If, as we shall soon hear again from the usual chorus of anti-patriots, the date of Australia Day should be changed to avoid giving offence to tragic leftists whose life would be meaningless if they couldn’t be offended and a few ambitious Aborigines with an eye on climbing into the driver’s seat when Australia is rent asunder, why is no one pushing to change the date of Christmas? Surely the keen offence-taker can find grounds for objection in that as well.
If I were advocating change I would argue that Christmas on December 25 is un-Australian and undemocratic. I’d add that it’s un-republican. Why should we be stuck with a date dreamed up in the year 336 by an emperor of all people? Worse, it’s heteronormative—the Emperor Constantine was a straight white cisgender male. It’s racist: he made no effort to ask Australians as they then existed, happily uninvaded and wandering around in a state of Arcadian innocence spearing each other, what date they would like Christmas to be.
This column appears in December’s Quadrant.
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Further, it’s Eurocentric. Constantine fixed on the northern winter solstice as the day to commemorate Christ’s birth. That’s all very well if you’re into frost and reindeer but how can you have a proper Aussie Christmas in the middle of the winter when it’s zero outside? If Constantine had been less culturally insensitive he would have consulted something’s entrails and seen that the Christmas of the future in our as then unknown land was incompatible with his notion of sleigh bells in the snow. The essence of an Aussie Christmas is to be poolside with a barbecue the size of a Wurlitzer, smeared in coloured sunscreen as though made up for a welcome to country, getting sloshed on prosecco. How can you do that with an extreme weather event sluicing the garlic prawns down the gully trap and freezing the sparkling vintage so that its bottles shatter and the shards get stuck in the pudding like strawberries spiked with needles by a nutjob saboteur?
Christmas is often spruiked as a festival for children, but beware. Another influential voice in setting the date at December 25 was of the kind who should never be allowed around the kiddies. Pope Julius I was a Roman Catholic cleric, and thanks to the sterling efforts of Justice McClellan et al we know what they’re like. Why, Julius didn’t even have a police clearance. The fact that it was he who confirmed the date should alone be reason enough to change it.
In fact, it’s so absurd celebrating Christmas in Australia on December 25 that you wonder why we’ve kept that date so long. Apart from the other objections it’s too close to New Year, when we also like to get a bit, as Tim Blair would say, Schindler’s list. Two such celebrations in succession are not medically advisable, as any liver specialist will tell you if consulted, and the army of taxpayer-funded puritans with their snouts in the public health trough and their obsession with obesity and binge drinking will tell you even if not consulted. The papers will be full of their dire warnings this Christmas (as usual in awkward juxtaposition with the wine correspondents’ recommendations for “best Yuletide drinking”).
Talking of puritans, the seventeenth-century ones went the whole hog and abolished Christmas, probably because they too had spotted that unsavoury Catholic connection. That must strike a chord with the secularist fanatics and Green municipal councillors who are trying to make us say “Happy holidays” on the American model. (You may have noticed how leftists loathe the United States but like all Australians happily adopt its linguistics—train station, protest a decision, appeal a verdict having taken the stand, and so on.)
You wonder too how in an age when so many of our fellow citizens are doing their best to eradicate the vestiges of their Christian civilisational heritage—reinventing marriage, imposing state-sanctioned disposal of the inconvenient elderly—Christmas alone survives in its traditional form. Easter has long since been given over to the bunny, but Christmas is still there—although the central figure certainly wouldn’t be if his parents had lived in enlightened contemporary Australia and decided after a quick ultrasound preview that they didn’t want him after all.
Anyway, one way or another it looks as if Christmas will be around for some time yet, even though the last census suggested that there are more non-Christians than Christians keeping it going, at least as an occasion for commercial exploitation and extended (and often disastrous) family get-togethers. That being so, the un-republican, papal-influenced and hence discredited date of December 25 needs adjustment. Someone has to suggest an alternative.
My prediction is that this someone will be a functionary of the religion whose founder’s birthday Christmas is; some desperate-to-be-relevant cleric who thinks that homilies about climate change will get people flocking back to church; the kind of zeitgeist-worshipping feminist-identifying male parson obsessed with denouncing Trump and demanding that “refugees” be “truly welcomed” into our cities and housed—well, we’ll draw a veil over that, housed anywhere except in his own comfortable rectory.
I can see him now. The Rev. Arthur-Martha (“proudly intersectional”) Shrill is incumbent of a large central city church. He projects his opinions on a screen mounted on its Gothic spire. He issues podcasts of his sermons, the most recent of which exhorts churchgoers to “start celebrating Christmas on a day more appropriate to ordinary Australians”.
The date he suggests is March 31, which not coincidentally is also International Transgender Day of Visibility.
“Would it not,” he asks, “do wonders to combat the institutional transphobia that shames every Australian if the birth date of the founder of our faith community were the same day on which transgender people aim at maximum visibility, many showing themselves off in colourful costumes, ballgowns for the ‘ladies’ or perhaps a nice little after-five cocktail number? I suggest we call this new day of celebration Transgendermas.”
To elaborate on his proposal, the Rev. Arthur-Martha called a media conference in his television-studio-sacristy in the pinnacle of the spire. Altar girls with clipboards appeared and disappeared in a lift like the angels on Jacob’s ladder. “Looked at doctrinally,” he explained, “we know from contemporary theologians that the child of Bethlehem was the gift of a Creator who is neither male nor female. Transgendermas can thus speak to our contemporary world in a very real sense. True, the babe hermself (let us use trans-respectful pronouns) was clearly too young to have decided whether to trans, but even so, is the whole event not a wonderful symbol of the human race breaking the shackles of its enslavement to crude binary stereotypes?”
The clerical visage clouded over. “Far be it from me to criticise the Divine plan,” he intoned, “but I have to say it is a pity the first Christmas, to give it its old name, took place in a country with such an appalling human rights record towards our Palestinian siblings. I cannot but feel it would have been more appropriate for God to have joined the international boycott on Israel, rather than to indirectly assist the tourism industry of an international pariah-state.
“Indeed, had I been advising the Almighty I would have suggested that the birth take place on our very own Great Barrier Reef, to draw attention to the shocking anthropogenic degradation we are inflicting on that jewel of our heritage.”
The Rev. Arthur-Martha believes that the calendar perpetuating Christmas Day on December 25 is “a colonialist Western construct, disrespectful to minorities already victimised by white supremacist oppression”. Its abolition, he considers, “would contribute to building a truly fraternal sisterhood of humankind which is the basic purpose of all religion”.
“Transgendermas on March 31,” he continued—and here the Rev. Arthur-Martha’s eyes began to rotate like those of Hillary Clinton warming to her theme on one of her tours to explain how Martians cost her the presidency—“has the additional advantage of becoming a salutary corrective to the militaristic excesses of Anzac Day a few weeks later. We are constantly reminded by our leading thinkers in the media and academe that Anzac Day has degenerated into—indeed always was—an excuse for glorifying war and celebrating the worst aspects of toxic masculinity. It is a root cause of domestic violence against women. To precede it with a festival of peace and goodwill, kindness and consideration, would be nothing but beneficial.”
Christopher Akehurst, a frequent contributor, lives in Melbourne.