Secular aspect traditionally celebrated during holidays

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Dear Editor:

I would refer columnist Chuck Fischer to a volume titled “The World Encyclopedia of Christmas,” written by Gerry Bowler. This extremely comprehensive work gives, in an easily read format, an extensive listing of the wide range of Christmas customs, both religious and nonreligious.

It is mistaken to believe Christmas originated as a Christian feast day. It is also mistaken to believe all early Christians celebrated it. Additionally, it is a mistaken belief that consumerism originated in the last half of the 20th century.

Page 52 notes that Christians in the Middle Ages celebrated Christmas with great excess, mostly in the form of food and drink. In the mid-17th century, the Puritans outlawed it altogether and assessed fines for marking it as a holiday. Page 167 lists some interesting analyses of traditional Christmas carols and points out that Christmas was called in verse by some Neo-Calvinists of the time “a Romish whore.”

From other sources in my files, (available on request by e-mail) I learned during the mid-19th century, figures like Charles Dickens and Clement C. Moore reintroduced the concept of feasting and merrymaking. At the end of the 19th century, with the development of the Industrial Revolution, commercialism in the form of presents began to go hand-in-hand with feasting.

Page 52 of “The World Encyclopedia of Christmas” also notes all midwinter festivals seem to demand largesse and excess as a response to the shortened, darkened days of winter.

Virtually every civilization in recorded history celebrates the period of least light with attempts to interject light and fun to get through the coming darkest part of the year. Many cultures, including the Christian one, recognize and celebrate the religious and the secular as well. It does not denigrate the religious to recognize the need to make merry — as Charles Dickens told us so well. Both religion and the best of secular celebrations honor the best of human nature – the desire to give of ourselves to those we care for, to make life a bit better for those less fortunate and to serve our God by our service to humanity.

Congratulations to Bobby Gomez for his far more balanced approach to the holidays. I hope that we all manage to be thankful, be caring and have fun.

-Kate Moore, K-State graduate

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