What do Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, and Humanists—FreeThinkers do to celebrate the Christmas season?by Don Lacey on Dec. 14, 2012, under Arizona Families, Art & Culture, Atheism, Atheist Humor, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Economics, Education, Ethics, Freethought Events, History, Reason, Religion, Separation of Church & State
For the most part, we celebrate Christmas. We decorate our houses; invite friends and family over, exchange gifts, and some travel to family gatherings. Celebrations this time of year can transcend the religious beliefs if we let them. Before Christianity claimed the season as its own, people worked hard at celebrating the season and there are a lot of reasons they did. Most of what I’m about to cover relates to the fact that we’re in the northern hemisphere of the planet There is more darkness this time of year. The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted away from the Sun and reaches its maximum at the winter solstice. Snow and cold takes over the land. Most of the trees appear to be dead. Some animals disappear into hibernation.
Before Christmas, there were pagan observations. In Babylon, there was the feast of the Son of Isis celebrated on December 25th. The Romans had Saturnalia followed by Dies Natalis Invicti Solus or the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Christmas caroling has its roots in the Roman celebrations. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. In northern Europe, Yule and the Sun god Mithras were celebrated. On the shortest day of the year, a fire was lit at sunset to encourage Mithras to reappear. Evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the deepest part of the winter to remind the inhabitants that life continues and brighter days are ahead. It wasn’t until the middle of the 4th century that Pope Julius I decided that Christ’s birth was to be celebrated on December 25th. The celebrations continued, seemingly for a new reason. The birth of the Christmas tree was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany.
The common thread through all of the discussion above is that this time of year can be depressing if there is not a celebration of some type to distract you from the misery. Some people say that the holidays are the worst time of the year. One web site suggests 25 ways to find joy and balance during the holidays.
Over at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly distracts himself from the holiday doldrums by creating a fictional “War on Christmas.” The bombastic commentator seems to enjoy mixing it up with David Silverman and the Atheists. To him saying “Happy Holidays” is a war cry and the only “correct” way to pass on season’s greetings is to include the word Christmas. As I’ve stated in a previous posting “Happy Holidays” is more inclusive but according to Bill O, not saying Christmas is part of the “Secular Progressive” agenda. Bill O’Reilly went as far as calling David Silverman a fascist in his last encounter. I’m sure that some people are entertained by such conflicts just as some people like to watch bottle rockets launched from butt cracks.
There are a variety of ways to celebrate the Christmas season that don’t involve religious activities. However, I do have nostalgic memories of my family’s traditions. In our home, Catholic mom took us to high mass while Atheist dad played Santa back at the house. Perhaps I’m better for that experience. This year it’s just the two of us and our surviving family members are scattered around the country. We’ll go out and look at the lights in Winter Haven, and watch a few themed television shows (A Christmas Story is my favorite). This year, as in the previous 4 years, we’ll have a few dozen folks over to the house. It will be an eclectic group of heathens and believers–all friends–to share a potluck dinner, roast marshmallows, sing Karaoke, and other activities.
If you’d like to gather with fellow non-believers for some raucous fun with Brother Sam Singleton, you can take in the Atheist Revival show at Laffs Comedy Café. The Tucson Atheists will be “Drinking Godlessly” again at the Red Garter at 6 PM on Thursday the 20th of December. There will be a variety of winter solstice parties around town. One will be at Black Crown Coffee Company and there will plenty of private gatherings.
The point is you don’t have to believe in Jesus to enjoy the Christmas season. I think Jon Stewart is going to eat Chinese food and go to the movies. Happy Holidays.