Usually at about this time of the year, there is a big battle of what to call this feast of the Incarnation. For some, it has to be Christmas. For others, in their attempt to be inclusive, they opt for Holiday. But the etymology of both really point to the same reality.
Holiday was originally spelt Holyday or, more accurately, Holy Day. Even in this ‘inclusive’ form it points to a day that is called Holy. Holiness is an attribute of God that can be shared by people who give themselves in some way to God. A Holy Day properly belongs to God and is meant to be set aside to worship Him. This helps make the holiday word a little more palatable even though it has been secularized to mean just a day we take off from work.
But the word ‘Christmas’ has also been partially secularized. It was originally a feast called the Christ Mass. This Mass refers to the Midnight Mass that was celebrated throughout the Catholic world at Midnight to celebrate that silent and holy night when the Messiah or Christos was born. We get some idea of the importance of this event in that we still date our calendar year from that day. Everything before is commonly called BC or Before Christ and everything afterwards is called AD, short for the Latin ‘Anno Domini’ which is translated ‘year of our Lord’. Thus, we are entering the two thousandth and twenty third year after the birth of Christ, signaling that that event was the central point of all history. (Sshh! Don’t tell the secularists!)
We also see the theft of elements of our religious tradition in the preparation for some key feasts of our Church. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is a yearly season of repentance and a communal effort by all the members of the Church to disentangle themselves from the allurement of the senses; and, through fasting, prayer and almsgiving, begin to straighten out their lives before Holy Week and the Solemnity of Easter. Because traditionally this meant no meat could be eaten for 40 days, the day before Ash Wednesday was a day of feasting when people said ‘good-bye’ (Vale in Latin) to the eating of meat (Carne in Latin). This Tuesday became known as Carnevale or in English ‘Carnival’ and was a day dedicated to lots of eating and drinking. The French called the same day ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras for that was the last day you ate meat which usually came with lots of fat attached! In our post-secular world, everyone has heard of Mardi Gras, but few know what Ash Wednesday and Lent mean. The Bishop of New Orleans has often had to publish a pastoral letter urging the quieting down of Mardi Gras and a remembering of the Season of Lent. Mardi Gras in that city lasts well over a month and may last longer than the 40 days of Lent!
There have even been calls to take our beloved Christmas Carols and put secular words to them so the modern agnostic singers of today don’t have to sing: ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing: Glory to the new born King!’
This has all been tried before.
Remember that the revolutionaries in France tried to wipe out all reminders of the Catholic Faith in that country, even taking Notre Dame Cathedral from the Church and proclaiming it to be a Temple of Reason! Are secularists so afraid about the potency of our Christian words and symbols that they want all memory of them wiped off the face of the earth?
In Russia, the communists tried for over 70 years to wipe out all memory of Russian Orthodoxy. It failed. There is a religious revival happening in Russian, notwithstanding the unjust and cruel invasion of the Ukraine.
We should be placing our symbols and signs of faith front and center: in front of our homes (Christmas lights were meant to symbolize Christ the Light of the World; Christmas Trees were meant to show the ever green and eternal love of God, etc.). But even when it is not Christmas, there should be a cross or crucifix in every room in our home! Pictures of Our Lady, scenes from the life of Christ, even a display of our Baptism Certificate should proclaim to all guests that this is a Catholic home! Christmas cards should be religious in theme. People now are sending pictures of their family instead of cards depicting the Incarnation of the Lord! (One can always put a picture of our family inside the card!).
In brief, we need to fight (and I mean fight) the onslaught of secularism by proudly using our religious freedom guaranteed in our Constitution to proclaim and witness to our faith in God, in Christ, and in His Church.
Fear not, says the Lord! The world is still terrified of this little Baby of Bethlehem and, like Herod, they seek to eradicate Him from the face of the earth. Don’t cooperate with them. Witness to our Christmas Faith!