If you think Christmas has become largely about stressful gift-giving and a nearly two-month-long Christmas sales season, with little of Christ and his message, you are not alone.
A Catholic priest from Ireland called on Christians to accept that they have “lost Christmas,” urging them to abandon the word completely. Why? Father Desmond O’Donnell believes that the word has lost all sacred meaning, with Christmas taken over by Santa, reindeer and crass commercialism.
“We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely,” said Father O’Donnell to the Belfast Telegraph, adding that people need to let it go because “it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”
A biblical scholar and psychologist, Father O’Donnell realizes that Christmas now has added meaning for millions of people who are not necessarily celebrating Christ’s birth every time December rolls around. He thinks the non-believers should also keep their celebrations, but Christmas should be left for the believers who find true significance in the holiday.
“I am not seeking to take anything away from anyone, I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and Reindeer,” he remarked. “My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real – like the air I breathe. But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.”
He doesn’t even mind the drinking and the merriment that takes place, he just can’t stand the commercial aspects that have come to replace the true purpose of the day.
“I’m all for Christians choosing to celebrate Christmas by going out for meals and enjoying a glass of wine, but the commercialisation of anything is never good,” said the priest. “I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word.”
The Dublin-based clergyman was not hopeful his words will be heeded, lamenting that “secularisation and modern life will continue to launder the Church.” He added that he fears the institution of the Church will begin to break down, as he has personally seen it happening in Malta, Poland and Uruguay.
Father O’Donnell also thinks that for many, the word “God” itself has become just a sound referring to “someone to blame in their calamity or a crutch to lean on in a time of distress.” The reality is, according to the priest, that “’Christmas’ no longer means Christmas.”