Thursday, December 4, 2008

Traditional Christmas rant - oh, I loathe Christmas

I deeply dislike Christmas. Since around the time I was twelve or so I haven't actually liked gifts - my mother was terrible at giving them, not the content of the gifts but how she gave them; on my birthday one year she pretended to have forgotten my birthday and waited until I exploded about how she'd forgotten and then exploded back at me about how she did get me presents and she did remember my birthday but she was just trying to build tension by pretending she'd forgotten. There were several experiences like that, so I actually dislike gift giving as a Pavlovian thing. When I was a child, however, I still liked the religious aspects of it, church and singing and such.

Then I became an atheist. Because Christmas was, for me, always a religious holiday, when I became an atheist I gave up Christmas. It was actually out of respect for the religion. I don't celebrate Christmas in the same way I don't celebrate Ramadan or Holi or Shavuot. At this time I didn't particularly dislike Christmas, either. Indeed, part of me still yearned for it because I did enjoy the music and church and the rest of it, but a yet bigger part of me would have felt disrespectful for celebrating a holiday for a religion that I found quite absurd.

Then this really weird thing happened. People would ask me what they should get me for Christmas and I'd say, "Nothing. I don't celebrate Christmas. I'm not a Christian." Then they'd try to talk me into celebrating it! They'd say it was a secular holiday (it is, weakly, but it is much more a religious holiday) so my reasons were silly or wrong somehow. Almost inevitably they'd end up by telling me that they'd get me a gift, anyway.

I really hate that. That's the proper word. Hate. Because what it does is ignore me. It ignores the way that I, Chris Bradley, really feel about gifts in general and celebrating Christmas in particular. This has caused me to see Christmas in an entirely different light. I feel Christmas is a very selfish holiday. Everyone gets so wrapped up in whatever it is that they are feeling, well, they don't really have time to be honestly generous or loving or even peaceful.

Take this Christmas season - a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death. The customers broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart and when this regular guy tried to stop them from literally invading the store they trampled him to death. Beyond the death itself, how does that show any "Christmas spirit"? How is that about generosity, love or peace? Everyone is in such a hurry! Traffic accidents skyrocket, violence skyrockets, people are brusque and rude, everything about Christmas - except a few parties - is pretty unpleasant really. And deeply selfish. Like those people at Wal-Mart - and tens of thousands of other places all across America - where people started the holiday season by mobbing stores.

So, in actual behavior, I feel there is a real deep hypocrisy about Christmas. People aren't being generous. Generosity isn't giving your kid an Xbox 360. Generosity is . . . creating a society with no poor. Not giving to a food bank once a year (often just cleaning out canned goods from your cupboard) or giving something to a Toys for Tots thing, but eliminating the social need that makes people that vulnerable in the first place. Generosity is feeding the poor all year long, making sure our schools are good, making sure that everyone has medical care, outreaching to people in countries poorer than ours (all of them) to make sure they've got enough food to eat and their kids go to good schools and have medical care. It is not about trading gifts with people. That is a parody of generosity - giving people who don't need anything things they don't need!

It's not about peace. If it was about peace, instead of going shopping and to parties, people would be petitioning the government to get out of Iraq, to shut down Guantanamo Bay's illegal prison. It would be about working to end the scourge of war both here and abroad. But you can't do that because to get political wouldn't be in the spirit of the season, which is absurd.

It's not about love, because you don't need - indeed you can't - buy love. Love is something you feel, and while you can work on feeling love, greater love, both for those you know and those you don't, there is nothing about Christmas that invokes love with the possible exception of the actual Christmas feast. (Eating good food with people you love is a way to keep the bonds of love strong. Companion is Latin for "people you share bread with".) Shopping, gifts, all that, has nothing to do with love.

So, when I tell people I don't celebrate Christmas and they try to talk me into it, often with emotional manipulation and always over my (I feel) reasonable objections, they're being selfish and offensive. They show no generosity, charity, peace or love for me by ignoring my clearly expressed, reasonably and easy to follow request to be left out of Christmas. They focus on their need or desire to force others into celebrating this holiday. They show, indeed, quite a bit of contempt for me - that my requests aren't worth following. It pisses me off. And it happens so damn often that it's entirely poisoned the season for me. Entirely.

Since I stopped celebrating Christmas, I have grown in understanding. I understand that many atheists and agnostics are cultural Christians - Christianity is a foul religion, true, but it is also an integral part of European and American civilization - our history is bound up in innumerable complex ways with Christianity. And much like people can go to medieval recreation societies, or Civil War recreation societies, and appreciate how feudalism or the Confederacy shaped their history without wanting to recreate feudalism or the Confederacy, people can celebrate Christmas without endorsing Christianity. I see that.

But for so long people have been telling me that I'm silly for not celebrating Christmas that it's stripped off the mask. I see the fnords. Christmas is a giant hypocrisy, where selfish people make a mockery of the very principles that the celebration is supposed to be about. Not to mention that so many Christmas celebrants have been rude and arrogant to me, personally, that I have no desire to "celebrate" Christmas. For me, it's just a sad and ugly time that's made all the sadder and uglier because of the hypocrisy of it - that except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day it's all just a consumer driven holiday, that the Christmas Season is a marketing ploy that pisses over the supposed principles of the season. That instead of being a time of joy, it's a time of stress mitigated by one day's celebration after six weeks of lousy traffic, drunken drivers and chaos in the marketplaces.

