What does Christmas mean to you?
As atheists we don’t celebrate the Christian holiday – which was borrowed from the existing Pagan Solstice celebrations when Christianity was introduced to Europe. Even the Pope has recently gone on record saying this. But we do celebrate: we buy each other gifts, eat too much food and avoid the Queen’s Christmas Message just like many others do. So, if we don’t believe in Christ and God, why do we bother?
Partly, it’s habit. We’ve always done it – our parents did it with us, we did it with our daughter. Traditions – like habits – can be hard to break. Especially when our society goes so crazy over Christmas. The supermarkets have long queues at the tills, the shelves empty quickly, from September you can’t move in Tesco for selection boxes, £5 tins of Quality Street and tinsel. I heard that yesterday there were queues of up to an hour to get out of the car park at our local retail park. An hour! And the shops are only closed for one or two days. This aspect of Christmas angers me more than any other. It’s all so pointless and wasteful. Yet still, I find myself bulk-buying toilet rolls and part-baked bread ‘just in case.’ Yes, in case the Zombie Apocalypse coincides with Yule.
But we celebrate for another reason too, I think. Like our Pagan ancestors, it’s good to banish the dark with candles and lights, to decorate our homes while our gardens are bare and bleak, and to feast when nature’s larder is most empty. And I like to show those I care for how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate their love, friendship and support over the previous year by giving a gift, however small.
And after this past year, when the world has been such an angry, selfish and aggressive place to be, I’m enjoying this chance to spend time with my family while drinking wine and eating a wee bit more than I should. After all, who knows what 2013 will bring.
Maybe even the Zombie Apocalypse.
Happy Christmas to you and yours, whatever you celebrate.