• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.


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  • I Like Xmas

    Posted by Qrystal on December 25, 2008 at 0:01.
    Category: Concepts. Tags: beliefs, christmas, religion, xmas.

    I want to be very clear about the fact that I mean no disrespect by my use of the word Xmas.  I am just tired of the awkwardness of trying to balance my love of Christmas with my non-Christian spiritual beliefs.  I was delighted to discover recently that Xmas is not “taking the Christ out of Christmas”, because the X, in fact, has been used for milennia to represent Christ in written text.  (So Wikipedia has convinced me, anyways.)

    Personally, I like to let x represent anything the observer wants it to represent, just like in algebra when we have some arbitrary unknown that we want to explore.  I want the x to remove the animosity between believers and non-believers, and help bring together everyone in between as well.

    Holiday Beliefs

    I grew up with Christmas stories about Santa Claus and elves and reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and yes, a baby in a manger.  As I grew older and began reasoning out for myself what beliefs I could honestly hold in my heart, I ended up lumping all these Christmas stories together as mythology.  The tales are heartwarming and fun, for sure, but in my opinion the lessons behind the tales are more important than taking them at face value.

    I respect that other people may believe things differently.  We are all entitled (encouraged, even!) to seek out our own explanations for the world and our own ways of dealing with it.  It just turns out that my beliefs make it important for me to have a word for Christmas that I can feel comfortable with.

    More than words

    It was awkward to realize that the word Christmas felt uncomfortable for me to say.  It happened because I really started to think about it when interacting with people of other cultures and beliefs, and it occurred to me that I don’t want to misrepresent myself.  I just don’t want to be lumped together with the fanatic Christians who are desparately trying to reclaim Christmas by so adamantly proclaiming, “Christ is the reason for the season.”  Are they trying to make the rest of us feel bad for not celebrating for the same reasons they do? I’m sure most people don’t intend to give that impression, but I don’t want to inadvertently give off that impression, at least.

    There are many reasons for the season, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a great way to welcome winter and celebrate a break from school or work.  It’s a celebration of family, of giving, of great feasts and of songs. Do we really have to fight about what religion is in charge of the holiday?  I’d rather focus on the whole “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” side of the season.

    But old habits are hard to shake, and I can’t help but feel the urge to call this season “Christmas”.  I have been awkwardly using “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” for years, even though these just doesn’t have the same ring to them.  I may not be Christian, but I feel like I’m losing Christmas when I use these euphemisms! The only one I kinda like is Xmas, hence the title of this article.

    The Xmas Story

    I’m no historian, although I occasionally go through periods of intense curiosity about how the world used to be.  One source of recurring intrigue has been the Jesus story, at least about every year or so; go figure!  In indulging myself in these curiosities, I have come to the point where I consider myself at least partly informed about the whole deal.  From what I understand, Jesus was a prophet who inspired a lot of people to follow him, to the point where he obtained godlike status.

    Don’t get me wrong: I greatly respect some of the wonderful things religion has done for people and society, and for the promotion of peace and good will.  However, there is no denying that there are far too many negative aspects in most religions, including but not limited to arguments that may occur over beliefs, or even just the discomfort when encountering people believing other things.  I am just not confident that I should believe old stories when there is historical data that may provide a different point of view than what is written.

    Is it possible that the Christmas story is actually an amalgamation of all sorts of other myths and tales? Sure! Why not? It’s not so hard to imagine that people in olden times were just as intrigued by fiction as we are today. It’s important to seek out the real importance in any story, fiction or nonfiction, modern or ancient.

    This Time of Year

    Anyways, even though I was born into a family whose biggest yearly celebrations were this Jesus dude’s birthday and rebirth day, it seemed much more potent to me that the celebrations also coincided with transitions in the seasons.  Thus, from my perspective, Christmas was a celebration of winter (since I am in the northern hemisphere), marking the start of the coldest part of the year, when we need each other the most.  Similarly, Easter celebrates the survival through the coldest part of the year, and to celebrate that things are only getting better from here on in.

