Christmas Roots and Celebration vs. Secularism

Christmas Roots and Celebration vs. Secularism

The French court has recently banned a nativity scene in a town hall for the purpose of preserving France’s secular traditions. For those who do not know, the nativity scene typically depicts baby Jesus in his manger surrounded by his mother Mary and Joseph. Other characters commonly depicted are shepherds and sheep, and angels. There are many variations of the scene including characters that either are or are not biblical figures. The nativity scene is huge for the Christian tradition of Christmas, as it shows the basis for the holiday – the birth of Jesus Christ. As Christmas’ origin is from what this scene is presenting  (literally Christ’s Mass) it is as typical of a symbol to see around the holiday season as a snowman, or Santa Claus. Hence the backlash that has occurred since the court’s banning of the scene. 86% of Guardian newspapers readers surveyed were in favour of keeping the nativity scenes in public places. The removal was due to a complaint from the secular campaign group Federation Nationale de la Libre Pensee. Arguments againset the decision to ban it question the courts why they don’t just ban all the Christmas and public holidays that go with it? This raises issues of where do we draw a secularist line? Controversy continues as the government is concerned with being seen as discriminatory against Muslims who have been banned from wearing burqas in public. The war between those for and against secularism seem to be at a tense high around the holiday season. I believe the government may be leaning too far to protect the country’s secular traditions. However, my biased Christian upbringing has presented the nativity scene as a basic and traditional Christmas symbol.




2 thoughts on “Christmas Roots and Celebration vs. Secularism

  1. This sort of complaint is always present during the holidays, especially from nations which boast a significant non-Christian population. The nation of France is one that has been, for the great majority of its existence, defined by its Catholic religious heritage. Since the time of Charlemagne France has been a nation that has been dominated by the Catholic faith. It has only been in the last 200 years that tradition has been over turned in favor of secularization primary from the influences of the French Revolution and the efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is not so unreasonable to allow the people of nation their faith, a faith that has created a holiday that is celebrated by tens of millions of people throughout the globe. The primary fear of such demonstrations is that it is viewed as dangerous to the continued workings of the secular government of France. The fear behind this statement is this; if we allow individuals to celebrate religious holidays in public spaces and acknowledge them as integral to the nation, where do we draw the line? Oceans of blood have been split due to these questions and it is understandable that many feel uneasy when something as powerful and often portrayed as maligned is allowed propagation within a stated secular state. I must say, however, that to deny people their is to deny them their heritage, and by extension, their autonomy of religious worship. This is often the recourse shot back at those individual who find insult in being wished a “Merry Christmas” in Christian dominate countries with sizable non Christian minorities populations. What is necessary to combat these disparate views on faith is a policy of pluralism, which an acknowledgment of the heritage of the nation one presides in. Thus, in France, though the government is ardently secular, the benefit to deny people the ability to celebrate their faith within the public sphere seems to be a heavy handed tactic pandering to those irreligious individuals who feel outright hostility towards those whose faith means a great deal to them. A nation as strong in ideals are France, the birthplace of liberalism and democracy and secular government can withstand a pastor scene.

  2. Hi AC,

    As someone who never grew up in a christian household, but celebrated Christmas, I for one, found that the celebration of Christmas by many different kinds of people has evolved itself to become a cultural holiday more than a religious one. Of course, it has its religious ties, and this cannot be forgotten or ignored, but the fact that someone like myself, who is not religious, finds comfort in the Christmas ‘spirit’. It can mean the birth of Jesus for some, but it can also mean the opportunity for family, friends and togetherness, virtues and spirit that may have risen out of the original meaning.

    Rambling aside, the scene seems to merely displaced from a town-hall setting, which seems fine in my opinion. I find it hard to deny how the celebration of Christmas has changed, and that it no longer takes on the sole meaning of the birth of Jesus.

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