[First, I have to clarify that saying ‘I don’t believe in God’ does not (and should not in your mind) equate to ‘I think people who believe in God are stupid, I hate all things Christian, and I’m going to throw my lack of belief in your face at every possible opportunity.’ All it means is that I don’t believe in God – the end.]
There are mutterings on the interwebs that people who don’t believe in God have no real business celebrating Christmas. But good golly oh boy, do I love Christmas. From pre-Thanksgiving until New Year’s, that “it” that makes holidays feel festive takes over. The sky changes for winter, leaves color and fall, the air is crisp and smells like snow or chimney smoke, houses and bushes are prettied in white or colored lights, and scarves and sweaters come out. And then there’s the holiday-themed sitcoms, snowflakes and Santas on cups and bags, garland-draped restaurant booths, and those horribly bad, but sometimes irresistible, Hallmark Christmas movies.
November through January = CELEBRATION. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Too much to eat, too much to drink, and that giddy feeling of “whee!” It may have nothing to do with Jesus, but isn’t happiness and love happiness and love, regardless?
I was asked by an ex, once, why I celebrated Christmas if I didn’t believe in God. I sensed annoyance in him at my “hypocrisy.” (Never mind that this Christian ex of mine, truly a nice, warm, and loving guy, had premarital sex and frequently enjoyed pornography. I’m not judging him – I’m just making a point.)
No one in my family had ever been religious, and the only time I’d ever gone to church was to attend a wedding or to accompany the in-laws while visiting over Christmas or Easter. Yet, we’d always celebrated Christmas. We even used an angel tree topper, but without believing in angels.
My answer to why I celebrate Christmas?
‘Cause I like it.
I like the extra boost of joy, the finding and wrapping and giving of presents (and, yes, the getting of presents – so?), the putting-up of Christmas decorations, the once-a-year special feeling that lasts for longer than a month. I like that most people, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, are in many countries feeling festive all at the same time for their own unique reasons, many of which center around a wintery family/friend gathering where food and fun will be had.
I don’t go to church on Christmas morning, my favorite Christmas songs are secular, and I don’t care whether Jesus was really born in the Spring or whether Christmas began as a pagan tradition. In the immortal words of Bill Murray, it just doesn’t matter. Whoever wants to celebrate Christmas–something we’ve all assigned our own meanings and traditions to over the years–should celebrate Christmas. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it or whether they’re doing it for the “right” reasons.
And I choose to believe that the Christians who celebrate Christmas because they want to recognize Christ’s existence are thrilled so many others are enjoying the season, too, whatever the reason. Who’s being hurt by it, after all?
(Note: “Happy Holidays” doesn’t mean what Fox News says it means. It really means, “I understand this is America, known for a long time as a religious melting pot thanks to our religious freedom and tolerance, and I know you might practice a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but some other religious winter holiday. So, happy whatever-it-is to you.” And screw you, Fox News, for pissing in the Christmas egg nog. But happy holidays to you, too. May you find some decency this year.)
I understand this time of year is of course the worst time for many people, some of whom are probably those who do what they can to limit other people’s enjoyment of it by questioning them, blasting them, and pooh-poohing the fun, and I feel genuinely bad for those people. It can’t be easy to feel so unhappy when so many around you are excessively and obnoxiously more upbeat than they are for most of the rest of the year and cheerful decorations mock your anger/pain/sadness on every block. I truly wish you could enjoy it. I mean it.