Christmas was the most fun when I was a little kid, and when I had a little kid. Since neither applies these days, the lights don’t burn as brightly anymore. I’m not entirely a bah-humbugger, it’s just that, well, the magical feeling the holiday used to instill just isn’t there anymore. As a non-believer, the magic I’m referring to is rooted in that of the imagination of fairy tales and Old St. Nick, not the sacred version; although I recently attended a Messiah sing along and have been to the occasional Christmas service, I participate as an anthropological, not a religious, observer.
Now, maybe I’m just not paying attention, but I don’t seem to hear the outcry of putting “Christ” back into Christmas that was prevalent a few years ago. Possibly it has something to do with the economic crash that has lessened the crass commercialism the holiday is famous for (or, again, maybe I’m not paying much attention). In any event, I always thought the whole outrage about saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” was silly, as the holiday’s origins arguably have less to do with the birth of Jesus than paganism and general debauchery. All of this is nicely summarized in A Narnia Christmas by Laura Miller, a staff writer at Salon, author of The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.
I read the Chronicles of Narnia when my daughter was little (and when Christmas was still magical). Unlike some fellow non-believers, I didn’t get bent out of shape because Aslan is an obvious Christ figure. I mean, if you’re going to object to Christian symbolism, you’ve pretty much wiped out a big chunk of Western literature. If you’re going to be hesitant about exposing your kid to anything in the Lewis mythology, you might want to worry more about the racial stereotypes.
Some of my fellow skeptics who reject out-of-hand certain artists or celebrations whose work smack of Christianity are as reactionary as their religious counterparts who would have us all herded into churches instead of shopping malls. These are people who don’t listen to Johnny Cash because he did television specials with Billy Graham or wouldn’t think to buy any of Bob Dylan’s “born again” trilogy of records (and, by the way Slow Train Coming rocks) because of their philosophical disagreements with the religion. What’s curious is that frequently these are the same people who are adamant (and rightly so) about the need to respect the customs and beliefs of Muslims in these days of homeland security paranoia, but at the same time get red in the face about a creche displayed at Christmas time. Why is one profession of faith deserving of more respect than another (particularly when both have adherents whose actions most decidedly do not reflect the principles they profess to uphold) among non-believers?
Sorry, but isn’t the Christian part, whether you actually believe it or not, also part of the holiday tradition? Sure, I don’t think it’s literally true, but the idea of a prince of peace coming to save humankind from its follies sure sounds like something to celebrate for believers and non-believers alike. I mean, it’s even better than some guy who leaves presents under the tree.
In any event, current headlines, notwithstanding, be merry anyway. Ho, ho, ho…