Celebrating a Christmas for all
It's that time of year again. Christmas is fast approaching. The shops are all playing jolly festive jingles that irritate shoppers but can send shop workers insane by the end of their shifts.
But listen to the seasonal soundtrack and note that, more than ever, we now celebrate Christmas in non-religious ways. References to the birth of Jesus have become rare as Christianity fades from our Christmas festivities.
Some may argue that this decline in the religious meaning of Christmas isn't important.
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However, even for non-believers, an awareness of Christian beliefs and history is vital in understanding how our society evolved. Almost nothing about our history, laws, traditions, art, literature, music or customs makes sense without it.
Yet, while we alter the ways we celebrate, we also know that the roots of Christmas are far older than Christianity.
For thousands of years, communities have celebrated life in the depths of winter, with eating, drinking and other pleasurable pastimes.
While the mid-winter festival is now divided into two parts - Christmas and New Year - it used to be a single event. It was based around the shortest days of the year when, more than at any other time, humankind's survival depended on nature and our own resourcefulness.
We know that early Christians just adopted the old festivals.
It's highly unlikely that Jesus was born on 25 December. The Church didn't even celebrate Christmas until the fourth century, as it disapproved of the original mid-Winter festivities enjoyed by pagans.
The 'traditions' we associate with this time of year – such as trees and turkeys – are fairly recent additions.
So Christmas has changed in the past and is changing still.
Many of us regard the festival as a time to enjoy good food and drink with family and friends. Meanwhile, others see the increasing commercialisation of the season as wasteful, or as an over-long, expensive event that will often fail to meet unrealistic expectations.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of good traditions and habits that remain - the gift giving, the lights, the parties and the tidings of peace and good will.
Indeed, Christmas may be returning to its beginnings as a time of indulgence and hope for the future.
In Devon we at least have the means to create a sense of community and it's worth reminding ourselves of our freedom from the extreme want and hunger we see in other parts of the world. Everyone should have something to celebrate.
So, whether our evolving Christmas is a good or bad is up to each of us to decide as we celebrate a Christmas for all.