So there’s this holiday that you don’t know about. It’s going on right now, in fact.
“Where are all the decorations?” you may ask. “Why haven’t I seen the seasonal display in Wal-Mart?”
It turns out that it’s pretty difficult to invent a new holiday. The Canadian province of Ontario was successful a couple of years ago when it created Family Day in February. Why? Well, because it was the only month that didn’t have a day off already. And it is February, rather cold and dark, and people just need to spend more time with family. I have yet to hear a complaint.
In 2004, web-based comic author and illustrator Tim Buckley, somewhat in jest, wanted to create a holiday. Buckley decided that the holiday would encompass the month of January, but would be officially celebrated the last week of the month: Jan. 25 to 31. Since it takes place in the winter, Buckley simply stole the suffixes from Halloween and Christmas to get Winter-een-mas. He wanted to promote the celebration and community of those who play video games.
In explaining the holiday, Buckley has written:
“Winter-een-mas, in its essence, is a holiday for gamers. It is celebration of games and the gamers who play them. Video games allow us to do things, go places, see stuff that we couldn’t do in real life. They can be an escape from reality, a release after a long day, a fun activity with friends, or just an enjoyable way to pass time. They give us a lot of entertainment, So why shouldn’t they be celebrated?”
Winter-een-mass has since gained somewhat of a following and rules have developed. Gift-giving is appropriate, but not required. Handmade gifts are better. What was a whim has turned into a legitimate conversation about the role of video games in people’s lives.
The stereotypes of those who play video games are well-developed. Most people picture loner, adolescent boys or middle-aged men eating junk food and spending an inordinate amount of time completing plot lines in games that are trivial and asinine or glorify violence and the objectification of women. While this picture might describe some, it is a massive oversimplification. The creation of Winter-een-mas is in some ways a response to this idea that playing video games is merely an individual experience. The holiday points to a community of those who love the same things, who have developed a way to understand a part of culture (in monetary terms, a massive part of culture). The creation of Winter-een-mas is just a small touchstone allowing gamers to celebrate a legitimate pastime.
As Christians, I think we can get behind this idea of Winter-een-mas. It’s unlikely we would add it to part of the Sunday service, but it mirrors our faith. Christians often talk about individual faith; our personal relationship with Jesus. But just like video games, if this is the only expression of our faith, we will end up alienated from others and we would miss the full kingdom vision of the Gospel.
While playing video games is not essential to Christian faith, I think in dismissing them we can miss out on how the Good News applies and transforms everything. So the next time you are tempted to scoff at your neighbor’s fascination with the new BioShock game, remember that this too is part of God’s world. Maybe invite them to share their love of games with you. What’s the harm in calling it Winter-een-mas?