In light of the news that 54 per cent of England and Wales do not describe themselves as Christian, writer Lauren Windle asks if it’s time to stop celebrating Christmas as a national holiday, and keep it as a Church event.
Less than half of the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian in the latest census, meaning Christianity is now a minority religion. As Christians, we’re keen for as many people as possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus, so this is a real blow. And now some people are asking if we, as a country, should be observing Christmas as a national holiday.
I’ve given this some serious thought and I know where I stand on the issue. Here, I’ve outline my position and my main points of consideration.
My main thought when considering ditching Christmas as a country-wide event is a pretty petty one… if you don’t believe in Jesus, why should you get an invite to his birthday party? Christians could still celebrate, of course I believe we should mark this day, but is it necessary for people who don’t believe in the gospel to partake? Plus let’s be real, for us, Easter is a bigger deal than Christmas, and we’ve allowed the enthusiasm and traditions of the world sweep us away with festive fever.
If you don’t believe in Jesus, why should you get an invite to his birthday party?
If Christmas was no longer celebrated by everyone, a lot of the secular elements could be stripped back out of it and we could really focus on the “reason for the season” – apologies for the cliché Christian phrase.
Many people would now have to book a few days off in December to observe the holiday – but lots of shift workers and people in non-office-based jobs have to do that anyway. And for bonus points – if you forget seasoning for your Turkey you could nip to Tesco’s and pick some up as it would still be open for the day.
The cons, of this approach are that the ceremony and non-Jesus based elements of Christmas are so engrained in our culture, that the UK would no doubt observe a special “family day” or similar instead. There would be food, presents, stockings, a tree, and a heated game of Articulate but no Jesus. It would be the “holiday season” with no mention of Christmas. To be fair, that’s not far off how many households celebrate now. But in this scenario, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for a gospel message – because he would have been deliberately excluded from the day, rather than just pushed to the side.
In contrast if we keep marking the birth of Jesus collectively, Christians can take the opportunity to speak about the importance of the day without feeling like we’re imposing on someone else’s territory. To me it’s the difference between being invited to someone else’s house and insisting on saying grace, and having people round for dinner at your house inviting them to take part in your grace. In the former, you are shoe-horning your faith into their event. In the latter we are inviting others to share in your, Jesus-centred evening.
Christmas could be our enticing shop window, and we can explain to people that what’s inside the shop is so much better.
Rather than treating the day as a prize for those who love Jesus, maybe we should share it round and allow everyone to enjoy the warm comfort of the day even if they don’t believe that Jesus was born, and later died for us. Christians could stop separating the Christian and secular elements of the celebration, and start combining the two. We can use the popularity of Christmas to speak openly about what life as a practicing Christian is like. Christmas could be our enticing shop window, and we can explain to people that what’s inside the shop is so much better.
I think you can tell that I want to keep Christmas. I even like the worldly add-ons like leaving a mince pie out for Santa and chucking tinsel everywhere. But I believe we should all use it to talk more about Jesus. Don’t feel embarrassed to highlight your Christian traditions as much as your more worldly ones. To me Christmas is inviting non-Christians into our wonderful party, so it’s not an imposition to be open about why we celebrate.