TEXAS FAITH 121: Is Christmas a religious holiday or a cultural one?
Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
A new Pew Research Center Religion and Public Life survey reports that 90 percent of Americans — or almost all of us — celebrate Christmas in some fashion. The study shows that most still view it as a religious holiday, but certainly not all. In fact, only a slim majority consider it a religious holiday.
Interestingly, there appears a sharp generational difference in the way Americans see Christmas. According to Pew, Americans under age 30 are far more likely to see Christmas as a cultural holiday. Likewise, they are less likely to attend religious services at Christmas or to believe in the Virgin Birth.
The survey also reports on the similarities in the ways Americans celebrate Christmas. Most of us observe the holiday with families and friends.
You can read more about Pew’s Christmas survey at this link.
And here’s the question for this week:
How do you view Christmas: Is it a religious holiday or a cultural one?
And, if you like, share how you plan on observing the day, if it is one you will observe.
Read on for a variety of answers from our panelists:
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
In the Vedic tradition, religion, culture and everyday life are intertwined. The Sanskrit term Dharma means "The constitutional nature of an object."
Sometimes this term is misinterpreted as religion. However, a person can change their religion but they cannot change their dharma.
For example, the dharma of sugar is that it is sweet, the dharma of fire is that it is hot. It is not fire if it is not hot.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam teaches that the dharma of the self is to serve and love God. This nature of desiring to love and serve someone or something is always present in a person and is properly situated when directed towards God.
A follower of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and the Bhagavad Gītā dedicates every action as an offering unto the Supreme. Thus ordinary things such as cooking, eating, and even sex to produce children are seen in relation to Krishna.
That is why it is called Krishna Consciousness because one is consciously and lovingly engaging their mind, body, and self in the service of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Krishna.