Prudie gets it wrong

Not fat related, but I couldn’t let this pass without comment.

I occasionally read the advice page Dear Prudie on Slate. Sometimes I wildly disagree with the woman, and this was no exception 🙂  Watch the ‘video letter’ titled Chinese Jewish Christmas. In it, Prudie tells the letter writer that her view of Christmas should be totally subverted by her partner’s… because he has ‘religious reasons’ to dislike the ‘usual’ Christmas (he’s Jewish). 

Now, I have a problem with the idea that religious beliefs trump other beliefs: it’s  common misconception that atheists have no strong feelings about the subject and are ‘missing’ something. But what makes it particularly silly in this case is that the partner objects – not to carols, angels, stars, or other Christian symbols – but to the Christmas Tree. 

The tree is not a Christian symbol. There is debate about where the custom comes from but like most Christmas ‘traditions’ there is evidence it oiginated with the pagan celebrations that were co-opted by the early church. Either way, I’m reasonably sure there was no pine tree in the manger.

I have no problem with people celebrating their religious holidays in the way they see fit. But I think the same consideration should be extended to the rest of us. Our traditions and beliefs are no less precious to us. But at the same time we all need to stop being so pedantic and not let any one group hijack a time of year which has positive connotations for damn near *everyone*, no matter what they believe.

Merry Christmas!

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4 Responses

  1. As a Christian, I agree that the tree is not a Christian symbol. (Neither is Santa, stockings, or gifts.) Those are a cultural tradition that has grown up around the religious celebration, much like eggs at Easter.

    I’ve known many agnostics who have trees and celebrate Christmas (including my agnostic uncle who railed against “them stupid preachers who are trying to put JESUS into CHRISTMAS!”). I also have Wiccan friends who decorate Yule trees.

    That said? To someone who is of another faith, a tree is a powerful *Christmas* symbol. Not having a tree can become a big marker that you are Jewish, and if a family sees abstaining from Christmas as an important part of their family and religious identity, then that can be a Very Big Deal.

    To me, trees are a question of “do I feel up to dealing with possible allergic reactions and cleaning all the stupid needles/sap, not to mention the additional expense?” To my friends who are of another faith, it can be a family tradition they like to continue — or it can mean a total betrayal and rejection of their faith.

    Outside of that – no, religious meanings don’t necessarily trump all others. Yes, marriage requires compromises. But I don’t think it’s as simple as “Oh that’s giftmas not Christmas” 😉

  2. Given that Jews have, historically, been continually offered a choice of assimilation or death, the argument that the tree is not Christian but pagan is not terribly compelling to many of us, especially when that argument is made as part of an argument for why Jews should not resist having Christmas trees in their home.

    Christians successfully incorporated many pagan practices into Christianity as part of their successfully converting most all pagans into Christians (again, often through offering the old “assimilate or die” bargain.)

    • I agree. It wasn’t so much a Jewish vs Christian thing for me, more the idea that preferences based on religious ideas (as opposed to religious practices) somehow trump preferences based on non-religious ideas. Out of all the people I know only 1 is Christian but they all have a tree (the rest are, of course, either atheist or agnostic).

  3. My father-in-law is a staunch atheist and thinks anyone who believes in God is a damned fool.

    He has a Christmas tree.

    It more seems like if you’re married and Christmas is that important to your spouse, you’d bend a bit. Or vice versa of Christmas was that anathema. I dunno. It seems silly to get so bent out of shape over a holiday. Maybe they should just celebrate Festivus instead.

    Peace,
    Shannon

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