Today begins the Christmas season for Christians, and family obligations for others. I personally stopped celebrating Christmas as a holiday in about 2006. I continued to attend family celebrations, company parties and the like; however, I stopped decorating, sending Christmas cards and saying Merry Christmas. I found as an atheist, the Christians did a good enough job of promoting their cause that they did not need my assistance.Edward moved in that following spring and together we have never celebrated Christmas in our home.
I had grown up in a non-religious German family that loved to celebrate Christmas. This time of the year was filled with stollen, honey cake, mulled wine and unending trays of food. Jesus was never a part of Christmas in our home other than what was brought in by mass media. Edward’s family includes many born into or born again Pentecostals. They adamantly fight to keep Christ in Christmas, often sending e-mail forwards in the season urging people (particularly immigrants) to honour Christmas (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays) or go back where they came from. I’m not sure this is the spirit their saviour was trying to imbue, but has become the result nonetheless.
The last nail in Christmas’ coffin came to me in the 2007 documentary Zeitgeist: The Movie Part 1. This documentary explores the origin of the Christmas story, and how it is repeated in many cultures across the ages. This finally brought together for me the why this story came into existence. It also explained how this story was so easily understood and adapted to other cultures as Christianity spread through the world.
Instead, we decided to celebrate Solstice. Winter celebrations have always served the northern peoples. They stave away the sadness and depression of the winter months, as well as create opportunities for people to get together. For us, it is a chance to get in touch with nature – to connect with the rhythms of the light and to be mindful of the world around us. Fortunately, celebrating Winter Solstice (December 21st) generally means we are not conflicting with the organized Christmas events of the 24th – 26th. This ensures we can have family time to ourselves to celebrate with those we chose to invite.
This was Charles’ second Winter Solstice, non-Christmas celebration year. Charles also grew up in a non-religious home, but with the focus on Christmas as the secular holiday that was filled with gifts and desserts. The headspace transition for someone who has never been Christian appears to be harder than for those who have a Christ focus in their lives. This year Charles was caught off guard by Winter Solstice, and didn’t have his gifts together in time. He is still focused on acquiring gifts for Christmas (the majority of the individuals he gives gifts to).
We do not urge people to stop celebrating Christmas in the same way we do not urge people to stop celebrating Hanukah, Kwanza or anything of the ilk. What we urge people to do, is understand what they are celebrating. Know that they are all celebrating the defeat of the dark by the light.