translated from Spanish: Re-signifying Christmas: an interpretation from radical humanism

The cyclical rituality of Christmas, as a highly secularized Christian celebration, envelops us year by year in a flow that seems inevitable, mixing consumption habits, the binding power of the reciprocal gift, and a s symbolic forms decontextualized by the hegemony of an imaginary typical of the Northern Hemisphere. Hence the absurdity of the snow pines and sleds that decorate the Chilean shops, the “Old Pascueros” sweating in Ahumada, with 36 degrees in the shade. But beyond these dystopian formal elements, the Christmas celebration maintains its centrality within the public festivities in our society.
In a context of profound political transformation and cultural resignificance, such as the one that the country lives, one may wonder about the meaning that this feast could have, under a secular hermeneutics, that seeks to express what really beats in it, albeit under a anachronistic or inadequate expressive clothing. The original celebration of Christmas can only be understood in its original setting, of the pre-Christian cosmological ritualities of the Mediterranean. The definition of 25 December as the date celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, was defined within the framework of the Constantinization of Christianity, with the explicit aim of matching and replacing the feast of the Undefeated Sun, which in the Roman Empire marked the winter solstice. In this sense it has a certain symbolic equivalence with the cosmic celebrations that in our hemisphere refer to the new year of the indigenous peoples (We Tripantu in the Mapuche tradition). Which should bring your re-alignment to the same date as the winter solstice in our country.
A second aspect refers to the very meaning of Christ’s birth. This aspect forces us to unravel the persistence of this element in a secular and plural culture like ours. One option would be to completely banish that aspect of the celebration. In a way that has happened for many decades, in which Christmas has become a kind of “family party” in late capitalism, with a mythological character, dressed red, who delivers gifts to girls and boys. This account secularized the equally Nordic tradition of Saint Nicholas (Santiklaus, Sinterklaas), who disclothed from his original episcopal garments became the elderly man who travels the world in one night and that Coca Cola helped popularize at scale during the 20th century.
Another option is to revisit what the Christian festival entails but in a secular, universalist and posteleological sense. This way I believe that it allows us to understand Christmas as the feast that celebrates the sacrality of humanity. This perspective is possible to assume both believers and non-believers in the broadest perspective of their convictions and beliefs.
Understood thus, Christmas takes up its fully orthodox meaning with the purest Christian dogmatic tradition, which refers us to the humanization of the divine and the divinization of the human, as St. Athanasius of Alexandria claimed in the 4th century: “For the Son of God became man, to make us God” (De Incarnatione, 54, 3: PG 25, 192B). Under this principle it is possible to arrive at two different but compatible interpretations: on the one hand the Christian hermeneutics remains untouched, as a celebration of the dogma of the Incarnation. But at the same time it is possible to open ourselves to a new meaning, from a second, fully secular interpretation, which understands Christmas as the feast of the sacrality of humanity.
Yuval Noah Harari, in Homo Deus, defines humanism as that belief that attributes to human beings a unique and sacred essence, which gives rise to every sense and authority in the universe. “What happens in the cosmos is judged as good or bad according to its impact on Homo Sapiens” (p.115). This humanist conviction can have different sources of legitimacy and foundation, and even humanist arguments can be rival and contradictory to each other. But at the heart of the thing that is at the heart of humanism is the explicit affirmation of human dignity, as a condition that imposes fundamental, universal, inalienable, interdependent and indivisible rights, which must understate the political and normative order of our societies. The sacrality of human dignity, symbolized by the theological account of the incarnation, which is fundamentally celebrated at Christmas, is one more way of understanding and expressing this proposal of meaning, which we can call “radical humanist”.
Of course, Nietzsche would disagree with this sacralizing vision and would argue that the human being, in order to become a superman, has to expel God from his interior. It would not be in his perspective to seek “human divinization”, but on the contrary, a substitution of God for the “superman”, through a “will of power” over himself and on others. However, in that cry for Nietzsche’s authenticity, beat the same anti-humanist, anti-egalitarian, racist and misogenous pushes that we must face every day. Fortunately, Nietzsche himself serves us, methodologically, in the process of transvaluation that can decost the genealogies of these same experiences and circumstances.
On the other hand, the very evolution of radical humanism has led to a new fundamental contradiction, much more difficult to overcome. The ecosystemic understanding of the human being as an inseparable part of a broad biotic environment, of which it is substantial, makes it determined to relativize its unique character, as a sacred and superior species. Criticism of humanist “speciesism” is the last frontier that humanism must face: How does our human dignity make us different from other species, not human ones, and determines us to a singular existence that is different from them?
To renounce the sacrality of human dignity is very dangerous if it opens the door to the relativization of human rights. On the other hand, maintaining a humanist conviction that does not take on the post-humanist critique of echoed anthropocentrism is equally unsustainable. A new account of meaning is urgently needed to radically rethink what means that human beings are the measure of all things.

Original source in Spanish

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