Flickr looks like just a photo-sharing site to anyone who doesn’t use it much (like me). To photographers (like my husband), however, it’s a sophisticated social media site. Think Facebook before whatever particular change you really hated, with the bonuses of not getting friend requests from relatives and better ways of keeping track of things you’re interested in. In other words, people invest their personalities in their interactions there.
That’s why it was disturbing to see this:
So it’s distressing when someone puts Christmas lights on my virtual home. I’m not a Christian. I don’t care how secular the holiday is nowadays. I know about the holiday’s Pagan roots. None of that matters. The fact is, Christmas lights on a home are a signifier that the occupant is a Christian, the same way a mezuzah is a signifier of a Jewish occupant. These symbols have power, which is why we use them.
It’s not just that Flickr is smearing Christmas “cheer” all over itself. As a non-Christian in a Christian country, I’m grudgingly used to that. (Though it would be nice if clicking that “[x]” set a cookie that prevented it from loading on the next pageview.) It’s that my Flickr stream is my personal identity in the Flickr community. That’s my face there at the top. Flickr has added a Christian signifier to my virtual home and I have no way to remove it. In the eyes of the rest of the community, Flickr has turned me into a Christian.
Comments are predictably atrocious.
Christmas lights are just lights that were made to be safer than putting candles on a solstice tree. They have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity as both candles and solstice trees that they go on both predate Christianity.
Which is why the people who bitch about the War on Christmas are asking people to boycott all the stores that put up lights.
If you clicked a little lamb and baby Jesuses started falling, the background turned into a glittery animated gif reproduction of the Sistine Chapel, and a string of light-up crosses went across the top, you’d have something.
As it is, it’s just secular holiday decoration.
Because the existence of one sort of symbol of religiosity precludes any others.
Even though Christianity is fading, this country is still predominantly a Christian one. Even though I’m no longer religious (I used to be, somewhat) I still respect the fact that this nation was founded & built on many Christian values & beliefs. So whereas I won’t tolerate someone trying to push the bible off on me, I have no problem with seeing Christmas decorations that truly represent Christianity being displayed at Christmas time.
It was also built on racist colonialism. Are we going to berate anyone who complains about having racism pinned on their profiles?
You’re letting your religious background taint your perception. Because you view Hanukkah as “The Jewish Holiday” you assume that Christmas is “The Christian Holiday.” Instead of recognizing that like Halloween, Easter and Thanksgiving none of the major American Holidays are primarily religious anymore.
I think the audience here understands just how religious many of the major American holidays still are.
You don’t see me bitching about Halloween’s paganness and or many holidays that grew out of similar origins or about Hannukah, Ramadan… the list goes on.
If other religions are allowed to announce their religious beliefs full throttle, wouldn’t it be equality to allow EVERYONE the right to celebrate their holidays as they please so as long as it doesn’t violate the other’s rights? I don’t see how the displaying of religiously ambiguous lights have violated other’s rights to not do so. It’s only the crazy/raidcal minorities of each sect of their beliefs/thoughts that pose a threat to what? Running a holiday universally celebrated by everyone in the world?
Emphasis added. “You don’t see me bitching about the traditions of the minorities whom I feel entirely comfortable erasing entirely in my next paragraph!”
Bullshit. Millions of non Christian and non religious people celebrate Christmas the world over. Stop trying to give something more meaning than it has. It can be a religious holiday and a non religious holiday which is what it has become. I’m not of any particular religion, same with many people I know and we all buy each other presents and meet with family on Christmas.
That would be millions of people who were raised Christian (like my husband) or celebrate with Christians (like me). It would also be a few people who see the lights or other traditions and decide they’re pretty enough to make it worth ignoring or subverting their role as cultural signifiers. People without these traditions don’t spontaneous acquire them.
There are a couple of excellent comments in there as well, from other Jews trying to explain the concept of exclusion. For the most part, no one wants to hear them explain that no matter how wishy-washy the Christian connection to their holiday lights is for some people, those lights are still a symbol that either has to be reconciled with other cultural identities and religions or overrides them altogether.
That’s something those who run social media sites need to learn. They need to know that embracing the symbols of one culture does exclude other cultures. Hats off to Derek Powazek for pointing it out to Flickr.