Celebrate Christmas for own sake, not religion

by Kenneth Leonard


Every year, various media outlets criticize atheists and secularists for waging an alleged war on Christmas. Isn’t it time for us to collectively stop pretending Christmas is still a religious holiday and appreciate it for the hedonistic, commercialized celebration it truly is? Like clockwork, billboards spring up in December, encouraging passersby to “Keep the ‘Christ’ in Christmas” or reminding all of how “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I’m sorry to inform you religious types, but axial tilt is the reason for the season and Christ is as insignificant to Christmas as Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates, is to January.

Where are all of the religious activists in the spring, who insist on keeping Eostre, the Germanic goddess of fertility, in Easter? Have we forgotten how she’s the reason we have eggs, bunnies and chocolate? When will I pass a billboard suggesting we keep the Thor in Thursday? I hope you drown in some kind of tsunami made of irony if you read the last couple of sentences and said something to yourself along the lines of, “Yeah, but everybody knows Thor isn’t real.”

The only people who really celebrate Christmas as a purely religious holiday nowadays are an extremely small minority group of hyper-vigilant religious fundamentalists. The rest of us are celebrating a break from work and school, time spent with family and, of course, the opportunity to exchange gifts with loved ones. It’s time for our culture to embrace Christmas for what it is and stop taking the religious aspect so seriously. The American Christmas deity isn’t Jesus anyway. It’s Santa Claus and anyone who says differently is in denial.

Think about it—human beings created gods in our image since the dawn of time. Santa is America’s. Santa is omniscient—he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. Santa is also pretty much omnipresent at least one night out of the year, namely Christmas Eve. He adheres to a moral code and disperses rewards and judgments accordingly. Santa is believed in by millions of people who pray to him (usually by writing letters where they ask for certain gifts, but they’re still prayers). Beyond all of these obvious parallels to other deities, Santa is the perfect representation of American culture. Just as the Aztecs had Tezcatlipoca and Camaxtli, who reflected their status as part of a warrior culture, we have a bearded, old, fat man who celebrates consumerism and excessive consumption.

You may be saying, “Listen here, atheist boy. It’s not right to plagiarize other cultures and annoint your chosen savior as everyone’s god.”  I disagree. Ripping off other people’s cultural observances and labeling them as your own is precisely how we got the Christmas we all know and love and I see no reason to stop commandeering whatever parts of various holiday celebrations I enjoy. I enjoy the whole idea of kissing under mistletoe and I don’t really care about how Druid priests used mistletoe in winter ceremonies 200 years before the alleged birth of Jesus or how the kissing tradition comes from Scandinavian culture, where people associated the plant with Frigga, the goddess of love. All I really, truly care about is how much fun it is to notice someone standing under the mistletoe, walk over, suggestively arch an eyebrow and hear him say, “Dude, get away from me.”

Religious people, don’t take it personally. Our culture is outgrowing certain practices in favor of other ones. As the world moves beyond the Jesus-oriented Christmas and embraces the Santa-flavored Christmas, don’t think of it as a war against Christmas. Try to think of it as evolution. Wait, I forget you guys don’t like that word. Uh, think of our generation’s Christmas as a celebration which had an origin in another preexisting type of celebration—and there are distinguishable inherited differences because of modifications in successive generations. It’s nothing like evolution, I swear.

The bottom line is, there is no real war on Christmas. Go to a mall. Turn on the radio. Look around and it quickly becomes obvious how Christmas-obsessed our culture is. Christmas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and the very concept of a war on Christmas in our culture is pretty silly. Furthermore, the illusory idea that Christmas is under attack promotes animosity between various ideological groups, who could get along with each other much better if the vitriolic rhetoric was dialed down and some mutual understanding was achieved. This season, whether or not we respect each other’s worldviews, let’s spread around some Christmas cheer. Merry Christmas, everyone.