[Today's very special seasonal post is written by Mark Tynan (my father) on the subject of how we celebrate this time of year. Whatever festival, if any, you are celebrating this time of year Seasonal Greetings and may it be as good as it can be.]
Before I go into the elements and details of my desire for the introduction of a new annual festival can I just say I am not being disrespectful to Christians and their celebration of the birth of the son of the God they worship. They have a right to their belief and worship and I acknowledge and respect that right. Also, I am not looking to get rid of Christmas but I am looking to begin a non-religious alternative to it; and here’s why.
I am irreligious: I do not, and have never, followed any religion nor worshipped any God. So, as a non-Christian for example, I cannot, and probably should not, celebrate Christmas from a religious point of view. Similarly, I might say that I cannot celebrate Ramadan, Yom Kippur or Diwali, as I am not Muslim, Jewish or Hindu.
But the thing about Christmas, and I wonder if the Christian community might agree with me here, is that it has been taken over, in the last 150 years or so, by capitalism and its religious value has been eroded or lessened, maybe even removed. Ok, Christ was given gifts by three wise men so I can see the basis for the tradition, but these days, major retailers, I feel, don’t urge us to buy gifts on that basis, but instead to boost their annual profits by a considerable amount. Black Friday for instance; does that get a mention in the Nativity story? I think not. Then there are the many TV ads which imply that purchasing from a particular business will enhance your Christmas experience. Quotes ‘Christmas: Morrison’s makes it!’ Sky Sports ‘Christmas is for football!’ (something I had never realised before!), ‘Play happy this Christmas – Gala Bingo’, and so it goes on and on. I might, therefore, urge the Christian community to take back Christmas Day for themselves.
Which leads to the idea I have for the Year-End Festival (YEF) which would not replace Christmas but would call on, and allow anyone to take part; people of any religion or none, people from all ethnicities, the young, the old, all genders, heterosexual and LGBTQA, etc etc. So, YEF runs from Dec 26th to Jan 1st, inclusive, with the advent of the New Year being its climax and there are three elements to it that I relate here.
v Firstly, I would like it to be seen as a chance to strengthen our society. Obviously, I encourage people to come together with family, friend, partners etc to celebrate the coming of the New Year and to exchange thoughts and feelings on what has occurred during the near-gone year. But I would also hope that there could, or would, be more coming-together of the different groups of people which make up our society to gain understanding of the different views of life and the world that we all have. For example I, as a political left-winger, am happy to befriend those with alternative political viewpoints, discuss matters with them and gain an understanding of their stance, even if it ends with us agreeing to disagree.
v Secondly, I would nominate one of the seven days of YEF to be called Reflection Day (But not the Festival’s 1st day or last). In the words of the Greek philosopher Socrates ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ I couldn’t agree more, and the chance to develop our self-worth, self-esteem and to build our set of ethics and moral values is, I think, one worth taking. So, what happened in these last 12 months of your life? Are you happy and proud with the way you responded to and coped with issues, people and situations that you faced? If yes, then the YEF would not just be a celebration of the New Year but also a personal celebration of the human being you are or have become. Or is there something in that 12 months which brings feelings of regret or shame to you? Did you not handle a situation very well? Could you have treated somebody a bit better? Reflection Day, I feel, would be an opportunity to establish and examine your strengths and weaknesses and perhaps resolve to enhance yourself in some way and become able to be proud, in the future, of the compassionate, ethical, inclusive human that you have become. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I am happy to say that, over the last few years, it has worked for me!
v And finally, the tradition of gift-giving. On the one hand I want it to continue. Everyone (hopefully) knows the love and delight involved in giving and receiving gifts. It can make our children very happy, it can deliver a message of love to another person and gifts can enhance, brighten of improve our lives. But on the other hand, and I think I’ve already got this message across, I don’t like the idea of big business using the festive season to make enormous profits. So, what’s the alternative? Well. I would suggest that all YEF gifts be bought from charity shops. Now, in an ideal world there would be no need for charities – the people, the businesses and the government would all come together to deal with the issues which charities take on. But this idyll is unattainable in the world as it is. Therefore, buying all our gifts from charities would inject a considerable amount of money into the world of need rather than the world of profit. Big business would survive this, no need to worry about them.
So, enjoy the YEF 2017 and I hope that 2018 brings you more happiness, friendship and self-development.
[editors note: Personally I would extend point three to include handmade gifts and those bought from independent sole traders but I also understand and support my father's premise! Though it could also feasibly argued that many saved by not buying traditional Christmas gifts means people can afford to buy special items from independent makers at other points during the year, so their livelihoods may not be impacted. My opinion may be skewed by being friends with several independent maker/traders.]