03 December 2008

Yes, I hate Santa Claus, too.

It's Christmastime in the U.S., which means that all the wingnuts are out in force. Oops. I'm sorry, wingnuts is not PC. I'm going to be open and honest right from the beginning of this post, so that you don't think I have some ulterior motive or hidden agenda or anything. I hate Christmas. And when I use the word hate, I really, truly mean hate. This is, by far, my least favorite time of year. I hate the stress, the commercialism, the materialism, and, yes, the blatant, in your face religiousity that I am forced to live with for 6-8 weeks. All the same, I still find myself celebrating it, if only for one more year.

My family, just about as unreligious as they come, has always celebrated a traditional, secular Christmas holiday, complete with tree, lights, garland, and presents. The extended family joins us and we give each other meaningless gifts that we all pretend to like and then immediately discard or hide in the back of the closet. We all rush around in a grumpy haze trying to bake and shop and decorate and remain cheerful all the time. And when it's all over, we breathe a huge sigh of relief and remind ourselves to start sooner and be more organized next year so that it isn't as stressful and we can actually enjoy the season. So, there you have it, that's the reason this particular atheist celebrates Christmas.

And every year some where in this grand U.S. of A. there is a heated debate between the Christians and the atheists about the Christmas parapharnalia. Should there be a Christmas Tree at school? A nativity scene at the town hall? The singing of Christmas Carols at the Selectboard Meeting? Ok, so I've never heard of any controversy surrounding that last one, but I'm sure it has happened somewhere. If not, someone write it down and use it next year. Considering how much I love the holiday, I'm sure you're not surprised to read that I would just as soon have all these decorations disappear from all the public spaces. Similarly, I'd love to have all the retail stores stop playing those disgusting, sappy, overly reworked Christmas songs. I don't care if you're Elvis or The Chipmunks, I don't want to hear one more word about what Santa and Mommy were getting up to under the mistletoe last night.

Except, as an atheist, I'm in the minority in this country (as I'm constantly reminded) and I don't get to have an opinion about the matter. I'm not allowed to be bothered by the fact that my local, state, or federal government is celebrating one religious holiday, complete with all the corresponding religious whatnot, to the near exclusion of all other religions. I'm simply not allowed to think that, or believe that, or say that. Because if I do, then I'm just being petty and I'm shoving my beliefs in your face. Which makes me a hypocrite, because that's the very thing about which I'm complaining (having your beliefs shoved in my face.)

Truly, I think there are a lot of arguments that can be made. Many, if not most, aspects of Christmas have become completely secular. The tree, the songs, Santa Claus; all those things are basically without religious meaning. So, it's difficult to argue for their removal from public space based on the whole separation of church and state bit. And, I can admit that the forced inclusion of atheist beliefs in the Christmas holiday celebrations is a bit of an....oddity. Really, atheists are marked by their non-belief in all the hoo-ha. The (forced) inclusion of a negative belief is something of an insult to those who believe.

But, here's my question to those who celebrate Christmas for it's religious meaning and think that it is imperative that religious symbols be present in all public spaces, including government space, during this holiday season: what are you celebrating, and why does that celebration require the display of your religious symbols in my public space? Please, with honesty and sincerity, explain what it is you are celebrating during this Christmas season. Is it the birth of Christ, whom you consider your savior? Is it goodwill toward man(kind)? Is it just a warm and fuzzy feeling? Or are you just following along with tradition and reveling in the rampant materialism that happens?

Now that you know what you're celebrating, please explain to me why it is necessary to have the trappings of your celebration displayed in my public space? If you're truly celebrating the religious aspect of Christmas, then I think I can safely assume you have all the religious symbols displayed in your home, where you can see them daily. I would imagine all those same religious symbols are displayed at your chosen house of worship, where you can see them weekly, daily, or as often as you like. If this is all true, why then is it necessary to have all these same symbols displayed in my public space? Is it detrimental to your celebration to be out of sight of these symbols for even a few moments? If it is not, then what is the purpose of demanding they be displayed on public property? Would it not be kinder, more tolerant, more understanding, more accepting and non-judgemental to simply leave the public space as it is for the rest of the year? We certainly have enough government supported nods to religion throughout the rest of the year, do we really need the added religiousity during Christmas? I'd like to think no.

And, yes, I hate Santa Claus, too. I hope the dog bites that sneaky little, chimney sliding, animal enslaving, height discriminating bastard this year.


michele said...

Um, Peacefully, I really must object to your use of the word "wingnut". I think the more correct term would be "fruitcake". AHAHAHAHAAHAHA!

Stark Raving Zen said...

Rude Kristy has found her soulmate! She likey Rude Peacefully!!

Stargirl said...

Technically, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Nevermind that it is the wrong date, or that not everyone believes it is true. It is the date that was chosen for the celebration. In full disclosure mode, I am a Christian, but I have no desire to force my beliefs on anybody. I'll SHARE my beliefs if anyone is interested in hearing what they are, but I strongly disagree with forcing it on people. That said, I am getting tired of people taking advantage, INHO, of our 'politically correct' mindset these days that encourages anyone to file a protest to anything that remotely offends them. I agree that Christmas, the public holiday, has become commercialized and secular. I think that a lot of people put up symbols that have a truly religious meaning because it is 'traditional'--without really understanding that there is a religious meaning behind it. I think that a lot of people like to see a manger scene, for example, because it is 'traditional', not because it really represents their own personal beliefs. I don't know what the answer is, Peacefully. You can't please everybody. I would hate to live in a world where you couldn't have any kind of public display or celebration because of the fear of offending someone.

