ALL TOGETHER NOW(30/11/2009)
CATALONIA TODAY (01/12/2009)
On the needlessness of changing the word 'Christmas'.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY
Last October the Schools' Council of Catalonia – a think-tank which advises the Generalitat's Education minister, Ernest Maragall - voted to expunge the word 'Nadal' ('Christmas') from the holiday calendar and replace it with 'vacances d'hivern' ('winter vacation') in a gesture of spiritual correctness which sounds like it might have been dreamt up for one of the London periodical Private Eye's weekly send-ups of Tony Blair's Faith Foundation (lampooned in the magazine as D.A.F.T: 'Drawing All Faiths Together'). Atheist though I may be, I've never been tempted to call Christmas by any other name. When I was growing up (that is, until I was forty-five) every yuletide I would overhear people whipping out the same complaint like re-used tinsel: 'Christmas gets more commercial by the year'. Happily, they have been proven right: in the current post-Christian Catalonia, in which less than 10% of the population (and only 1.3% of those aged 18-34) go to mass, barely a driblet of religiosity now clings to the Xmas break. Anyhow, the early Christians themselves used to celebrate Christ's birthday at a different time (January 6th) waiting until 300AD to plump for December 25th, a solstice date already exploited with success by the Mithraic sun-god cult. What's more, if Jesus really was a flesh and blood figure (a hotly debated issue, given the paucity of contemporary references to Him and the similarity between many episodes in the Old and New Testaments, suggesting the authors of the latter were simply reworking – or, as Blair would put it, sexing up - earlier myths) then He must have been born, oddly enough, in 7BC, given that the monk whose responsibility in 6AD was to fix the year zero of the Christian calendar, bungled the arithmetic. So if the churches themselves can't agree on what or when Christmas is, why worry? Pray let us celebrate it after our own fashion, then, by filling ourselves to the gills or doing whatever else it takes to forget the two only truely unavoidable things in life (Dorothy Parker dixit): death and taxes. Bon Nadal.