians as much as with those with other religious affinities. Most younger people have made already the transition to Santa Claus and scratch their heads why some parents argue vehemently about putting a manger on the town square.

Thanksgiving is suppose to be a time when all Americans pause and give thanks for their good fortunes. Being with family and enjoying good food and drink is considered one of the most important activities on Thanksgiving. And one does not need to read many newspapers to recognize how well off compared to billions of other people living elsewhere in the world. These less fortunates find themselves with disease, hunger, and some with outright war. For most Americans, they have so much more to be thankful about than their peers around the world.

If, however, Americans reflect upon the Washington DC political climate or the partisan world at State level, there are big questions about what there is to be thankful about. Each party incessantly reminds Americans about how their government is failing them, and how much better it would be if they were in power. Thankfully Thanksgiving is a time when most Americans can step back from the negative leadership Democrats and Republicans offer.

No better example could be found than than attending a Thanksgiving Parade. In Philadelphia, like New York there is a magnificent parade featuring marching bands from cities distant from Philadelphia. These high school marching bands show visibly what young people can do cooperatively when provided decent leadership. The music is thrilling and the precision band movements evoke a strong feeling of “can do”.

Of course no one knows what lies ahead for these student musicians. Some may turn into dysfunctional political partisans like those we see in Washington. Others may get a bad break or waste a wonderful opportunity. But, my guess is that far more will learn from their band experience the power of working together and what individual effort can accomplish if they work hard.

Marching bands need no religious anchor so no one needs to argue over their own personal frailties. Marching bands bring pleasure to both the participants and those looking on. And no amount of rationalization can talk up a poor performance, especially if the marching band had not worked at practiced.

Maybe a good lesson for everyone.

Who Cares?

July 18, 2010

The media drum beat the last few weeks has been, “Jobs not happening, double dip recession about to hit”, or at least words to that effect. For a media that didn’t see the housing bubble waiting to burst, or didn’t report clearly on the liars mortgages that were flooding the market, or did not and still do not point out the dangers (and unethical nature) of opaque and unregulated credit default swaps, one must ask why the gloomy news now?

Could it be that it is simply a “slow news” time? Or could it be the media senses there is a larger story brewing? This larger story will be that Democrats will be swept out of office only two years after having gained control of Congress and the White House.

Could it be that these doom and gloom stories are being helped along by the financial industry that is primarily upset that its money making machine has been disabled? Could it be that the financial gurus want further help from Washington and want to scare Democrats into helping?

What is for sure is that these articles and reports are not motivated by anyine trying to bring about a “fundamental” recovery based upon the creation of value adding jobs. The old time American spirit of free enterprise based upon making things and finding ways to be more productive is gone. The media apparently does not remember that time nor have they read (or understood) history. They do, to an extent, understand the stock market and the profits financial institutions make. The media has sensed that profits and growth can return to the financial markets and that the population in general will think that is good for them too.

The jobs reports we will read about will meet a simple criteria. A person is employed. That person may be cutting the lawn or flipping hamburgers. While those are important jobs, they do not represent “recovery”. Those jobs do not mark a strong and vibrant economy either.

But “who cares”? If any one did care, there would be far more discussion about “good jobs” and how they are created. There would be discussion about the role of Government and the role of education. There would be far more discussion of how to employ Americans and less discussion on how global companies can make profits around the world.

Very soon we will be opening Christmas presents and for children, over 80% of their toys will have been made in China. How is a toy so complicated that it can only be made in China? But then, who cares?

Christmas Fools

December 26, 2009

The saying goes that a full moon brings out the demons and for some unfortunate people, their behaviors turn bizarre. I wonder whether Christmas has the same effect?

A woman in hear mid twenties jumped a portable retaining fence, and tackled Pope Benedict while he was leading a Christmas Eve procession. This was not her first attempt at getting up close and personal with the Pope. She, unsuccessfully, attempted the same thing a year ago. I guess she believed in the adage, “if you want to succeed, try, try again.”

On Christmas Day, on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, a 23 year old man hailing from Nigeria and claiming to be acting on instruction of al Qaeda, set off a home made explosive device. Fortunately the device did not cause a large explosion and near by passengers and crew subdued this nut case.

You are left to wonder why “Christmas”?

Symbolism is the only answer that keeps popping up. Christianity and Catholicism have spent generations spreading their brand of God and at various times have found warfare useful in achieving their religious and organizational goals. Islam has as freely practiced warfare, and in addition has today a problem with its identity. As a group, Muslims are relatively poor and second grade in terms of education and economic growth. The rich Muslims who control lucrative oil assets feel little need to share them with the general population and have made deals with Muslim clerics about what to give to Caesar and what to keep for Allah. For them modernity represents a huge threat, and the Western World represents modernity.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Pope. He stands for a religion that denies women equality. Over centuries, the Catholic Church has been on the wrong side of worldly decisions. They were charter members of the “flat earth” society. And their current position of recommending only “abstinence” as a precaution against AIDS symbolizes their comfort with the past and dislike of modernity.

There is plenty of examples with both Christianity and Islam to stimulate a troubled mind into action.  The Pope and the US are as good  targets as any.

The first line of defense against acts such as these begins within Christianity and Islam.  If someone wants to follow the teachings of these religions, it is fair and just. The problem both religions incur (and why we all should be concerned) is that they are not content to have a “closed loop” club (what they teach at home, stays at home).   Most Christian and Muslim Clerics, instead, seek to impose their views on others rather than to be content with enjoying their theology themselves.

This most basic violation of commonsense leads to Christmas Fools.