I'm a Military Blogger


Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Atheist Christmas

I hate Christmas. I really do. I hate it yet I love it, and I hate that I love it.

A blog follower of mine asked me the other day if I celebrated Christmas because I was an atheist. It's a fair question, one that a lot of people have asked me and other atheists over the years. In fact, when I first started to lose my religion, not celebrating Christmas didn't even cross my mind. I mean come on, CHRISTMAS? Who the hell doesn't celebrate Christmas (aside from Jews, Muslims, some Wiccans/Pagans, Jehovah's witnesses, Hindus...well nevermind).

I grew up celebrating Christmas. Not celebrating it was pretty much social suicide. I had a Jewish friend in elementary school and she celebrated Hannukah AND Christmas. Everyone celebrated Christmas, end of story.

Last year, right after arriving in San Diego, I couldn't find our Christmas tree. I was horribly depressed, because I always get into holidays with gusto. I sat down and was talking to DH one day about how we didn't have a Christmas tree and you can't have Christmas without a tree.

DH looked at me and I will never forget what he said:

"Why the fuck do we need a tree? Like what, we have to prove to everyone that we're normal by sticking a giant evergreen in the window? You think poor kids have trees? You think I grew up with a fucking Christmas tree, while living in a sinking house?"

I responded to him with "'s tradition"

"It might be tradition, but it's crass consumerism gone rampant. It's capitalism on crack! Corporate conglomerates want you to celebrate Christmas because they want you to buy a ton of shit you can't afford. They want you to put trees in your window so that you feel like you're part of the capitalist society, running around spending money."

(if you can't tell, my husband is very pessimistic about the evils of  materialism. It's one of the only things he kept with him after experimenting with marijuana-laced Buddhism in High School).

I called him a grinch and went out to buy a new tree. When I got to Target I walked inside to the Christmas tree display, but could barely get there. The store was like downtown Baghdad: mass carnage and fighting. People were practically lying in the aisles, overwhelmed with the "reason for the season". As I checked the price on a little 4-foot plastic evergreen a lady behind me asked me if I was going to buy it.

"Um, I don't know yet."

"Well good, I'll take it. You can't have Christmas without a tree."

OMG!! Hadn't I just said that? I was looking at a mirror of myself in all those Target shoppers, and it was horrifying.

I walked out of the store, past a Salvation Army bell ringer, and back to my truck. I noticed a sticker on the Carolla parked next to it: "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." I remembered back to my childhood, when we used to go to church on Christmas Eve. Was Jesus the reason for those seasons too? No. Jesus was an afterthought. Jesus was a way for me to not feel guilty about being spoiled the next day. And it was exactly that kind of religious "buffet" that had previously caused me to start questioning my beliefs in the first place.

I drove home thinking about Christmas. Was it Christian? Not was plagiarized from old Norse, Pagan, and Roman winter celebrations. Soltice, Yule, Saternalia, etc.

Was it secular? I guess....but is it really the kind of secularism I want to be attached to? Do I want to be associated with secularism in the form of greed, want, wastefulness? Not really. Why was I even drawn to Christmas? Was it because it was just something everyone did? Pretty much.

Christmas last year was...strange. There wasn't a tree, there weren't presents. We went back to Utah to see family and have dinner, and smuggle some homemade beer across state lines. At first it really, really bothered me that I didn't decorate. I would wake up in the morning and have the urge to run back to Target and join the mob, buy a tree, buy everything else in the store, wrap it in paper and get fucked up on egg nog. But when I look back on last year's Christmas it was nice. No pressure to buy gifts, or bake, or get really into things.

When November started to approach this year, I got such a feeling of dread. Oh no, not another holiday season. I can't go another holiday season like this, fighting the urge to go Christmas crazy while simultaneously feeling guilty, left out and akward. The truth is, being an atheist at Christmas is sometimes akward. If you celebrate Christmas, people want to know why. Are you trying to hijack their holiday? If you don't celebrate Christmas people want to know why. Are you a Jew? You really can't win. have your own holiday. AHA! Genius!! I'll make my own holiday. Then I can participate in the SEASON without participating in the holiday. Well, maybe I'll adopt a holiday that more lines up with my ideals. Solstice? Eh, that's kind of Pagan. I guess one could celebrate it purely as an astronomical and seasonal day, but it still. Kwanzaa? WTF is Kwanzaa? St. Nicholas day? Hannukah?

What about that Seinfeild episode with the stripper pole and the bagels? What was that holiday called? Festivus? A Festivus for the rest of us!!

The more I think about it, Festivus really is the perfect holiday for my husband and I. It gives me the chance to be part of the season that I so love, and send out festivus cards. It also gives my husband the chance to "stick it to the man" by putting a giant phallic, man-centered metal pole in the living room. It allows him to boycott consumerism (that is, after all, one of the main purposes of festivus), and allows me to still create some sort of family tradition.

For the first time since last Christmas, my spirit is renewed with the prospect of celebrating a holiday that is not only hilarious, but unique (since we all know I have a serious problem with acting normal). I can't wait until December 23!!

Festivus, yes! Bagels, no!!


AF wifey said...

LOVE it!! Thanks for this post! I dont think we are doing "christmas" but I do want to decorate for the "holidays". SO I went with turquoise and silver... no not blue because I am not jewish. But I am using things that say "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas". I like thanksgiving and new years! :)

Ashley M. said...

We still celebrate it because damnit, gifts are awesome. But we try to keep it religious free as much as possible. The rest of the holidays that guilt you into buying something (besides Halloween) can go screw themselves though.

liberal army wife said...

I remember celebrating Xmas in German with my grandparents. YOu want a fun Xmas? do it in Germany or England. There are some things I love about it- the food! Mjnce Pies!! and then the decorating, I just love it, it's a comfort thing, like a chocolate anything, or baked ziti with LOTS of cheese. The whole religious thing? nah. I'm agnostic. Husband loves the Festivus idea.. I used to send festivus stuff in his care packages. We haven't done any decorating in the past few years... but I think we might do it this year. We are in the type of house that lends itself to dressing up this year. We get our granddaughter presents, because its an excuse to buy fun toys for her!

Yeah, we're weak about it.. but enjoy finding gifts for people all year!


Mandy said...

I just wanted to let you know I added your button to my blog :)

Jessa (bipolararmywife) said...

I've been told not to say Christmas because I'm atheist. Bah-humbug to that person. I put up a tree, which has not a thing to do with Christianity that I can think of, and I put up strings of lights and I enjoy them! I love the beauty of all these things. They make my home warm and bright even if they aren't put with Christian intention. I even send Christmas cards. I love giving people presents. :) Last year I think I said "Happy Fesitholihankus" Or something like that. LOL