Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goodbye Christmas and good riddance

As a child, warmed by the glow of the fire, a pile of presents left by a magical fat man seemed like the closest thing I could experience to heaven. Then, when I was eight or nine, I figured out that Santa wasn't real. I'm sure it was depressing, but at least it made sense. How could one dude go to every single house in the world in one night? What about all the starving kids in Africa? Did they get piles of presents too? No, they got to continue starving on December 25th just like the day before. Still, I got presents, so it was pretty sweet.

Now I'm a grown man. I have a job, a house, responsibilities, and I'm an atheist. Does Christmas evoke the same feelings? No. Not even slightly. Christmas has become a joke to me, a sad joke, that very few people seem to get. "Jesus' birthday" is just the beginning. I learned young that Christmas wasn't really Jesus' birthday because my parents didn't feel the need to lie to me about that my whole life. In high school I did enough reading to know that Christmas had more to do with the winter solstice than most people thought. In college, in world religions class, I learned that Christmas had more to do with pagan traditions than Christian ones. And, as an adult atheist, I now see the joke that Christmas has become.

Christians don't know or won't admit that their precious holiday really has nothing to do with Christ. They also don't tend to know that Christmas wasn't a national holiday till 1870. They don't know that Christ wasn't born on December 25th or that there were no three wise men. They don't know that the tree, yule log, and mistletoe are all pagan traditions. Simply, they are as ignorant about this holiday as they tend to be about their own religion. I don't know why that's surprising, but it still is at times.

Then there's Santa. Or should I say Sinterklaas? Or Saint Nicholas? A magic fat man with a reindeer with a glowing nose? These are ideas that are modern, not ancient, but all this is a shock and somehow insulting to most that I mention this to. We are adults, we know there's no Santa, that he is just a creation for children, yet so many people I talk to fight learning more about this magic fat man's past. I'm "ruining the magic" or whatever.

Well, there's no Santa, December 25th isn't Jesus' birthday, and the holiday magic which, to me, is little more than ugly consumerism, does not impress. Now that I sound like a curmudgeon, I'll try to explain.

When I want to buy someone a gift, I do so with no expectation of a return gift. Generosity is good for generosity's sake; that's kind of the point, isn't it? I don't want to buy someone stuff for the sake of buying them stuff, I want to give the something they either want or I think they will love. One of the best gifts I ever got anyone was a key to my house for my then girlfriend; small and inexpensive and the best gift she got that year.

When I want to be together with my family, I want to be together with my family. Something as simple as a dinner at their home is enough. If you are someone I want to spend time with, I don't wait until a holiday to do so. Only visiting on holidays smacks of responsibility rather than desire, so I spend time with the people I want to spend time with not out of obligation, but because I want to.

If you'd like to wait for a holiday you don't truly understand to buy people hastily chosen gifts out of some archaic obligation that you never question and call that season magical, then by all means do so. But bear it in mind that your magical season is how I try to live my life all year round, so when you tell me I'm "ruining the magic", try to understand that there is no magic, and your archaic thinking limits the "magic" to a few days a year.

I prefer my way.