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He who girds at an ancient established festival should reflect upon sundry obvious truths before he withers up the said festival by the sirocco of his contempt. These truths are as follows:—First, a festival, though based upon intelligence, is not an affair of the intellect, but an affair of the emotions. Second, the human soul can only be reached through the human body. Third, it is impossible to replace an ancient festival by a new one. Robespierre, amongst others, tried to do so, and achieved the absurd. Reformers, heralds of new faiths, and rejuvenators of old faiths, have always, when they succeeded, adopted an ancient festival, with all or most of its forms, and been content to breathe into it a new spirit to replace the old spirit which had vanished or was vanishing. Anybody who, persuaded that Christmas is not what it was, feels that a festival must nevertheless be preserved, will do well to follow this example. To be content with the old forms and to vitalize them: that is the problem. Solve it, and the forms will soon begin to adapt themselves to the process of vitalization. All history is a witness in proof.
TO REVITALIZE THE FESTIVAL
It being agreed, then, that the Christmas festival has lost a great deal of its old vitality, and that, to many people, it is a source of tedium and the cause of insincerity; and it being further agreed that the difficulty cannot be got over by simply abolishing the festival, as no one really wants it to be abolished; the question remains—what should be done to vitalize it? The former spirit of faith, the spirit which made the great Christmas of the golden days, has been weakened; but one element of it—that which is founded on the conviction that goodwill among men is a prime necessity of reasonable living—survives with a certain vigour, though even it has not escaped the general scepticism of the age. This element unites in agreement all the pugnacious sectaries who join battle over the other elements of the former faith. This element has no enemies. None will deny its lasting virtue. Obviously, therefore, the right course is to concentrate on the cultivation of goodwill. If goodwill can be consciously increased, the festival of Christmas will cease to be perfunctory. It will acquire a fresh and more genuine significance, which, however, will not in any way inconvenience those who have never let go of the older significance. No tradition will be overthrown, no shock administered, and nobody will be able to croak about iconoclasm and new-fangled notions and the sudden end of the world, and so on.
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The fancy of some people will at once run to the formation of a grand international Society for the revivifying of Christmas by the cultivation of goodwill, with branches in all the chief cities of Europe and America, and headquarters—of course at the Hague; and committees and subcommittees, and presidents and vice-presidents; and honorary secretaries and secretaries paid; and quarterly and annual meetings, and triennial congresses! And a literary organ or two! And a badge—naturally a badge, designed by a famous artist in harmonious tints!