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Our Christmas tree has been decorated; our presents have been purchased; the seasonal greeting cards have been mailed. So we are ready for Christmas 2015. Whenever, wherever we go, we are now surrounded by merry Christmas music that is programed to evoke our happy feelings for the Christmas time when we were very young. Certainly, these days winter celebrations from other faiths are referred to and/or underscored in the United States. But, emotionally December is the month for Christmas even though I was not raised in that tradition.

As a child in Japan, my family religion was Rinzai Zen, which impressed me more like “agnostic” or non-religion, in my young untrained mind. However, almost every Christmas when I was in the kindergarten and early elementary school, we celebrated Christmas as a holiday for children together with other children in our neighborhood. Since my father was an educator (I believe at that time he was a middle-school school principal) he invited other children in our neighborhood and entertained them with some goodies and some moralistic children’s movies via 16mm projector. We each had a small butter-cream cake with a lot of decoration at the end of the party. In retrospect, I can now clearly see how post-war Japan was influenced by American culture. My generation, Japanese baby boomers, often called “Dankai” (big chunk) generation of people born between 1947 and 1949 (twice as many children were born within these mere three years), was, I think, rather Americanized because of the American Occupation that lasted until 1952. We grew up on the diet of “Leave It to Beaver” or “Donna Reed Show.” I am not sure if I have ever believed in Santa Claus, but I knew Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ unlike many contemporary Japanese who seem to believe that Christmas is the day for lovers (!). Now as a grown-up person I certainly know Christmas is a conflation of the pagan and other winter celebrations and a Christian celebration in order to energize humans in the throes of winter doldrums.

Thinking about Christianity, I cannot help but think of it as the most modern of the major monotheistic religions. That its messiah died on the cross (the ancient torture device) in a horrific manner in order to save humans provokes heartaches/ pangs in most humans. We are awed by his selfless love for humanity (whether it is misguided or not). I am not sure if Christianity is a religion for slaves, as Nietzsche says it is, because it is based on the so called “slave morality” which values kindness, humility and sympathy, as opposed to “master morality” which values pride, strength, and nobility. But, I guess I belong to what Nietzsche calls the “slave morality” group though I do not appreciate the sound of it. Nietzsche said, “The democratic movement is the heir to Christianity,” because Christianity and democracy which value freedom and equality so much was born out of resentment.