Ironically, and I'm poignantly aware of this irony, it's actually religious people who listen to me when I say I don't celebrate Christmas. They always go, "Oh, yeah, I understand that." They might believe my soul is damned to hell, but they grasp why a non-Christian doesn't celebrate the holiday.

6 comments:

Sergio said...

Hmm. I understand what you're saying.

I'm not so big on Christmas myself. I am, however, big on people helping out others all the time, not just around the holiday season.

Chris Bradley said...

I vent about Christmas every year, hehe. I would do less of it if Christmas didn't interfere with my life so much. I mean, I never rant about Easter, because I can pretty easily ignore it. But Christmas intrudes. 10% of the year is made more difficult for me because of Christmas. So even when someone doesn't specifically rub my face in it, I still dislike it.

Rosa said...

I feel you on this *so much*

I managed to work on Christmas every year for years. It was awesome. People at work were grateful; my family was sympathetic; I didn't have to travel in winter or do Christmas.

And then I had a baby.

His grandparents will DIE and his father will DIE if we do not go to the giant Christmas extravaganza (his dad is an atheist). Also I have to make them a list so they can drop a lot of money on gifts. And for my son, too, despite our repeated please for less clutter. And I can't complain, it's not Christmassy. And I can't drink because then I start saying what I think...

At least I figured out how to avoid their horrific, war-mongering church after the first post-baby Christmas - i stay home with the kids. Isn't that charitable?

Anonymous said...

Christmas (Christ Mass) is anything BUT Christian. It's "religious" but not in a Christian way! In order to make Christianity palatable to the heathen, the Roman Church simply took Saturnalia, the ancient pagan/satanic worship of Lucifer (the sun god) and adopted it into Christianity, and then eventually many of the associated pagan symbols, forms, customs, and traditions were reinterpreted (i.e., "Christianized") in ways "acceptable" to Christian faith and practice. (In fact, in 375 A.D., the Church of Rome under Pope Julius I merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been "discovered" to be December 25th, and was accepted as such by the "faithful." The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ!) The pagans flocked into the Catholic places of worship, because they were still able to worship their old gods, but merely under different names. It mattered not to them whether they worshiped the Egyptian goddess mother and her child under the old names (Isis and Horus), or under the names of the "Virgin Mary" and the "Christ-child." Either way, it was the same old idol-religion (cf. 1 Thes. 1:8-10; 5:22 -- Paul says to turn from idols, not rename them and Christianize them). Roman Catholicism's Christmas Day is nothing but "baptized" paganism, having come along much too late to be part of "the faith once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).Satan works to blend together his system with God's system, because when unacceptable worship (paganism) is blended with true worship (God's truth), true worship is destroyed.When anyone takes the truth and mixes it with a lie, they no longer have the truth. They have changed the truth into a lie.It should in reality be called Baal-mass, Nimrod-mass, Tammuz-mass, Mithras-mass, or Mary-mass. Christ-mass is a lie. it is strangely bizarre and ironic that Christendom seeks to commemorate Christ's birth with the faded symbols of Satan. And even though some of God's people may be naive and ignorant about the source of these things, surely God is not. The very popularity of Christmas should cause the Christian to question it. Anyone and everyone can celebrate Christmas without question -- outright pagans, nominal Christians, and even Buddhists and Hindus. If, in reality, December 25th were a date set by God to remember the birth of Jesus, there is no doubt that the world would have nothing to do with it.As expected, the world loves Christmas, but hates the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:18, 23-25). Shouldn't the Christian be just a little suspicious of a celebration in which the whole sinful world can join without qualms?If God had desired us to remember the day of Christ's birth, He could have left us the precise date. But if He had, He would have vindicated every astrologer in the past 2,000 years. In occult circles, the anniversary of a person's birth is the most important metaphysical day of the year. The Bible recognizes no such significance. It is intriguing that there are only two birthday celebrations recorded in the entire Bible and they were both those of ungodly kings -- and both resulted in an execution (Gen. 40:16-22 and Matt. 14:6-10/Mark 6:21-27). So all those "christians" you are talking about are not real Christians, otherwise, they would KNOW the TRUTH(the REAL Jesus/John 14:6).

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner, sub/dude said...

Because you’re ignorant on how to rise above the whorizontal world and one-outta-one shall croak sometime, somewhere soon, God has set-up this magnificent feature on the Way either Upstairs or downtown: the Warning. Everyone (me, too) living on this planet will see and feel the Warning lasting about 20ish minutes, showing U.S. a gorgeous picture of Heaven, Purgatory (depending whether our sins demand a greater punishment before being allowed into the Great Beyond), and dagnasty Hell. Remember, God doesn’t condemn; we condemn ourselves by our sinful lifestyles of unbelief. The Warning’s just a wake-up call. Don’t believe me? Guhroovy. You will soon. God bless you with discernment: atheism is cool, isn't it, till you croak...

KibokothePurpleHippo said...

@Kold_Kadavr_flatliner, sub/dude. Lovely fantasy you have going there. Of course you've offered no proof, which isn't surprising. As for the 'atheism is cool, isn't it, till you croak...' comment, how very Christian of you (if that is your religion). I am prepared to take that risk as I stopped believing in fairy tales years ago. Please don't ask 'your god' to bless me or pray (wishing out loud) on my behalf. You're wasting your time and it's frankly insulting.