Posted by: Catherine Weston | December 20, 2013

On writing essays and Christmas

Xmas bookOne of the unexpected benefits of studying for a masters degree was the opportunity recently to write about one of my favourite subjects – the British Christmas (the cultural phenomenon I mean, not the story of the nativity).  It was in an essay about Europe’s loss of Christian memory. Here’s a brief extract:

I consider that the unspoken lens through which Christmas in Britain is viewed today is that of the importance of children, a sentimental nostalgia for idealised family life and a concern for those less fortunate. These values have been mediated to us by means of the writings of Charles Dickens and others in the 19th century who effectively re-imagined Christmas for an urban age.  During that era aspects of the old pagan traditions (e.g. decking with evergreens, gift giving, feasting) were re-appropriated to give focus for a family festival which met the social needs of the emerging urban middle classes of the Victorian age (Golby & Purdue, 2000, p. 45). It is these customs and attitudes continuing today which inform the ideas of what makes up a traditional English Christmas.

I wrote along similar lines this time last year, though in a less ‘academic’ style.

Our allotments association is having a ‘winter solstice bonfire’ tomorrow afternoon and we’re invited to bring mulled wine and snacks to share. A number of our vegetable growing neighbours are avowedly not Christian, so the use of the solstice term is deliberate. Yes, our midwinter festival does indeed have pagan roots and we Christians needn’t be ashamed or worried about it.  Those who first brought the gospel to these islands were able to use our ancestors’ customs as a conceptual bridge to a new and better story about Jesus – the Light of the World shining into darkness.  It’s a good missionary strategy.

What might be a good way of building bridges to our contemporaries that could point to the better story of ‘God with us’? A  talented friend from our church used his skills to aim for just that.  You can see his animation here.

Merry Christmas!


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