New data from YouGov published this month has revealed that 78% of people do not think ‘celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ’ is an important part of Christmas. It came eleventh on a list of twelve things that people say is important about their Christmas. The only option in the list that was less popular was ‘attending a religious service’.
What people are celebrating in just under a week’s time is not the birth of a supernatural saviour, but more earthly, human things.
Although the name we currently use for this midwinter time of cheer and feasting obviously has a Christian association, the tradition of celebration itself began long before Christianity. The festival we now call Christmas was directly preceded by pagan winter festivals such as Saturnalia and Yule, and many of the most popular aspects of modern Christmas, such as Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Mistletoe, and Santa Claus, originate from these pre-Christian traditions.
Every human being so far has been born and has died on earth. This planet’s landscapes and its seasons define us and give shape to our lives. The departure of Christ from Christmas for most Brits and for growing numbers of people in other countries around the world should be a reminder of this. It’s the coming together of people in warmth and love at the coldest and darkest time of the year in the only life and home we will ever know. That’s the real reason for the season – and always has been.