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  Arts & Living
Christmas at Odds with Christianity
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
Christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus

Matthew 1:18-23
As I write, 2007 is in its twilight stage. Even now, 10 months have come and gone. That means there are only 30 days left till Christmas.

And six days after Christmas, the world will say Bon voyage to the old and embrace the New Year.

But before we start singing Christmas carols, before we begin the annual bargain-hunting season, before we decide which names we want on our gift list, before we start thinking of our own holiday wishes, let us pause to reflect on the actual event that many believe has given rise to the celebration and traditions of Christmas. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" on the Korean Peninsula.

Even now, major shopping centers are adding glitter, tinsel, and flashing lights to beckon shoppers who are looking for that special Christmas gift. Along main-street and other commercial districts, one can see twinkling ornaments in shop windows, glitter, bright colored ribbons and streamers are adorning the entrances and passageways to major bargain bazaars. Also, colorful trimmings and trinkets are popping up in department stor s and discount marts across the nation.

Many merchants are even adding nativity scenes in their lobbies and Christmas Trees in front of their stores.

Obviously, Christmas is not one of the traditional Asian holidays.

Instead, it is one of the multi-cultural imports that accompany globalization and Western religions. In light of this, Asians' attitude towards Christmas depends on their religious affiliation, cultural background, and geographic location. Although most retailers are eager to promote this Western holiday, many Koreans are still dispassionate about the Christmas season. Some regard it as a foreign
celebration, at odds with their Confucius mindset.

Ironically, the actual event that the Yuletide festival is supposed to commemorate was, to some extent, a quiet occurrence in Palestine.

Jewish leaders did not know when the Christ-Child would be born. So it's no surprise that they missed the historic happening on that auspicious night in Bethlehem. Moreover, the gospel writers made no mention of any chatter in the grapevine about the expected messiah.

In fact, newspapers and magazines of that time had no news about the Christ-Child. The broadcast media was also silent about the momentous event. No headline News about the long awaited deliverer. No vigils or watchful ceremonies to welcome the Savior's birth.

So in some respect, the conclusions of the songwriter seem like a fitting description of that moonlit night in David's hometown.

"Silent Night, Holy Night." Indeed, it was a holy night, but it was woefully silent too. So much so that God felt compelled to dispatch a company of angels to a pasture in Judea.

Being frightened by the sight of the heavenly presence, the men were scared stiff. They were soon calmed by the soothing words: "do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is born, this night, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Just then, a celestial choir was heard singing: "glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:8-14).

Ironically, the merriment and festivities of late December was around long before the birth of Christ. Actually, the mere idea of holding a feast in a borrowed barn to celebrate the delivery of their newborn son never crossed Joseph and Mary's minds. Also, the giving of gifts to each other is at odds with the actions of the sages who visited the Christ-child. They presented their gifts to Jesus. But today, most celebrants give gifts to friends and relatives, expecting something in return.

Despite the claims of many Christians that the birth of Christ is the actual event that inspired the Christmas holiday, manufacturers, merchandisers and retailers are the primary promoters and sponsors of modern Christmas celebrations. They market the holiday like a religion geared toward appeasing children with gifts in the guise of sacred rite.

With the help of the advertising industry, merchants and marketers encourage excessive spending, gluttony, drunkenness, and unwitting participation in pagan ceremonies in the name of Christianity. Not surprisingly, Christmas is the most profitable shopping season of the year. Equally contradictory is the annual scarcity in collections at most churches during and after Christmas. Strangely enough, some celebrants' need up to three months to recover from the debt they have accumulated in the yearend shopping frenzy.

In light of this, the skepticism of Confucianist concerning Christmas seems justified. After all, far too many Christians become so absorbed with the commercial aspect of Christmas, they can hardly find time to reflect on the reason for the season—Christ's mass. It is time we stop paying homage to Santa Clause and start emulating the sages by venerating God's begotten Son, the incarnate deity who offered himself as the supreme sacrifice for the souls of man.

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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at






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