Atheism and Christmas

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I am terrible at dealing with cold weather, but there’s something very cosy about Christmas (don’t talk to me about January. Ugh, January …). I like the traditions. I like giving my friends and family gifts. I like receiving gifts. I adore the warmth inside houses, the warm, filling food, the hot drinks, the alcohol, the general excuse for good cheer. However, I’ve been told that atheists don’t appreciate Christmas in the same way that Christians do. This is true, it doesn’t mean the same thing — which isn’t the same as it meaning less.

Once, a friend of mine — a very good friend of mine, who I consider one of the most awesome people I shall ever meet — told me that atheists should not celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure if she was offended that I professed to love the holiday, or if she thought that only good, Christian children should receive presents (for being so pious all year long and suffering through church). Either way, this made little sense to me, and I was made more frustrated when I attempted to complain about this and, several times was met with, “Well … she’s got a point.”

I’ve probably thought a lot more about this than she has in the years since. I think it was probably some pet peeve of hers, and I took it deadly serious in a way that it may not have been intended. But no, she does not have a point.

Christmas is, it is true, a holiday named by Christians (shocking, I know). However, it has traditions suspiciously similar to those of the Roman mid-winter holiday (the feasting and lights, for example), which occurred on the darkest day of the year (22nd of December, I believe), pre-Christianity. Also, it is distinctly unclear if Jesus Christ was born in winter. There are different hypotheses. It seems likely that the Christians took a holiday that all were celebrating anyway, and renamed it. Which is OK, it’s a nice time to have a holiday (when all is dark and cold), and you’re celebrating your saviour’s undetermined birthday at a time convenient to you. That’s fine. However, telling me that the mid-winter holiday, in which there is light and warmth and feasting during the darkest, coldest time of the year, is exclusively Christian … that’s sort of bullshit.

“But Kate,” you cry, “you can have a mid-winter celebration, you just can’t call it Christmas.”

*cough* None of you were saying that? I’m just being defensive? Possibly. But anyway, in rebuttal:

If I go around saying ‘Happy Atheism Day’ around about December the 25th, most people are going to give me funny looks. Some will just be confused. Some will laugh. And someone shall be deeply offended. “HOW DARE YOU TRY TO REMOVE MY CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST,” they’ll thunder in indignation of my re-naming of their faith’s most important day, and in shock that I would proudly announce my beliefs (because I MUST be challenging their own). So you see, I can’t win.

Also, would that mean I can only give gifts to fellow atheists? Who share in my non-existent holiday? That’s kind of sad. Some of my best friends are not atheists. I wish to have the same holiday as them. I want to show them how much I love and appreciate them. I want a beautiful tree hung with lights, a warm fire, spectacularly nerdy gifts (of which I’ve already received one *_* — a Snitch necklace. Be very jealous), hot food. I like the traditions. I like the Christmas Carols. I was in my school’s Carol Service almost every year for 6 years. I like to sing. I love the harmonies. I do not believe in the Christian God, but I do not regret this. I do not feel that it is justified for me to be excluded from this for my lack of believe, in what is becoming an increasingly commercial and secularised holiday anyway (not that I like the commercialism too much … gets on my nerves. I love when people make gifts). I think, if you try to exclude me, it cannot be because of rational arguments, but because my being an atheist offends you, and you think I should not have nice things because of this. Also, if it truly offends you … That’s not my problem. I’m certainly not offending my own lack of beliefs by participating in the season’s celebrations, so … *shrugs*

So we can all celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, mid-winter, Humanism Day, whatever. Why not? Celebrations are great, I love them. Happy Holidays, folks.

Discworld coinage and a Snitch necklace. Doesn’t get much better than that, folks

Note: I recently received a Sunshine Award from the lovely Lily Wight (who runs a really cool Lord of the Rings-based blog here on WordPress). Go check out the awesomeness. Also, I watched the Hobbit. I loved it. Had so much fun. There were criticisms, and it wasn’t as good as LotR, but still wonderful 🙂

Snitch necklaces and similar can be found here, for those interested 😉