As an athiest, people ask me how I can celebrate Christmas. My answer
is that I celebrate the secular version of it. My family has always
had goodwill, decorated trees, gifts, etc. There's no mention of
Jesus, no going to church, etc.
People respond to this, sometimes, with bemused incredulity. They
mention that the word "Christ" is in the very word "Christmas," and
that it's meaningless without the religious aspect.
Such people are doing a serious injustice to the power of culture, and
the effect of the secular parts of Christmas that we all enjoy.
Ever had drinks after work every Thursday?
Are you worshipping Thor and Jupiter every time you do?
Or the Germanic deity Freyja every time you practice a casual Friday?
Of course you are not. The origin of the word does not completely determine
its current meaning.
There's plenty about Christmas that has nothing to do with Jesus's
birth. The tree, gift-giving, a celebratory dinner, family getting
together, as well as lots of stories: Frosty, Rudolph, and of course...
I have a couple of friends who were not raised to believe in Santa
Claus. Often these friends don't want their kids to believe in Santa
either. Most people who were raised with the idea of Santa want to
pass on this tradition. The anti-santaists talk about misleading
children and breeding mistrust. But I don't know anyone who doesn't
trust their parents as a result of the Santa myth.
They also talk about belief in Santa as being corrosive to critical
thinking. I can't believe this happens either. I would eat my hat if
someone found even a tiny significant difference in critical thinking
ability between those who believed in Santa as a kid and those who did
They compare it to religion. Well, I would not want to tell my kids
there was a Santa if I thought there was the slightest chance of them
believing in him as an adult. But I don't know a single adult who
believes in Santa.
I don't want to tell my kid there's a God because they will grow up in
a world filled with people who actually think there's a God. This
community gives the very idea legitimacy.
So the standard critiques don't hold water, as far as I can see.
I feel sorry for the people who never believed in Santa. It inspired
my imagination. It's a celebration of being a child.
Anyway, Merry Secular Christmas to all, and to all a good Tuesday
(named after the Norse God of war, Tyr).