Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I’ve been busy with school/work and didn’t feel like going to church this weekend, so I haven’t had much to say.
But, I am happy to announce that I finally located my Christmas spirit! I’m sure my co-workers will be happy to hear that, since I’ve been the resident office Scrooge since mid- October. Look, I like Christmas as much as the next guy, but I’m of the less-is-more mentality. I like the holiday precisely because it only comes once a year, and it’s a fun few days off work to spend with the people I love. It’s festive and happy; there’s good food and presents. But, I can’t freaking handle 2 months of non-stop Christmas music in stores! In October, I had trouble finding items I needed for my Halloween costume because the Halloween section in Walmart was hidden behind tons of Christmas crap. I hate the “keep Christ in Christmas” campaigns and other such politicization of the holiday. I have a love/hate relationship with Black Friday- sure I got some good deals, but I shopped with a twinge of self loathing because I really can’t condone the mass consumerism and me-against-them gotta-have-it mentality that is Black Friday.
Today, I heard a Christmas song on the radio and didn’t immediately feel the urge to change the station- which has been my reaction thus far this year- and that’s the first sign that my little Grinchy heart is growing. It’s arbitrary, but apparently 2 1/2 weeks before Christmas is the acceptable time to start preparing I came home and put up a string of lights on my porch, and that will probably be the extent of my decorating. If I start feeling really festive, I might dig out my little 8-inch high fake tree and set it somewhere, but I’m not there yet mentally. I haven’t done my gift shopping yet, but my list is short and I still have time. I am looking forward to Secret Santa at work, mostly because my co-workers get so into it. It’s great fun watching them scheme and try to figure out who drew whose name.
And now we reach the part where you might be asking yourself, “Wait, what does an atheist have to celebrate at Christmas time?” And my answer is this: the same thing everyone else who observes the Christmas holiday has to celebrate- family, friends, good eats, time off work, 24 hour “A Christmas Story” marathons on tv, etc.
All this business about “keeping Christ in Christmas” has always baffled me a little. Here I think I need to explain one of the more interesting quirks about my Church of Christ upbringing: Christmas is not a religious holiday. Even back in the hard core bible-thumping days of my youth, Christmas had nothing to do with religion. We had a Christmas tree, decorations, presents, and ham for dinner- but in my family we much preferred carols like “Jingle Bells” t0 “Away in a manger” and I’ve always hated “Little Drummer Boy.” We didn’t have a manger scene; we didn’t go to church on Dec 24th or 25th unless they happened to fall on a Sunday. You see, the bible never mentions specifically when Jesus was born nor does it command believers to observe that date with a holiday. Simple as that. (We had a similar view about Easter. The observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus should occur every Sunday during communion, but again we don’t know a specific date and therefore don’t need a religious holiday for it.)
Don’t take that to mean that my family wasn’t adequately religious. I was a True Christian (TM) if ever there was one, but my flavor of Christianity didn’t concern itself with religious holidays. We didn’t take it to the extent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t celebrate Christmas at all, we just embraced the secular parts of the holiday and skipped the religous bits.
A lot of words have been spilled about the pagan origins of Christmas celebrations and how the virgin birth story existed in mythology long before Jesus, so I won’t spend much time on those subjects. I do want to take a brief moment to point out the extreme arrogance of those who insist that we must keep Christ in Christmas, that this time of year is only for remembering little baby Jesus, and especially that everyone must say “Merry Christmas” because “Happy Holidays” is a rude affront to their faith. What about Christians like my family, or like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who don’t celebrate Christmas religiously? What about people of other faiths who have their own holidays they observe this time of year? What about the fact that even Christians who do celebrate Christmas religiously also celebrate other holidays this time of year (thanksgiving and new years, anybody?) and therefore could appreciate being wished “happy holidays” as well? Does it really hurt to more inclusive in your holiday wishes?
tl;dr: If you want to commemorate baby Jesus this time of year, knock yourself out. But have a little respect for those of us who don’t.
I forgot to include my favorite Christmas song! Tim Minchin explains my feelings about Christmas more eloquently than I can: