Monday, October 1, 2007

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas... oh my!

October 1st put me in mind of the next three months and the next three holidays. I love Holidays. My Mother was really good at decorating the house for different holidays throughout the year, which gave every month its own atmosphere and flavor. It’s a tradition that I’ve been lazy in continuing. Last year was the first year I managed to get the house decorated inside and out for Christmas, mainly because we had relatives visiting, so there was a driving need to make it festive. Without intending to, my house actually looked more Gay Pride than Christmas.

My slide into disbelief started somewhere in 2005-2006 but, looking through my livejournal, I didn’t become a full atheist until this year. This will be my first Atheist Christmas. Which leads me to, how do I, as an Atheist, celebrate holidays?
Do I need to be anti-holiday? Am I anti-religion or am I anti-dogma? Do I distain all religions equally or do I have a particular anti-Christian bent. What is my “hidden” agenda?

I have to admit to having anti-Christian feelings, particularly towards the Right-Wing “Moral Majority”. Did you ever hear the saying “the worst non-smokers are ex-smokers”? Having once been a Focus on the Family, Rush Limbaugh, Left Behind, Christian-jargon spewing zombie myself, I feel particular venom for those groups. Like Charlton Heston yelling, “Soylent Green is people”, I want to run through churches screaming, “It’s all a lie, the Jesus you’re worshiping never existed!”

That’s how I feel. But that’s also, I believe, not the appropriate way to do things. No one would listen. And I don’t want to just go from Christian-jargon spewing to Atheist-jargon spewing, even though my instinct is to do just that. I listen to a lot of podcasts about Humanism, Science, Atheism, and Skepticism. I admire many people on these podcasts; the ones who make me realize I’m reacting in an emotional way instead of a rational way. While I may want them to just tell me what to do, I would be an utter failure of a fan if I didn’t, at least, get that I need to think for myself. Think rationally not emotionally.

Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. When I think about these holidays, the things I most enjoy are the decorations. They’re fun. And with little to no effort they are, or can be, secular. Saint Patrick’s Day for most of us is about green everything, pretending your Irish, and drinking beer. We pretty much ignore the meaning of the word “saint” and I don’t think anyone really cares if someone named Patrick ever actually drove all the snakes from Ireland or not. Decorating with leprechauns for St. Pat’s or ghouls on Halloween isn’t taken by anyone as my believing in them. Anyone I care about anyway.

So if I decorate my house for Christmas, put up a tree, even put out on the coffee table the nativity scene my husband brought from Belgium, am I selling out to the Christians? My tree is decorated with Santas, Elves, Reindeer, Snowmen, and Angels; all fictional creatures. And whether that nativity was originally the story of Mithras or Osiris, does the fact that to most it’s now the story of Jesus really matter? Why should I be offended by one fictional symbol and not by any other just because many people don’t realize its fiction?

Putting energy into fighting the breakdown between Church and State because it’s interfering with Science, Medicine, individual rights, etc, is a worthy cause. Extending that energy to worrying about holiday decorations? Or bending over backwards to differentiate between my neighbor’s religious Christmas decorations and my secular Christmas decorations? I think could be time better spent enjoying the lights.


The Exterminator said...

Nicely put, Eno. I wish you had saved this post for closer to the holiday season, because it makes a good point. There's no reason why atheists can't put up decorations and eat ourselves sick on sweets just because we don't believe in the Christian interpretation of a universal celebration. Hell, I don't believe in elves -- but I eat Keebler cookies now and then.

I have a close group of friends, most of whom are atheists, and we had a great Winter Solstice party last year. It was probably exactly like a zillion Christmas parties that were being held at the same time throughout the country. Some of these same friends exchange gifts every year with my wife and me, and we get together on the 25th for a pig-out feast which we refer to as -- tada! -- Christmas dinner.

So you can be perfectly true to your atheism and still have plenty of old-fashioned seasonal fun. I, for instance, love traditional Christmas carols. Around December 10, I dig the electric keyboard out from the back of a closet, grab a few sheet music collections, pour myself a tall glass of spiked eggnog, and sing through dozens of those tunes, adding inappropriate electronic rhythms to each. I'm not sure my neighbors enjoy hearing "Good King Wenceslaus" with a swing beat, "We Three Kings" as a samba, and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" in reggae style, but I have a great time. And my wife pretends to.

As an atheist, the only thing that gets me annoyed during the holidays is when vapidly grinning strangers wish me "Merry Christmas." I usually smile back and say, "thanks, but I'm not Christian."

John Evo-Mid said...

I'll keep this short...

It's a subject I could go on and on about.

This would be my 36th Atheist Christmas. I love Christmas! What a NICE holiday. Everyone ACTING charitable towards others. Good food everywhere. Good drinks too. Presents! I love giving presents. I love the happiness I see in the eyes of children. So, I treat it the same way the Christians do. Celebrate it for a day and go back to being a dick.

EnoNomi said...

John Evo-Mid -

Oh, man, I totally should have gone with that angle. I have much to learn as a blogger.