Well, kids, it's Christmas Gatekeeper season. It's that magical time of year when, if you sport so much as a single speck of glitter or put just one shiny ball on a tree, the Christmas Crackers come out in full force with their candy-cane batons ready to give you a very merry spanking. Why? Because you're a dirty atheist. A smug little heretic usurping their traditions and spitting in their festive hot chocolate. How dare you celebrate the season of giving, compassion and sharing, you good-for-nothing unbeliever! Don't you know the reason for the season is JESUS' LOVE?
It also happens to be a season I love. It's a holiday that matters to my family and me, and so, mommy posts a lot of Christmas memes during December (as if you hadn't noticed). That means mommy also gets a lot of triggered Christians in her comments:
"I find it ironic that someone so critical of Christianity celebrates Christmas."
"Why do you celebrate Christmas? You're an atheist!"
"If you're atheist, you shouldn't celebrate Christmas."
None of these people would be upset by a Buddhist joining in with the Christmas festivities. They certainly don't care when Jewish believers do. It's a criticism only atheists face because, really, they don't like that we're atheists doing anything. Our mere existence makes this sort of Christian angry. So, it doesn't matter what you tell them your reason for celebrating is; they're just going to continue hating on us until it goes out of style. Because Jesus' love, amirite?
But just for fun, we could go over the reasons why an atheist might celebrate Christmas, right? Here are six reasons I came up with; feel free to add your own in the comments:
It's a family tradition.
Some of us grew up erecting a tree in our living room in December. Some of us would miss the act of hanging stockings on the fireplace and having family over for a warm, cozy meal and good company. Many of us would feel a void without that in our lives. For me, not one Christmas in my entire life has had one thing to do with Jesus. I have celebrated Christmas every year since I was born, I've enjoyed it each year, and none of our traditions have to do with Jesus. I'm not going to give it up just because that's not how you celebrate it.
Christmas has become mostly cultural. Even in the religious homes that I have visited during the holidays over the years, Jesus barely ever comes up at Christmas. I would venture to guess that outside of pre-meal prayers, your Christmases are mostly lacking Jesus, too.
My kids would miss it.
My kids are growing up in a place where everyone celebrates cultural Christmas. Every house is decorated, every classroom and business on Main St. Every lamp post and every tree in the park has festive lights. Every kid looks forward to presents under the tree. There are Christmas events and Christmas parties and photos with Santa. I can't bring up my kids surrounded by that every year and deny them the same joy I got out of it all when I was a kid. Especially when everyone around us is celebrating cultural Christmas, too, and the folks who make the holiday about their faith are the minority.
It's not Christian, to begin with.
Most of the traditions you celebrate at Christmas were yoinked from the Pagans way back in the day. There isn't much about your holiday that is genuinely Christian outside of the name and your insistence. There are some bits of Saturnalia in there, a little Norse mythology, some Pagan winter solstice gift-giving. Hell, scholars and historians are even unconvinced Jesus was born in winter at all. Your Christmas is an amalgamation of other celebrations, a concoction of traditions, some of which have been banned by previous generations of Christ's followers. The way we celebrate Christmas today has very little origin in Christ. In fact, the very thing you accuse atheists of doing, assimilating your traditions into our lives, is what you're doing with rituals and practices from other belief systems. Why not be gracious like the Pagans, and enjoy the fact that so many can get pleasure out of something that matters to you?
I love giving.
Few things produce as much joy in me as putting a lot of thought into a gift for someone I care for deeply. In a gift, I love to show that I know them, that I listen and understand the things that matter to them. The look of shock on their faces as they come to the realization how much thought I put into the present they've just opened. Seeing that sheer pleasure on their faces is not just about how great the gift is, but also about realizing that someone truly loves them. Someone really cares. I don't always hit that mark, but I certainly try. I know I can do this at any point in the year. However, a whole morning devoted to scenes like this in the comfort of jammies and time off work? Not much compares.
It's about being together.
Christmas in 1991: I woke up in a tiny hotel room in Hong Kong. My brother and I didn't get many gifts. A few treats in a makeshift stocking, that's about it. Christmas morning lasted maybe a half an hour before we were packing up our bags and clearing out of the room, on our way to the airport. We boarded a Cathay Pacific plane to Bangkok. Arriving a couple of hours later, we hopped in a cab. We rode over an hour to our hotel in the city as we whizzed by nonstop and abject poverty. My mom, my dad, me and my brother arrived at our hotel. There was no turkey dinner or Christmas crackers. Instead, we grabbed a plate of fries from the diner across the street and played Marco Polo in the pool well into the night.
The following Christmas was celebrated on Plantation Island, Fiji. I couldn't tell you what I got that morning, but I can tell you, I had the time of my life with my family. I've had Christmas in Tahiti, Christmas in Hawaii, Christmas in Mexico and Thailand, and you don't lug around expensive gifts while you're on the road. None of us ever cared that there weren't many gifts under the tree. We had each other, we celebrated together and made memories I will never forget.
If you're a Christian upset that an atheist might be celebrating Christmas this year, I can only conclude that it is you who doesn't understand the spirit of the season.
Why do you celebrate Christmas? Let me know in the comments!