Cavewoman said...

Stargirl, the trouble is that, while we currently celebrate "christmas" during this time of year, the origins of celebrations at the Winter Solstice go back much farther than Christianity. There have almost always been cultural celebrations at Winter Solstice simply because of the time of year. The Christian Church laid claim to the celebration in an effort to appease Pagans and gain converts.

It's not that I want all public, ie displays that are visible to the general public, done away with. I simply don't want to see them at the Town Hall, the local public school building, etc. I realize that it is tradition, but what's wrong with tweaking tradition?

Furthermore, I think it would be a really good public discussion topic to explore what symbols we use for Christmas, why we use them, and whether they are appropriate for public, ie in town halls and schools, display.

Stargirl said...

You are certainly right about the church appropriating the Winter Solstice celebrations, Cavewoman. Guess they started the 'tweaking' of traditions, huh? I think it would be a great idea to have that kind of public discussion. Unfortunately, the lunatic fringe on both sides would probably turn any attempt into a shouting match. I think that part of the problem is that we try to make Christmas (and Easter too, for that matter) both a secular AND a religious celebration, and we don't know where the lines should be drawn. I am afraid that there are some that WOULD like to see all public displays banned--again, often just because the climate of today encourages that kind of 'in your face' hostility. I heard once about the idea that schools should stop having Easter egg hunts--they should be Spring egg hunts. I just can't believe that calling it an Easter egg hunt is an official, ram-it-down-your-throat, support of religion. But perhaps I can't see it from that perspective. Does it make you feel that way?

Stark Raving Zen said...

You know, I'm more of a Buddhist than anything, though I am the first to admit I don't deserve the title of Buddhist. I am certainly not Christian, though I was baptised Catholic. I don't celebrate Christmas. I like the music though. And I might put a few, dog proof pretty things around the house during the season. To me, it's a way to burn through one of the horrible months of a MN winter, with plenty of distractions. I like the spirit of giving for this one month, though I completely understand it's just a manifestation of commercialism, horribly metastisized. For every other holiday- VDay, Halloween, Mother & Father's days, "The Sweetest Day" (give me an f'ing break) are so commercially manipulative it's beyond offensive. To me, holidays aren't worth getting heated up over. There are plenty of "burner subjects" for me as it is... I can understand your frustration though, Peacefully. There's so much pressure this time of year. It's oppressive sometimes.

Cavewoman said...

Stargirl, I think you're right, the problem is that we can't seem to separate the secular celebration from the religious celebration. Personally, I'm trying to figure out how I feel about Christmas Trees. There is nothing inherently religious about the christmas tree, so I have to decide if the mere fact that it is hitched to a religious holiday is enough to drive me away from that symbol. I don't think it is. I love a very simple tree.

The other thing I hate, though, is changing the name of the celebration so that it is PC. Calling it a holiday tree, or a spring egg hunt doesn't change the symbol or the celebration.

I know that the fringe element would likely turn any discussion into a screaming match, but I refuse to allow the fringe element to dictate what I can and cannot discuss. I am very capable of ignoring the fringe element. And I've had many discussions where the fringe screamed right along side the rest of us, and we were able to stay on topic.

Ron said...

I appreciate this post. It is really good to have people thinking about the holidays rather than just playing along all the time.
Truly Christmas is a mish mash. There is very little Christianity in it - and was roundly rejected (continues to be so) by many fundamentalist groups. It isn't biblical in any way. Even the story of Christ's birth is told in at least 3 very different ways in the Bible.
No fewer than 12 other religious traditions have been pasted over in the Christian attempt to hijack the solstice holidays.

Rather than disliking any of this - it is WHY I like it. For once, an obvious symphony of myths come together to form something we all have reason to celebrate: the tilt of the Earth's axis. Being diurnal animals that thrive when things are green and growing - it is the first day of the natural year. The (re)birth of the sun. That people were aware of this thousands of years ago, yet fight over it in the aisles of Walmart today, does not bode well for the progress of knowledge... but that's what you get with rabid integration of multiple cultures.

This I love.

I also love Bacchus/Odin/Yahweh (plus the two or three other deities that comprise Santa) in the flesh on street corners. Reminding us to support each other through the least supportive days in the natural calendar.

When anyone believes that "technically, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ" - there is something being missed. The origins of Christ, for one - who shares a nearly identical biography with a dozen preceding characters in myths that are rarely ever followed with devotion today - and have been deliberately buried by the churches who infringed on 'their copywrite' as it were. It is deeply ironic that Christians would take offense at the idea of someone 'making off with their holiday'. Nearly everything about Christianity is stolen from previous beliefs. To the letter. I don't say this out of any malice, and I have real sympathy for 'true believers'. It is desperately hard to detach from a belief that you were raised with, or which saw you through difficult times in your life. The bottom line always being that people are afraid of dying. Who can't relate to that - on a surface level, at least?

Anyway - I'm happy to celebrate what I've come to clarify as Secular Christmas - and I'm eager to learn more about it all the time. There is a origin to be understood about Easter - but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

r from the fa