Christmas and Diwali

It's almost that time of year again, when the majority of North Americans and Europeans celebrate the Christmas season with only a small percentage observing Christmas as a religious festival.

I read this year about Diwali, that even though Hindus treat it as a religious festival, that Sikhs and Jains and some Muslims also observe it as a cultural holiday.

I'm wondering if a parallel can be drawn between Diwali and Christmas in that a small minority observe it as a religious feast while a lot more people observe it as a cultural holiday.

Comments

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I think, though, that for most non-believing westerners who observe Christmas, there is a sort of ancestral memory, for lack of a better phrase, of the time when it was a religious holiday.

    As a comparison, if an atheist with Christian ancestors and living in in a Christian country gets married in a church, the experience would probably evoke deeper connections for him, than if, say, a Buddhist from a Buddhist-majority country gets married in the same church.

    I don't know enough about Sikhs, Jains, and Muslims who celebrate Diwali to know if you could make the same generalization about them.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited November 14
    And yes, I'm aware that the phrase "deeper connections" is somewhat vague, and the connections might be different from person to person, and some may experience none at all.

    I myself am not a believer in the Christian message, but if I were to attend a Christmas mass, it would definitely bring back a flood of memories for me. And even if I had never been to mass of any sort in my life, there'd still be public carol singings, nativity scenes on lawns, TV specials etc that I would remember.
  • stetson wrote: »
    I think, though, that for most non-believing westerners who observe Christmas, there is a sort of ancestral memory, for lack of a better phrase, of the time when it was a religious holiday.

    As a comparison, if an atheist with Christian ancestors and living in in a Christian country gets married in a church, the experience would probably evoke deeper connections for him, than if, say, a Buddhist from a Buddhist-majority country gets married in the same church.
    I don't agree. Unless by ancestors you mean parents and possibly grandparents and by non-believing westerners you mean people of a certain age.
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

  • I believe that for Sikhs and Jains there is also a religious significance as they celebrate specific events in their own religious traditions at the same time.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

    You need to listen to the "All Christmas Music, All the Time" radio stations during this time of year then. PLENTY of religious content. We don't need to do anything to associate it with religion. The association is already in place and is holding steady.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    I think, though, that for most non-believing westerners who observe Christmas, there is a sort of ancestral memory, for lack of a better phrase, of the time when it was a religious holiday.

    As a comparison, if an atheist with Christian ancestors and living in in a Christian country gets married in a church, the experience would probably evoke deeper connections for him, than if, say, a Buddhist from a Buddhist-majority country gets married in the same church.
    I don't agree. Unless by ancestors you mean parents and possibly grandparents and by non-believing westerners you mean people of a certain age.
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

    But what counts as "religious parents" for this purpose? If my parents never went to church, but were MARRIED in one, we can assume they did feel some sort of kinship with western religious traditions, or at the very least wanted to appease people(most likely their own parents) who did.

    So does that count as being raised by religious parents? Because I'd reckon it broadly describes quite a few people in most secularized cultures.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

    You need to listen to the "All Christmas Music, All the Time" radio stations during this time of year then. PLENTY of religious content. We don't need to do anything to associate it with religion. The association is already in place and is holding steady.
    I am just saying that the non-religious won't think of the religious association automatically, not that the roots of the day are hidden. That one can celebrate the season and not think of Jesus.


  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

    You need to listen to the "All Christmas Music, All the Time" radio stations during this time of year then. PLENTY of religious content. We don't need to do anything to associate it with religion. The association is already in place and is holding steady.
    I am just saying that the non-religious won't think of the religious association automatically, not that the roots of the day are hidden. That one can celebrate the season and not think of Jesus.


    Might have said that then.
  • stetson wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    I think, though, that for most non-believing westerners who observe Christmas, there is a sort of ancestral memory, for lack of a better phrase, of the time when it was a religious holiday.

    As a comparison, if an atheist with Christian ancestors and living in in a Christian country gets married in a church, the experience would probably evoke deeper connections for him, than if, say, a Buddhist from a Buddhist-majority country gets married in the same church.
    I don't agree. Unless by ancestors you mean parents and possibly grandparents and by non-believing westerners you mean people of a certain age.
    IME, Christmas is an established secular event and unless one is drawing from religious parents, there is no reason to associate it with religion.

    But what counts as "religious parents" for this purpose? If my parents never went to church, but were MARRIED in one, we can assume they did feel some sort of kinship with western religious traditions, or at the very least wanted to appease people(most likely their own parents) who did.
    That is not "ancestral" memory. We are all influenced by the things surrounding us, but I do not see it having the kind of link I think you are describing.

  • I think Christmas is certainly celebrated without recourse to religion. A great many Christmas songs might not have Christian content for those who are not within the tradition, who are not familiar with biblical stories.

