(London) Times: How different faiths embrace Christmas

Four different familes and faith traditions. Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Hinduism, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Other Faiths

13 comments on “(London) Times: How different faiths embrace Christmas

  1. Cennydd says:

    An interesting article, but I find it odd that no Christian family was included. Why? My wife and I celebrate Christmas a bit differently than most in our community. We attend Midnight Mass, where I, as a guitarist and singer, perform Stille Nacht as it was originally composed and performed. I include a narrative about the carol’s origin. We put our tree up on Christmas Eve, and celebrate all twelve days in the traditional English manner……including all of the goodies, which we share with family and friends.

  2. libraryjim says:

    Perhaps the author felt that there was common knowledge about how Christians celebrate the Birth of Christ so that it didn’t need to be mentioned?

    As for us, we put up our tree on the 4th Sunday of Advent, so we can have fun the rest of the time, as well as not worrying about it.

    We used to go to Midnight Mass, but with two small kids, a wife who goes to bed at 9PM, and hectic traffic, we go to Christmas Day services now instead.

  3. Todd Granger says:

    Marvelous, Cennydd. Our celebration of Christmastide is much the same. We don’t decorate until Christmas Eve (or the day or two before), attend either an early service or the Christ Mass (sometimes both) on Christmas Eve, and keep all twelve days (we each open only one present on each day – almost never lasts twelve days, though). We and our friends spread the dinners and parties throughout Christmastide as well.

    And we also introduced our parish to one of Gruber’s settings of Stille Nacht (I say one, because he composed quite a few, including one for a sizable orchestra). The setting was reconstructed by the editors of The New Oxford Book of Carols (a volume that every church musician should own!), is in 6/8 time, works well on guitar or piano, and has a Schubertian charm (it even sounds like Schubert). Stille Nacht as a lilting folk-like song is much, much better than the over-sentimentalized or flat and staid versions that we usually get. Glad you share this with your own parish.

    I’m sure you’re aware that the “mice got to the organ bellows” or “the organ had breathed its last” stories were probably not true 9publisher’s pushing of the piece, maybe?0. No contemporary accounts suggest that the organ was defunct, and we know that particular organ remained in use in the parish church of Oberndorf for some years thereafter. It is likely that Fr Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber did what many organists and lyricists did each year for Christmas in Austria and lower Bavaria at the time; viz., compose a folk-like song to be sung at the midnight Mass.

    Whatever its origin, in its “original” form it is a piece of simple and lyrical charm.

  4. Todd Granger says:

    Sorry to post twice, but libraryjim’s post reminded me of something; viz., the significant shift in most Anglican (and Episcopal) churches of the principal church service from Christmas Day (in the morning) to Christmas Eve. So far as I can tell, at least as a widespread practice, we have the 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival to thank for the recovery of the medieval/pre-Reformation Christ Mass at midnight. Before that the usual Anglican practice was Morning Prayer (or, in some places, Holy Communion) on Christmas morning, with Christmas Eve devoted more to family dinners, visiting and caroling (perhaps Evensong in some places as well), something you can see reflected not only the writings and sermons of such divines as Bishop Launcelot Andrewes but also the popular writing of the 18th and early 19th centuries (as well as later literature set in those periods – see, for instance, Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree).

  5. Terry Tee says:

    I was struck by the description of the Jewish family, which must be fairly atypical. On the other hand there have been complaints in Israel about (nominally Jewish) Russian immigrants putting up Christmas trees in their flats, the lights visible for all to see. Also, the biblical scholar Geza Vermes (born Hungarian Jew, became RC priest, then seems to have become agnostic/atheist) mentions going to celebrate Midnight Mass at St Anne’s in Jerusalem and finding it packed with elderly German Jews all nostalgic to hear Stille Nacht. Which given the horrors those Jews had suffered was probably quite a testimony to their goodwill and their memories of the happier years of their youth. Some might see all this as a creeping syncretism. I think not. I am a conservative Catholic, but I believe that such things say more about human decency than they say about blurring of doctrine. It also says a lot about goodwill in a world of increasing segregation. Few things were more depressing than the dynamiting of churches and mosques in the former Yugoslavia. When people truly hate the Other, they destroy the house of prayer of the Other. When there is mutual respect, there can be enjoyment of the festivals.

