I have a distant family member who’s on Facebook, but I deliberately didn’t “friend” him. I decided to not “friend” him after I saw one of the Facebook groups he belongs to, “Keep the CHRIST in Christmas.”
There are a lot of Christians whom I love; most of them are Catholic, including most of the maternal side of my family, and my live-in boyfriend. If it’s important to you to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th, I encourage you to do so. But Christmas means different things to different people.
I was an only child in a nuclear family until my parents separated when I was 19. My mother is a classic Maltese Catholic, and my father was born into the Church of England but became a passionate atheist before he met my mother. The different attitudes my parents had toward religion didn’t cause the breakup of their marriage, but the cultural differences between the two sides of my family made for interesting situations growing up. Being half-English, half-Maltese isn’t for the fainthearted, folks!
Anyway, I could’ve been baptized into the Catholic Church, but my father put a stop to that. While having a Catholic mother, I was raised as an atheist.
I remember when I was in Grade Five (fifth grade to you ‘mericans!) we had a special Social Studies project for December. We were to create individual presentations to show the rest of the class how our families celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or other December-ish holidays.
I had a very ethnically diverse class, but still, more than half of the kids celebrated Christmas. All of the other kids who celebrated Christmas incorporated Christianity into their presentations. I couldn’t really do that, so my presentation was themed “A Victorian Christmas,” a secular project featuring the traditions my paternal great-grandparents would have had.
Well, the other kids ganged up on me, as they usually did, because I was a severely bullied and ostracized eleven-year-old. The Christian kids, the Jewish kids, the Muslim kids, and the Hindu kids all angrily told me that I have no right to celebrate Christmas if I’m not Christian. My teacher didn’t even defend me. I cried.
Anyone has the right to celebrate Christmas if they want to, Christian or not. My Jewish stepfather is celebrating Hanukkah, but as he’s married to my mother, he’ll be celebrating Christmas, too. And he enjoys it!
There are lots of Christmas traditions that have no link to Christianity, or a very weak link at best. Nothing in the Bible says, “On December 25th, you must have a dead pine tree in your living room, with gift-wrapped presents underneath, waiting for others, purchased from the mall.”
My Druid half-sister and anthropologists alike know that our celebration of Christmas has pagan origins. Years before Christianity spread to northern Europe, my paternal ancestors celebrated Yule to mark the birth of Mithras, the Sun God, around the time of the winter solstice. Northern hemisphere cultures around the world have parties around the darkest time of year, because abbreviated daylight hours could (and can) be damn depressing, especially before Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb.
A lot of prominent Christian scholars don’t believe that Jesus was born on December 25th, or the equivalent day of the pre-Georgian calendar. When Christianity spread to northern Europe hundreds of years ago, Wicca had to be demonized in order to encourage peasants to join the Church. Wiccans worship hooved animals with antlers. So, depictions of Satan began to feature hooves and horns. Yule was an excellent idea for cheering people up, so they made that the day of Jesus’ birth.
Christmas trees aren’t rooted in Christianity. St. Nicholas was the inspiration for modern-day Santa Claus, but he didn’t live at the North Pole with elves and eight tiny reindeer.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus lived, although tales about him in the Bible are obviously greatly exaggerated. He was a great Jew, and inspired the first Christians to create a religion to copycat Judaism.
My preferred label varies depending on my mood. When I’m in a good mood, I’m agnostic, because I don’t feel I can completely rule out the possibility that there are higher powers. But when I see stuff like the Facebook “Keep CHRIST in Christmas” group, I’m as passionate about atheism as my dear old father. If my settling down with a Catholic won’t convert me to Christianity, nothing will.
Many of my fondest memories as a child were of celebrating Christmas. I love giving gifts, and receiving them, too. I enjoy spending time with my family, sometimes. I do love impressing people with how well I know their taste.
Have a Merry Christmas, whether you’re Christian or not. Have a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year!Powered by Sidelines