I really like the Christmas season. I know that some may view that, because I’m an atheist, as being unusual. But, really, I enjoy the season. Yes, we decorate the house, inside and outside, as well as do things like making “Christmas cookies” – sugar cookies, cut in holiday shapes, and decorated. Some atheists I know think that’s a waste of time or even that somehow, as an atheist, I’m actually giving credence to the myth of Jesus’ birth. I’m not.
As I tell those atheists I know: It’s a holiday! Celebrate it as you will, or not, but recognize, most people do. How does placing a tree or lights on your house defer to anything Christian? It doesn’t as the first Christians, until the 18th century, mostly didn’t celebrate the holiday individually. Sure, they would go to some church service, but that was the end of it. In fact, in the US, Christmas wasn’t a Federal holiday until 1870. Even then, it wasn’t what it has become today, or even when I was a child. Yes, it’s commercial. It’s all about buying the next great thing for that loved one. So what?
I recently read a story that the Wisconsin State Legislature passed a resolution renaming their official tree for the season back from a “Holiday Tree” to a Christmas Tree. As an atheist I was outraged (nope). It had only been designated recently in the former and those representatives of the people of that state thought otherwise. So now, Wisconsin has a Christmas tree. Of course the FFRF was outraged and made a public statement (which no one paid any attention to) that it was somehow a church/state violation and of course, being who they are, it wasn’t inclusive of those that weren’t Christians. I laughed. Yes, it’s true, I’m an atheist, but I look at some of the idiocy concerning religion that comes out of some of these organizations and just shake my head. Is this really that important? Does this actually rise to a violation of the US Constitution?
I did a little research, looking into the New Testament to see if in either Matthew or Luke, which describe, differently, the birth of Jesus, whether or not there was some sort of fir tree mentioned or if either author spoke about twinkling LED lights on homes or businesses. Not a single mention of any of that. Yes, we all know that the appropriation of the tree is actually recent, in Christian history. Supposedly, it was that infamous heretic Martin Luthor that placed candles on branches of a tree. Hopefully this was not done in anyone’s home.Of course, the English Puritans were offended by anything like that and therefore, a decorated tree really didn’t become common, at least in the US until well after Congress designated December 25th as Christmas. My parents, both born in the 1920’s never had a tree in either home as they were growing up.
I do have one Christian decoration: it’s a manger scene, passed down from my mother. It was passed to her from her mother and it’s over a hundred years old. Why do I display it? It’s a beautiful hand-crafted work of art. It’s very fragile, every piece made of glass that was hand painted. I don’t think i could afford, today, to buy anything like it.
Why do we have a Federal holiday, designated by Congress as I mentioned, known as Christmas if it’s such an offense to so many? Should we also be looking at other religious traditions as well? Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. Look: those that don’t wish to celebrate the holiday are not forced to do so. In fact, you get paid to sit at home that day (well, maybe not everyone) and do whatever the heck you want to do! I’m not forced to celebrate Christmas nor am I forced to even recognize it: I choose to do so. In my home, it is a time for family and (sometimes) friends and has nothing to do with any religious observance. How may I put this more succinctly? It’s a fun time.
I’m not here advocating for a “Christian Holiday”, as it clearly isn’t just that or only Christian believers would take the day off from work or celebrate, in their own way, the season. If having “Christmas” is so offensive then maybe Congress should have undesignated the day as it does, legitimately , recognize a certain religious belief. I wonder how many votes that legislation would receive, from either Democrats or Republicans? The better question would be how many want to be reelected in the next voting cycle?
Call the season what you will. It may be “Yule”, “Saturnalia” or “Christmas”. Say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” as you like. Just enjoy the season with those you care about.