Taking the Christ out of Christmas
I’ve read a lot of cranky posts from atheists who are annoyed by the Christmas season and I can totally understand why. In my grinchiest of moods, I see how the December holiday season is entirely about convincing a whole lot of people who don’t have very much money to buy things they don’t need.
At the same time, certain members of the Christian right raise a hue and cry about “taking back Christmas” from those who choose to say “Happy Holidays” because, you know, Christmas isn’t the only fucking holiday happening right about now.
The holiday decorations are now going up right after Halloween and it is only a matter of time before Labor day becomes the date that stores start devoting some of their space to holiday decorations for folks who like to plan ahead.
If you don’t believe in the religious mythology that surrounds the season, you have to accept that you are going to be bombarded with it anyway. From a “Glee” Christmas special that includes a bible verse to nativity scenes on neighbors’ lawns, it is there. Like it or not, this season is about religious holidays (yes – more than one) and you are going to hear about it.
I totally get why some members of the atheist community get cranky around this time of year.
My problem, I guess, is that I really like the Christmas season.
No, I don’t like it. I love it.
I love Christmas music. Do I listen to it and ignore the whole Christian message? Sure I do! But I still love a good rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “Good King Wenceslas.” I don’t have to agree with the religious message of the song to enjoy the song.
I love Christmas movies and specifically, I love “A Christmas Carol.” I think I have four versions of the story in my movie collection and I watch at least one of them every year.
Actually, I have five. I got another one yesterday.
I love the way my kids – actually most kids – respond to Christmas morning. They tear through all those carefully wrapped presents and then either excitedly inspect the new item *or* toss it aside because toothpaste, while necessary, is not very interesting.
I love the time off to spend with my family and the fact that for two days, most of us do exactly that. We adopt “strays” into our family for a couple of days. We all actually cook a meal. My wife makes more Christmas cookies than any one family of four could possibly eat in six months.
I love that aside from the random black Friday macing people are in a pretty good mood in December. Yeah, I stress out over gift shopping and I imagine we all do. Still, there are a lot more smiles this time of year than there are sour faces.
I love going out driving on Christmas day because there is nobody on the roads. People are actually spending time with other people. How crazy is that?
Heck, I even love the piles of gifts strewn about my recently clean living room on Christmas morning. There is something wonderful and even artistic about the random pieces of ribbon, paper and plastic wrap.
Every Christmas, our family ends the day by watching A Christmas Story. I can quote the film pretty much beginning to end. I don’t need to watch it ever again. But it is something we do and I can’t imagine a Christmas without the film.
Christmas doesn’t make me cranky, it makes me happy.
We don’t talk about the birth of Jesus as being a reason for the season because Christ makes no difference to us. We celebrate Christmas because it is a holiday and sometimes, you celebrate just to celebrate. Who cares about the reasons for Halloween? Kids don’t care. They just want candy.
Some Christians may not like it but Christmas has become a far more secular holiday. Kids care far more about Santa Claus than god because when they ask for something from Santa Claus, they get it. Kids know that Santa may not actually exist but his track record is still pretty good. You are going to hedge your bets with the guy who gives you the better odds.
Here’s the thing – I don’t believe that god has anything to do with all the positive things about this season. People do. We are social animals and this one season of the year, we figured out how to drop everything else and be social for a couple of days.
It is a profoundly human thing to do and it is the one time of the year where most of us are at our best. If there is a frustration, it is that voice that whispers “why can’t we be more like this all of the time?”
So I hope everyone kept Christmas in their own way. Happy holidays.