It’s that time of year again, when the non-existent war on Christmas becomes news while visions of sugar plums dance in the minds and hearts of children everywhere. Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas – choose your greeting carefully or risk offense or worst. A nativity scene! Heaven forbid without a corresponding monument to other, or no, dead gods. Frankly, it’s all nonsense, but I enjoy this time of year. Yes, I’m an atheist and I like Christmas! Why?
- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or who the heck cares! I am no worshipper of the mythical Christ-god but I’m not offended by a hearty Merry Christmas. Neither do I get upset at calling Thursday (Thor’s Day) Thursday or calling Tuesday (Tyr’s Day), Wednesday (Woden/Oden’s Day), Friday (Frigg’s Day) or Saturday ( Saturn’s Day) their proper names. (Origins of the Names of the Days of the Week). Nor am I offended by the use of AD (“in the year of our lord”) instead of CE (“common era”). The naming of holidays, days of the week, or centuries after dead and non-existant gods just doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t bother most people unless you happen to pick their particular dead god. Christ really isn’t the reason for the season (Is Christ the Reason for the Season?) and if there is a true “god” of Christmas, it is almost certainly Santa Claus who is a much nicer “deity” than the Christ-god (Santa Claus?).
- Tradition. Tradition. Tradition. Christmas for me is all about Tradition and I’m very big on Tradition. It starts by decorating the house. Inside only, since I do not carry the outside lights and decorations gene. Then, naturally, we have to hunt down and decorate the wild Christmas tree. All of this reaches its climax on Christmas Eve, since this is when the celebration really begins. It starts by me making a feast of stuffed Maine lobsters (sorry the stuffing is a secret that can neither be revealed nor duplicated) and shrimp/scallop scampi. Yummy. Everyone looks forward to this meal and even one Christmas when I was unemployed, we managed to have this traditional dinner. You just can’t go against tradition, especially a long standing one! This tradition was handed down for “who knows how long” coming from my Italian heritage – Festa dei Sette Pesci or the Feast of the Seven Fishes (Fish feast: Italian families enjoy Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes). Of course, as with many traditions, this one has been modfied to become more of a feast of shellfish instead of 7 fishes! After dinner, the kids cleanup and stack presents in neat little piles by name. Presents are then opened starting with the youngest person and eventually getting to mom and dad – no free for all here! Santa comes during the nightime hours and fills stockings, which were hung by the fireplace with care, with cute little gifts and candy. Yes, it is all about tradition and I get giddy just thinking about it.
- There is also Christmas music and I love it (Christmas Music). From the sappy to the not so good to actual Christmas hymns. I like Christmas music, especially during a nice evening snowfall. And, no, I don’t care if some of these are about a mythical god, because Christ is no more real than Santa Claus and I’m not offended by “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. I still get goosebumps thinking of my experience watching the US Naval Academy singing Handel’s Messiah and I don’t believe in any messiah! You see, dead gods have no effect on me. I can find beauty in the music without believing its content. If you think I’m crazy, I’m in good company since the world renouned atheist, Dr Richard Dawkins agrees! “I recoil from secular carols such as “White Christmas”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the loathsome “Jingle Bells”, but I’m happy to sing real carols, and in the unlikely event that anyone wants me to read a lesson I’ll gladly oblige – only from the King James Version, of course.” (Leader: Do you get it now, Prime Minister?)
- Christmas is also about giving. Obviously there is the giving of presents and gifts to our loved ones and it is always a blast seeing the look on their faces as they open that specially selected gift. It is also a time to reflect on giving to non-profit organizations that I support as well as individuals that are less fortunate. One thing I do refuse to do at this time of year is to drop any money into the ubiquious kettles manned by Salvation Army volunteers. The Salvation Army is purely a religious organization and is actually a Christian church/denomination with many positions that I can not support (Salvation Army).
- Finally there are the fables and myths that surround the season. Even as an atheist, I like the stories. From the myth of the god-child born in a manger to Santa and his reindeer to Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol“, I enjoy the stories. Just like I am fond of Greek and Roman mythology, so I am fond the the Christian myths. The story is a compelling one and this is one reason it has remained. Compelling, because there were other gods with similar myths making the rounds. It’s a great story filled with all the standard mythological items – gods, miracles, morals. There is the little child, born in a manger because there was no room in the inn (the hearts of men) for him. An evil king that sought his death. The wise men (the rich) and the shepards (the poor) that wanted to worship him. The flight into Eqypt to avoid death. It’s all good drama.
So for this atheist, there is no bah humbug — Happy Holidays, Reason’s Greetings, Joyous Festivus and even a Merry Christmas to you all.
Please note – This is all on an INDIVIDUAL level. When someone tries to tell me what I should do during this season or what meaning it should carry, I get cranky. And if the government gets involved, I’m definitely not a happy camper. What Dr. Dawkins says is true: “Token objections to cribs and carols are not just silly, they distract vital attention from the real domination of our culture and politics that religion still gets away with, in (tax-free) spades. There’s an important difference between traditions freely embraced by individuals and traditions enforced by government edict.”