Agnostics get no yuletime love: Who can enjoy the holiday season?
It’s tough being an agnostic during the holidays. I still have to buy or make presents for everybody on a graduate student’s budget while taking exams; I still have to be annoyed by Christmas music starting Nov. 1; and yet, I also have to deal with people telling me that, as a non-believer, I shouldn’t celebrate Christmas.
What the hell? (Oh — sorry — can I say “hell” if I don’t believe in it, either?) Nobody would bar me from a Sunday service if I admitted my agnosticism — in fact, they’d probably be thrilled to get the chance to convert me. Does my celebration of Christmas destroy the holiday for Christians just like gay people getting hitched destroys marriage for straight people?
Or, does my secular celebration of Christmas contribute to the overall commercialization of Christmas that so disturbs people like Bill O’Reilly? To me, Christmas is about cookies, family, decorating trees, and giving presents. Yes, I spend some money for Christmas presents, but mostly for raw materials — I make my presents every year, and I love doing it. I love decorating cookies, taking the decorations out of the attic, watching the Muppet version of A Christmas Carol, and caroling with my friends. Am I destroying Christmas?
If you believe so, fundamentalists, then are you doing your part to preserve it by refraining from giving or receiving any presents this year? Or is it not the commercialism, but just my dirty, dirty heathen vibes? Ooo. You’re going to catch agnosticism just by reading this.
Then there’s the fact that our Lord and Savior wasn’t even born on Christmas — some think September or October may be a more accurate date. It’s celebrated on Dec. 25 because that date is close to the winter solstice and other pagan winter festivals. The word “yule,” as in log, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “geol” for a solstice festival. What better way to get pagans to celebrate your holiday by combining it with their traditions? Who’s not to say that I’m actually celebrating Agnostic Children Get Presents (And Eat Cookies) Day, which falls on Dec. 25, so everyone can celebrate in harmony? The Christmas tree is pagan, too, did you know? You heathens.
By the way, nobody has ever told me that I shouldn’t celebrate Hanukkah, so I’ll let the Jews off the hook this time, but if anybody would like to e-mail me and tell me that I can’t light my menorah and make my grandma’s latke recipe because I haven’t been to a synagogue since my cousin’s bar mitzvah, then I’d be happy to yell at you, too.
The last thing I want is a boring, surgical separation of church and state so that we have to go to school during Christmas, we can’t put up lights or play Christmas music (it’s annoying but I love it anyway), and coworkers are fired for saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” and not “Happy Holidays.” I think everybody should get the whole month of December off from school, and half of January for good measure, to cover all holidays, and everybody should eat, drink, sing, give presents, and be happy. I do think that commercialism gets really out of hand at Christmas, and that it’s great to choose hand-made presents or charity donations instead of expensive presents that will lie on shelves unopened, though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving presents in general.
I don’t have patience, either, for people who get offended by someone’s cheerful “Merry Christmas,” Christmas decorations funded by taxpayers, Christmas craft activities in school, or the fact that the menorah on the White House lawn is slightly smaller than the Christmas tree. Get over yourselves already!
So this holiday season, I ask my fundamentalist friends on both sides of the spectrum to lighten up. If an atheist comes into your home on Christmas day and sets your tree on fire, or if the government decrees that Christmas can legally only be celebrated at Macy’s and not at church, then you can shriek that Christmas has been destroyed. And my fellow non-Christians, if it’s decreed that you’re not entitled to either celebrate or take school or work off, then you can cry out to the skies that your holiday has been destroyed. Until then, shut your pie-holes!
As for the rest of you who think it’s okay for me to celebrate Christmas, happy Chris-Hanu-Kwan to you! I hope you have a really great holiday season, full of the crunch of candy canes stolen off the tree, sparkle lights, little crisp bits of potato that fall off the latke, a crackling fire flashing green and blue from wrapping paper, Jimmy Stewart, dancing the horah on the living room carpet, and playing hide-and-seek with little cousins — or whatever your favorite holiday traditions are.