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21 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 21 December 2010 in Diary |

Yesterday, I started to think about wishing my readers a Happy Christmas. About the same time I received a copy of an e-mail from a lawyer colleague of Hew Dundas -one of the vice president of The Arbitration Club-,Haig Oghigian, a Partner in Baker and McKenzie’s Tokyo Office, with a festive greeting, that only a lawyer could possibly have dreamt up, that could give offence to no-one, whatever their proclivity. This led me to wonder if I was right to wish all and sundry a Happy Christmas, indeed, it might well be that this could even give offence to some people After all a relatively small percentage of the world population are Christians.

What we are really saying when we wish someone a Happy Christmas,  is, I suppose,  twofold. For the Christians it would be the religious reference to the birth of Christ and to the majority it would be no more than wishing them a jolly time over the Christmas period. Because of the diversity of people now with whom international lawyers deal, I’ve noticed, not without some amusement, the lengths to which these lawyers go so as to not give offence to their clients who are not Christians- Happy Festive Season, Seasonal Greetings or Happy Holiday etc.

I suppose the Christians should be grateful that the birth of Christ falls so close to the winter solstice-21st of December, the shortest day in the year in the northern hemisphere. (Also known as Yule – thus happy Yuletide –  one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world . Humanoids have been on this earth for 200,000 years and following the hunter gatherer phase, when they started living in communities and cultivating the land, I have no doubt that some form of community worship developed. We know, for example, that paganism, the worship of ecology and the origins of nature itself, in such places as Stonehenge, in Aylesbury, is at least 6500 years old. There are ancient Celtic traditions, Druids, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists, all going back deep into time and almost certainly all of whom indulged in some sort of worship at this time of year.

The ancient Romans held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year, Saturnalia, which ran for seven days from 17 December it was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. Homosexuality and uncontrolled debauchery were practised with no lasting consequences or recriminations.

Saturnalia – meaning plenty – also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents. (All of that sounds am a modern ring to it)

On the final day of the celebrations, 25 December, the Romans honoured the birth of the pagan god Mithras, in a feast known as the birth of the unconquered sun.. It wasn’t until the fourth century A.D. that the then official Roman Catholic Church, established by Emperor Constantine, declared December 25 to be the Feast of the Nativity. Even the Yule log and the 12 days of Christmas – immortalised in the Christmas carol of the same name -  originated with the ancient Norseman (now Norwegians) long before the birth of Christ. (Incidentally, it was a five bowled clay pipe, excavated in a Temple of Mithras, in Cannon Street, London, which was the official Trophy, of which we were custodians for one year, having won the joint World Monopoly championship in 1977). During the adult Saturnalia, children were encouraged to indulge in drunken orgies which coincided with another festival called Juvenalia. We also know the Egyptians and Babylonians held mid-winter celebrations, at least 5000 years ago, long before Jesus was born, and therefore the Christmas celebrations were initiated. So, as they say there is nothing new under the sun.

Hew’s colleague in Tokyo, Haig Oghigian,, wrote such a brilliant anodyne festive greeting that should safely be able to be made to any person at this time of year without giving offence to their religious beliefs (or lack of them) their race, colour, creed or sexual persuasion. Only a lawyer could possibly have written this and for your amusement, with the author’s permission, I reproduce it below.

Festive Greetings
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. 

In addition, please also accept our best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country or area of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual orientation of the wishers.
 
This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. ‘Holiday’ is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).
  
Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms.

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting.

 This greeting implies no promise by the wisher actually to implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of it.
 
This greeting is void where prohibited by law.
 

Haig Oghigian, F.C.I.Arb
Attorney at Foreign Law
 

My own drunken orgy today consisted of sharing some  excellent bubbly  with my erstwhile gym friend  Tristan (Frampton) who generously turned up at the this evening with two chilled bottles. I would normally have no difficulty in consuming a whole bottle within a couple of hours although, as we finished a second bottle I noticed a difference now that my body mass has diminished and, no doubt, all the various pills I take recommend ‘no alcohol’ (but then I have never taken any notice of such warnings in the past). Having said that I managed to walk back to the study, with my frame, without too much difficulty so could not have been too bad. In any event it was extremely kind of Tristan and very nice to see him again and catch up this news..

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