  6. Daniel says:

    Isn’t it nice to see non-Christians with a sensible and reasonable attitude towards a Christian holiday in a historically Christian country? I wish the elite liberal intellectuals dismantling Britian’s British heritage could take a similarly sensible attitude. No one is telling these people that they have to disregard their own religious holidays, and they seem to be taking it in stride. There does not have to be anything inherently wrong with recognizing a dominant religious and cultural heritage within a country while still making room for respecting the religious and cultural traditions of others.

  7. [episco]paladin says:

    I guess this pluralistic expression of “Christmas’ is exact what we get for stealing a pagan holiday…

    Some might call that Karma…

  8. Terry Tee says:

    Daniel is right to draw attention to how the liberal elite sanctimoniously forbid public expression of Christmas in Britain in case it offends ‘otehr faiths’. As representatives of other faiths endlessly explain, they are not offended. The truth is that the killjoys are simply using this as an excuse to act against the Christian religion that they despise so much.

  9. Todd Granger says:

    Well, [episco]paladin…except for the fact that there isn’t a scrap of solid evidence (beyond the speculative linking of dates) that we stole a pagan holiday.

    On the contrary: there is actually some evidence that the late third century pagan Romans stole the date for the Nativity of the Invincible Sun from us.

    See Dr William Tighe’s article from Touchstone magazine, [url =http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v]”Calculating Christmas”[/url], for a solid and scholarly refutation of the old bromide about stealing a pagan holiday.

  10. Larry Morse says:

    I put up our Christmas tree on the day that the sun sets one minute later. This is the sure sign, however silent, that the great year is turning and the sun will be reborn. It comes down on 12th Night which is als the common day when the sun rises one minute earlier. Semi-pagan I suppose, but the date of Christ’s birth is right next to the solstice, surely no accident. The great cycle of the sun and the Chriustian year are closely allied, and so they should be -at least in an agrarian society where the promise of renewal is all in all. (See Thomas Tusser’s marvelous 16th Cent. rhymed agricultural calendar) Christianity is not a glorious abstraction, but an integral part of the year’s agricultural cycle, the one interfusing the other. Christ’s parables are agricultural; there is a deep bond, deeper than the thinking mind can grasp, between these two acts, the “fact which is the sweetest dream that labor knows” and the hero’s death and rebirth in a world of perpetual light.

  11. Br. Michael says:

    Just remember the liturgical day begins at sundown, as in the Jewish practice. By midnight on Dec. 24 you are already 5 hours into Christmas Day.

  12. Br. Michael says:

    However, for a detailed discussion see: http://www.scborromeo.org/litcal.htm
    According to that site: [blockquote] 3. Each day is made holy through the liturgical celebrations of the people of God, especially through the eucharistic sacrifice and the divine office. The liturgical day runs from midnight to midnight, but the observance of Sunday and solemnities begins with the evening of the preceding day.[/blockquote]
    [blockquote] 11. Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar and their observance begins with evening prayer I of the preceding day. Some also have their own vigil Mass for use when Mass is celebrated in the evening of the preceding day. The celebration of Easter and Christmas, the two greatest solemnities, continues for eight days, with each octave governed by its own rules. [/blockquote]

    So what we have is a combination of midnight to midnight days and a sundown to sundown days. So I suggest doing what is meaningful to you and gives glory to God.


  13. rob k says:

    Even though I am very orthodox in my Catholic(and Anglican) belief and praxis, yet I love all the trappings of Christmas that start just after Thanksgiving,m the colder, wetter weather, Xmas trees, singing in the streets, rushing around to buy presents, yes, yes, all the supposedly crass comercialization. this comercialization supports a lot of people who need the business and the work. It is for the most a good thing. And people are more friendly and gentle. You can enjoy all this while being penitent and watchful. Christmas Day (or Eve) is still the climax of the Incarnation. A good sermon I heard this morning pointed out that despite the apocalyptic readings from Scripture during Advent services which foretold of the second coming of the Lord at the end of time, the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary said “No, He is coming now, to us now during our lives”.