    I think even Silent Night could be sung without realising it is about God. People's minds would just slip over the stuff that didn't make sense. They might even substitute lyrics to make the song make sense for them, like the fun 'misheard lyrics' game.

    Christmas is now, I suggest, a family holiday first and foremost.
  • Sure, people are capable of ignoring Jesus when he's right in front of their nose. That's within human capacity. But as to whether the average person in a culture actually does so, well...

    My personal take on the culture I currently live in (Midwestern US) is that the religious note is still alive and well, even for nonbelievers. They may prefer to ignore it, but it's there. (If it weren't there, why would we have so many people popping up to stomp on it every time someone sticks a creche out in public? And similar, not over-the-top choices. If the religious element were truly to dead to these people, they'd likely shrug their shoulders, say "eh" and move on. It would have no power to threaten them--anymore than I feel threatened by the little goblins who turn up in costume on my doorstep Halloween night.
  • Is the US the last bastion of cultural Christianity in the world? That's my off-the-cuff feeling, but I'm not sure I'm right. By cultural Christianity, I mean a culture where many people go to church because they feel like they should, not because they are necessarily true believers.

    I guess I'm wondering if we are living in different cultural worlds, LC. I would be surprised if many people went to church because they felt they should in Australia. Actually, I would be gobsmacked.
  • Whoa whoa whoa! I didn't say they went to church necessarily. Just that they are still conscious of the religious element to the feast--which brings fond memories to some, and royally pisses off others.

    Going to church is more likely to be a decision taken at the family level. If there is any cultural pressure, it'll be there--in either direction, for or against.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited November 15
    I guess the consciousness of the Christian element is what got me to cultural Christianity. Here, religious instruction in public schools is curtailed. Parents actively campaign against it, and where it is given it is by local volunteers on an opt-in basis. It's par for the course in Catholic schools, but I'm not sure about other private schools.
  • Christmas-and-Easter Christians are a thing, at least in the US. Do they identify as Christians? Some do, but I know some (anecdote, I know, but it disproves a universal) who do not. Hell, Josephine knows a woman, surely not a set of one, who is a devout atheist Jew. Doesn't believe in God, but does the Jewish things, including keeping two sets of dishes, because "that's what we, as Jews, do."
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited November 15
    Anecdotes are my thing (non-exclusive). I have a work colleague who (because I am an idiot and link various things I know about her without just asking her) I think has an Austrian-Jewish background. She was bought up by an aggressively atheist parent and purports to know nothing about Christianity, beyond the fact that it is there and a pain in the butt. She's in her 40's.

    My brother is aggressively atheist and seeks to stymie religious education wherever he finds it. If he could have his druthers he would bring up his kids with no knowledge of religion. He doesn't like birthdays either. I call him crummers or cremwell, in the style of Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall. Yes I know different Cromwell...

    I once talked to a woman who believed that Catholics worshiped on Thursdays. She justified this by saying that she grew up next to a Catholic Church and its busiest day was Thursday. I realised later that Thursday was probably bingo night. I would have told her that, but I decided to avoid further conversation if I could.

    I guess I am extrapolating out a couple of generations, to the children of my putative children, who are being born just now. I'm seeing literacy in Christian concepts nosediving.

    p.s. I loathe statistics, but not those who use them.

  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    In Fiji, where I lived for many years, Diwali is a gazetted public holiday. This is also true in several other countries with a substantial , but not necessarily majority, Hindu population - e.g. Malaysia. In Fiji at least, everyone (including Christians and Muslims) joined in the celebrations, which are marked by lights, sweets, and (in many workplaces) women (voluntarily) turning up in saris or salwar kameez. There also used to be a lot of fireworks, but the military government of a few years ago got nervous about those, so they are less prominent now. As Diwali is the Hindu festival of gift-giving, shops feature Diwali sales, which close just in time for the Christmas sales to open!

    Christmas likewise is a public holiday, marked by similar celebrations and gestures of goodwill by most of the population.
  • @Tukai, what does "gazetted" mean in your post?
  • gazetted in Australia means published in the Government Gazette, a publication the Federal and each state and territory Government produces for publishing official notices. I reckon its the same in Fiji, also a member of the Commonwealth.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    As ST said. In this context, It means "official".
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host
    Diwali or Deepavali in South Africa is celebrated over two days rather than five but isn't a public holiday. Most of those who celebrate bring trays of cakes and sweets to their workplaces to share with colleagues of different faiths as well as to neighbours.

    As far as I know from talking with Hindu and Jain friends, it is becoming more of a cultural holiday, except in KwaZulu-Natal where the Hindu community is still quite conservative. Older Indian communities have been here for almost 160 years (the largest expatriate Indian community outside of SE Asia) and most speak English as their first language.
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