    The wrench in this idea is that these concepts aren’t relevant worldwide, due to differences in climate and season.  This era is fantastic for helping people become aware of just how big the world is, and to respect other people’s point of view (even when just measuring something as simple as “the coldest day of the year”). We’ve all gained a greater understanding of the wider world around us, I’m sure of this! Isn’t it wonderful?!

    So what’s my point?

    Why am I writing about my views today?  Honestly, it’s because I think that every view is important and fascinating, and thus we can all learn from everyone else equally. It’s also everyone’s duty to help others experience other people’s points of view.

    By this reasoning, I am obligated to explain to the world what I think about all of this, but I do so with the hope that it inspires others to share their ways of looking at this holiday season.  Why don’t we all share our ways of using this season as a reason to celebrate togetherness and love and peace and good will towards others?  Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts.

    9 Comments »

    • http://www.arktist.com Arktist

      Above is well put. I am of a similar mind. Having been raised Catholic, I ceased believing at 20, while in college – finally and forever on the day my daughter was born. It had been coming for a long time.
      I’ve been enjoying following you and your haiku on Twitter.
      Happy holidays or whatever. ;-)

    • http://www.arktist.com Arktist

      Above is well put. I am of a similar mind. Having been raised Catholic, I ceased believing at 20, while in college – finally and forever on the day my daughter was born. It had been coming for a long time.
      I’ve been enjoying following you and your haiku on Twitter.
      Happy holidays or whatever. ;-)

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Note to self: make notes before writing, and be sure to cover everything. I completely forgot to mention Wintersday at Guild Wars! Whooops!

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Note to self: make notes before writing, and be sure to cover everything. I completely forgot to mention Wintersday at Guild Wars! Whooops!

    • http://asabove Kenny KiloWatt the 1st.

      I like “I Like Xmas” and got seriously teary eyed as I read it(true). I think you know that I agree with all of it. Love You, Dad.

    • http://wordpress.com/timtfj Tim J

      Is it OK if I put a view from the non-fanatical side of the church? I think the evidence from biblical studies is that the birth stories in the Gospels weren’t intended to be accurate history as we understand it. They were supposed to be meaningful stories which expressed the writers’ understanding of who Jesus was. Luke, for example, saw Jesus as standing firmly in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets, so filled his narrative with allusions to them and with “prophetic” language.

      The birth stories are closer to myth than to history – where myth means using stories to represent spiritual ideas. They were never intended as literal history. Whereas the Father Christmas story is meant to be literal for as long as we swallow it. For me, that’s a key difference, and the fundamentalists have completely missed the point.

    • http://wordpress.com/timtfj Tim J

      Is it OK if I put a view from the non-fanatical side of the church? I think the evidence from biblical studies is that the birth stories in the Gospels weren’t intended to be accurate history as we understand it. They were supposed to be meaningful stories which expressed the writers’ understanding of who Jesus was. Luke, for example, saw Jesus as standing firmly in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets, so filled his narrative with allusions to them and with “prophetic” language.

      The birth stories are closer to myth than to history – where myth means using stories to represent spiritual ideas. They were never intended as literal history. Whereas the Father Christmas story is meant to be literal for as long as we swallow it. For me, that’s a key difference, and the fundamentalists have completely missed the point.

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      I’m afraid I didn’t get as far as the Jesus stories in my serious Bible-reading years, so I can’t really say much about that. (What I got from the first dozen chapters was that it is a historical account, albeit told by people who believe there is some God dude guiding them and punishing them and stuff.)

      I like the idea that the stories are meant to be representative rather than factual. However, I actually see Father Christmas the same way: he represents the spirit of giving. I’ve signed gift cards, acknowledging Santa’s role in my giving more gifts than I intended… ;)

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      I’m afraid I didn’t get as far as the Jesus stories in my serious Bible-reading years, so I can’t really say much about that. (What I got from the first dozen chapters was that it is a historical account, albeit told by people who believe there is some God dude guiding them and punishing them and stuff.)

      I like the idea that the stories are meant to be representative rather than factual. However, I actually see Father Christmas the same way: he represents the spirit of giving. I’ve signed gift cards, acknowledging Santa’s role in my giving more gifts than I intended… ;)