Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Chris! Or whatever your name is!

Shortly after Jesse and I were married he told me I was a hypocrite for celebrating Christmas even though I don't believe in God*.

He told me I was a hypocrite.

I'll let you think for a second about how well that went over.

After I had let him out of the garage I explained that the reason I celebrate Christmas is that it's a tradition. My family's traditional Christmas never included any religious aspects at all. We never went to Midnight Mass or had a nativity scene or anything like that. I don't think my parents ever even discussed with us the religious significance of Christmas. For us Christmas was a day of food and family and presents and, when we lived in California, sometimes driving up into the mountains to see "snow". Also known as "little slabs of ice that you could sort of slide on if mom and dad remembered to bring plastic bags with for you to sit on".

I recently recounted the story of newlywed Jesse and I to my mother-in-law and without pausing or missing a beat she said "It's true, you are a hypocrite." My mother-in-law reads this blog and I'm sure she'll give her own version of events in the comments (in 3...2...1...) but trust me, I'm telling the real story here.

Now I do not believe that celebrating Christmas even though I don't believe in God or Jesus or virgin births makes me a hypocrite. I believe that Christmas is just as much my holiday as it is the Pope's ... or, I guess my mother-in-law's.

For me Christmas is about good food and time with family and goodwill towards your fellow man and the spirit of giving and some kick-ass day after Christmas sales. Those are the values and meanings of Christmas that I want to pass on to my children. Those are the traditions I hope to give them. I hope that when they have children if they chose to celebrate Christmas (either in the traditional sense or in the "hypocrite" sense) they'll remember things like how Jesse and I let them hang all the ornaments on the tree even though it meant that only the bottom three feet of the tree got decorated. Or how we would buy toys to donate to Toys for Tots each year. Or how we would all pile into the car and drive around and look at Christmas lights and listen to Christmas music and end up with sore cheeks and bellies from laughing so hard at some of the tackier displays.

Joseph recently told me that people celebrate Christmas because it's the day Chris was born. He had no concept of who Chris was he just knew it was "something about God". After clearing up a few facts I explained that was why some people celebrated Christmas but that's not why we did. I told him about the traditions and feelings I associated with Christmas. After a long, thoughtful he said "So Christmas is just a good time to love each other?"

Yeah. Not everyone gets it but my kid does and that's good enough for me.

*He's not even religious. He just likes to be a pain in the ass.

Three years ago Joseph came home from vacation.


altagirl said...

i totally agree with you. it is hard because both sides of our family are very religious and celebrate christmas for their own reasons, my reason is also to share in the holiday tradition - which if we can all stop for a moment December 25th was a pagan holiday to begin with which the Catholic church merged into to give it the story of Christ etc.

the problem that i have is that i don't mind whatever reason you celebrate christmas for - but i do mind being judged for me reason of celebrating. Isn't the true meaning of christmas - family, good will towards men etc.

phew - thanks that felt really good to get off my chest.

ps. for what it counts i do not think you are a hipocrite at all!

Anonymous said...

I'm the wicked motherinlaw..just agreeing with her son... Christmas takes its name from Christ's from that standpoint there is some hypocrosity involved..however, my daugherinlaw is not alone in this condition. I agree with was a merger between the pagan "Yule" celebration, which by the way, I totally accept. Christmas is about love and glad tidings of great joy...and meant to be celebrated in whatever fashion one chooses. Every family develops its own traditions suited especially to them. I think it is important to let the children know what others believe without forcing those beliefs onto them, and I think you guys are doing a great job with that...And I think I have been trying to be sensitive to your beliefs... I taught Elle to sing Jingle Bells instead of Silent Night...So Merry Yule to all of you and Blessed Be!! PS: there is no nativity in my Christmas decorations either...but I do have angels. Love and Forgiveness to all... Judy

dancing_lemur said...

My coworker is named Chris, and he recently made the statement that if you say it in Spanish, "Christmas" just means "more Chris."


I think there is nothing wrong with everyone taking Christmas and making it their own. I am Christian, so for me it's about both church AND family, and giving, and goodwill, etc. But if for you it's just setting aside that time to be with family and focus on what's important, I see nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

I get similar comments constantly this time of year...."If you're an atheist, how is it acceptable for you to celebrate Christmas?"

The truth is, I suppose maybe I don't celebrate 'Christmas' per se. I'm not Pagan, but I do focus on the more nature-eque aspects of the season and frequently refer to the holiday as "Solstmas" because I personally would rather celebrate the winter solstice, but, let's face it, this country is set up for Christmas celebrations (Christmas break from school, everyone's time off work) so I try to combine the non-religious Christmas traditions with the earthy solstice celebrations.
No matter what you call it or how you celebrate it, the holiday season is supposed to be about love, peace, giving and appreciation. Most importantly, it is NOT about the STUFF. But that is a whole other rant!

Amber (formerly Heathen Mommy)

Stimey said...


Stimey said...

Also, I love you a whole lot. Great post. Great kid. Great just everything.

Swistle said...

Dude! I will not get started on my feelings about Christmas and its pagan origins and its BRUTAL TAKEOVER by the Christians who changed it to "Christmas" because their religious leaders wouldn't let them celebrate the pagan ways they were used to and pretending it was Jesus's birthday was a great idea for having it both ways, and who actually KILLED PEOPLE who still tried to celebrate the old pagan ways.