Merry Christmas everyone. Or Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Kwanza. If it was occurring this time of year – it very seldom is – I’d wish you a pleasant Ramadan. Certainly, have a fine Solstice or Saturnalia. Festivus for the rest of us for those Seinfeld fans (I don’t worship at that particular altar). I’m sure I’ve left some out. There are just so many religions; it’s hard for an atheist to keep track.
But I send each and every one of you Seasons’ Greetings – for whatever it means to you. That, after all, is the nature of communication. I send a message – containing what is meaningful to me – and you receive it and place your interpretation on it.
Some might say this is a war on Christmas. Which is to say, a war on exclusiveness. A war on imposing your particular religious views on everyone around you. Which, if you are an evangelical whatever, is exactly what your religion requires of you. I say whatever, because proselytization is not simply a Christian thing.
Anyway, all I’m really trying to say is that I grok this Christmas thing. Or things. It is, after all, a very amorphous event. Celebrated at solstice (or damn close to it) despite the fact the birth being celebrated was almost certainly a spring one (shepherds in their fields or big clue: Lamb of God; lambs being born in the spring). There was a lot of competition with other holidays and if you weren’t doing the solstice thing, you weren’t doing it right. I often wonder what would have happened if all these religions had been born at the equator where the solstice is just another day.
Then, of course, there are all those northern European tie-ins. Christmas trees and lights – bringing nature indoors, which by the way is specifically condemned in the Bible. And of course Santa Claus, who has as much to do with Krampus as Saint Nicholas (‘he knows if you’ve been bad or good’ is kind of a threat of punishment, isn’t it?).
For those who think Christmas has become too commercial – that part is in the Bible. Those three wise guys didn’t exactly stint on the birthday gifts. Gold and incense is kind of neat but myrrh? Wasn’t that used in embalming? Well, I guess they knew what was coming; they were Magi after all (which is just a fancy word for magician or fortune-teller).
But none of it really matters. I like it when people wish me Merry Christmas and I like to wish it back at them. Because what they are really wishing me is peace, joy and happiness. What they are hoping for is a new beginning better than the last messed up year. Why would anyone object to that? Sure a few cranky curmudgeons might get their knickers in a knot and proclaim their atheism from the mountaintop but who cares? They are no more fun than those supersensitive church goers who find offence at everything.
So Merry Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate. And if you don’t celebrate anything? I wish you well, my friend, I wish you well.
And that’s ten minutes (which is taking a few days off for Christmas).