Secular Christmas: much worse than ogres

December 15, 2011

Christmas is confusing for me. I mean look, on the one hand, I really enjoy the holiday season. I like the lights, the smells, the food, the good will and good cheer, even the snow. I have magical memories of Christmas' celebrated through childhood. The tree, the cookies, the reindeer, damn it all I grew up doing that stuff and I want to my son to have similar warm glowing memories. Now that I've reproduced the magic of the holidays is back in full force with a knife to my throat muttering, "and we will have FUN, or else."

On the other hand, the whole "reason for the season" thing ie, tiny little (probably not born in December) Jesus, is not part of my personal strawberry jam. Is it disingenuous if I still choose to celebrate Christmas with my family, knowing full well that I don't give two craps about that other part that we're just going to gloss over here yes quickly moving on? I don't just mean 'celebrating Christmas' in some sort of vague way, either, I mean belting out "Away in a Manger" without guilt or shame, because I LIKE THAT SONG even the Jesus parts. And we have a nativity! Sure, it may be populated by squids, but it's under our tree all the same. Do my ambiguous feelings about it even really matter, since I've happily spent the last 28 years enjoying myself some deliciously warm and fuzzy Secular Christmas?


Squidtivity. This exists.

Yes, the dreaded Secular Christmas. Is such a thing possible? Inarguably so. It's alarming easy to slice and dice Christmas to leave behind the religious trappings, a fact which horrifies some and eases the conflicted lives of others. More importantly– is such a thing acceptable in a society where atheists and rapists are nearly equally distrusted? It's one thing to do Santa with your kids and throw in your obligatory once-a-year church visit, quite another to announce you're skipping the 'our Fathers' on purpose.

As I get older I feel less and less miffed about the whole thing. Live and let live! I'm so glad that works for you and brings you peace. Now I'mma do my own thing. We cool? We cool. I can see from others perspectives and accept that different beliefs work for them, they don't necessarily need to work for me– the trick is hoping they can do the same in return. People aren't always comfortable enough with themselves to let that happen, but for the most part I don't associate with jerks so it's not an issue.

Still though, the holiday season is one of those times when this delicate dance can become infinitely more complex because we all celebrate in visible ways that push our differences further to the forefront than they are at most other times of the year. Modern commercialism is partly to blame for thrusting SANTA GIFTS CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS into our faces every three seconds in an effort to promote buying more things. Who likes this? No one. Can we all agree that buying stuff is not the end-goal? I mean gifts are nice, but it's not really what it's all about. Agreed? Fist bumps.

Rather than nitpick about the differences between the way we celebrate it would be more beneficial to focus on the things that most of us can agree on. Christmas does have some universal ideals– love, family, giving, the vast untapped potential goodness of humanity. Seeing strangers perform random acts of kindness around the holidays warms up my soul down to the little bitty parts I thought I'd forgotten. That's what it's all about. That brand of selfless spirit is pure magic no matter who/what inspires it. Giving. Helping. Caring. In my mind that's the redeeming value that Christmas has to offer even the most stringently secular among us. Secular Christmas is certainly not the same as religious Christmas, but it isn't all bad either. Perhaps we can find unity once a year in not being jerks. Probably not, but you know, good effort team. Annnnnnnd, break!


How does your family celebrate the holidays? And just for fun, what's the first thing you think of when you think 'Christmas?'

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