Father Desmond O’Donnell is urging Christians to give up the word “Christmas” and replace it with something else, saying that Christmas has been hijacked by “Santa and reindeer”.
“We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely”, Father O’Donnell told the Belfast Telegraph. “We need to let it go, it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”
O’Donnell, who is a registered psychologist and author as well as being an Oblate priest, said that the meaning of Christmas had been taken over and commercialized by secular society.
“I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word,” he said.
For today’s society Christmas has lost its sacred character, O’Donnell said, and while this is fine for non-believers, it is a problem for the faithful.
“I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and reindeer,” he said.
“My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real – like the air I breathe,” he said. “But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.”
According to the priest, external festivities can be appropriate for celebrating sacred holy days, but as long as they don’t overshadow the feast itself.
“I’m all for Christians choosing to celebrate Christmas by going out for meals and enjoying a glass of wine, but the commercialisation of anything is never good,” he said.
Unless Catholicism addresses what Christmas has come to mean, he added, “secularisation and modern life will continue to launder the church.”
The only way to avoid this, he suggested, is by acknowledging what has happened and recovering the sacred quality of essentially Christian feasts that have become secularized.
“For many people God is just a word representing someone to blame in their calamity or a crutch to lean on in a time of distress,” he said, “and the reality is that ‘Christmas’ no longer means Christmas.”