Over the last two days I found out that Russian Orthodox Christians actually don’t care very much about Christmas. I listened to the Russian radio online and noticed that none of the wishes that people sent to each other and had the radio hosts read out loud on air were about Christmas or Christmas Eve, instead everyone was congratulating the rest on the upcoming new year.
Some people may wonder, upon reading this, how someone who is baptized and has Russian Orthodox Christian relatives does not know such a simple thing. I thought about that, too. How come this became clear to me just now?
The answer might be very simple. The more I observe my surroundings and the way Christmas is celebrated today, the more I come to think that Christmas is not what it used to be, or what it was originally intended to be for that matter.
I got into the habit of wishing people a merry Christmas without spending much thought on their religious believes. In my eyes, especially in German society, Christmas has mainly become a holiday dedicated to family and friends rather than a holiday that revolves around the birth of Christ exclusively.
Of course there are still many practicing Christians out there. Those that have a ceramic nativity scene in their living room and who go to mass on Christmas Eve. They are still around of course and so are the beautiful Christmas concerts at church but I don’t think that it would be correct nowadays to apply that religious concept on German society as a whole.
To me it seems like the religious aspect of Christmas slowly got lost among all the Christmas markets and special sales. Maybe even due to the fusion of different opinions and believes. But that is not a bad thing, if you think about it. The generalization of this holiday, in my opinion made it more available to everyone, regardless of their religious background.
One does not have to be Christian in order to appreciate beautiful holiday decorations, choirs singing Christmas songs, the sweet taste of roasted almonds, the fun of baking cinnamon and vanilla cookies or the time one spends with his family over a delicious dinner. In many cases, if it weren’t for the Christmas holidays, many people here would barely ever see their families at all.
To me, after so many years in Berlin, Christmas is about exactly that, being with family and friends at one festive table and making the best out of each others company. That is the image of Christmas that I grew up with and none of my relatives with different religious views, Jewish, Christian or Agnostic, not even my Muslim friends, have ever tried to convince me otherwise. I am pretty sure that it won’t be any different for my own children. Christmas should be for everyone to be reminded once again of how much we love or at least appreciate those who are close to us.
Interestingly enough, I don’t seem to be the only one who has made that observation. The kebab stand at Spandau old town has put up (Christmas) lights in its small windows and many bakeries here in Berlin owned by Muslims have “happy holidays” written on their windows, too.
The beauty parlor that I go to is owned by an Asian family. A small shrine and various incense sticks in the corner of the room suggest that they are probably not Christian but nevertheless there is a marvellous Christmas tree standing by the reception desk.
Maybe it all has been a result of assimilation. Maybe some people have just decided to join the crowd and acknowledge the holidays because everyone else does, who knows? I am about to go visit family members who are Agnostics and still, my aunt makes the most delicious Christmas dinner that I have ever had.
And with that, whatever it is you believe in, I wish you a merry Christmas and if you strictly refuse to belive into the religious background of this day, then I hope that at least the cheerful atmosphere will make it a nice day for you!