Friday, November 28, 2008

The Reason for the Season

"Without celebrating Jesus, what is the reason for your celebration of the season?" - first Christmas card of the year note.

I got this card today from an old friend. She's known me for about ten years but only recently figured out I'm an atheist. When she found out, she didn't talk to me for a year. I understood her feelings when I told her, but I can't understand the fact that she can't accept it still. Actually, that's what she's said in her card, "I can't accept that you are an atheist..."

Here's the truth - I'm not asking her to accept it. Accept it or don't. Sending me snippy cards isn't going to change my feelings.

What's our reason for celebrating Christmas without Jesus? Easy. As I said last year, until a reputable authority shows me that the Christian Christ was actually born on December 25, this holiday isn't a celebration of the birth of Christ. If you say it's a symbolic celebration of his birth, then why is the date special? Why December 25th? I celebrate the fact that this time of year brings out the best in people (usually). I love it when I know every person in this house is busy planning little ways to make others feel good and loved. I love it when there's a holiday allowing my kids and I to sit down and paint ornaments for our tree or use clay to craft a keepsake for others. I don't need the holiday excuse, but it doesn't hurt. I celebrate the magic of the holiday as my children see it. P4 ran outside tonight and saw that a neighbor had put up lights on their house. He was so excited. P3 whispered in my ear, last night, that she couldn't wait to make puppy chow. The season is special because it's full of family traditions and rituals that we don't have at other times of the year. My reason for celebrating Christmas is purely selfish- I know my children will grow up and leave my side one day. Christmas gives me an excuse to pull them close and impart upon them all of the wonderful traditions and memories we've made. I get to spoil them with society's blessing. I also get to teach them about how special and privileged they are. I get to see their humanitarian sides grow with the understanding that not everyone has what they have. I celebrate Christmas for the construction paper chains, the time baking sweets with the kids, and the scene set before me on Christmas Eve when all of my babies are sleeping together in the living room in perfect peace with sweet dreams. The lights from the tree make the room glow in pinkish-orange softness, which reflects off their sleeping faces. All is right with the world in that ten minutes when Pdaddy and I watch them sleep. I celebrate their childhood and the child within Pdaddy and I. It's about love. Love is the reason for the season. Even if you're a Christian, your celebration of Christmas is a profession of the love you have for your savior. I love my family every bit as much as you love your savior and that's reason enough to drop the petty concerns of normal life and focus on the love around me.


Jadehawk said...

the "Jesus is the Reason for The Season" stuff brings out my inner archaeologist. If anyone ever bothered to start that argument with me, they'd get a lecture on Sun worship and pagan european winter rituals

and about the socially beneficial effect of family traditions

and about the awesomeness of special food (as in: food you only have once a year and look forward to it all year long)

they'd probably fall asleep before I'm finished, so they'll never notice that there wasn't any Jesus in any of my reasons :-p

Gramomster said...

That is just beautiful, PMomma. I feel just the same. This year, we have our darling little grandson living with us, and at 2 1/2, he's just getting big enough to make things, and take notice of the pretty light. We're going to make peanut butter-pine cone-birdseed feeders in the coming days. And get our tree. And just love him, and one another. Yes, a celebration of love. Perfect.

And by the way, welcome back! I hadn't commented yet, as I just by pure chance discovered your return! Made for a happy thanksgiving indeed!

paul [silentsanta] said...

"Without celebrating Jesus, what is the reason for your celebration of the season?"

Yeah, only sharing company with family & friends, showing people how much you care. All of that unimportant stuff. Geez, Pmomma you have such an impoverished worldview! :)

Sander said...

Axial tilt is the reason for the season!

Carlie said...

This is one of the reasons I'm so thankful for your blog. When I finally stopped believing in God, that was one of my questions too (along with how do I teach my children morals and all those other questions). I had been brought up so steeped in Christianity that I honestly didn't know how to operate outside those parameters. So thank you for being such a good role model. :)

Not Jenny said...

Thank you for your post. I used to identify myself as Christian and now I am firmly in the "undecided" category heading closer and closer to Pagan or Atheist--it is times like this that make me really confused about my beliefs and where everything fits in.

I am learning how to take the Christ out of Christmas but still make it meaningful and special to my family.

Thank you for helping me.

TonyInBatavia said...

I'm just trying to get over the idea that someone would actually ask that in a Christmas card! I'm mean, c'mon, that's just low. So wrong medium, so wrong time.

I understand the question and why it's being asked, I really do. People with blinders on like that never ever contemplate other cultural or social or familial aspects to the traditions behind the holiday. But really, in a Christmas card? How wrong.

You know, Friend, if you want to ask the question, give P-Momma a call in, say, February. Then say that as your were putting the Christmas cards together that you wondered how such an awesome person and longtime friend dealt with the holidays without sharing the religious beliefs behind them. Then, oh, I dunno...maybe listen. Or maybe there's another way to gather some insight. But to be so petty as to cheapen and demean and ruin the goodwill of your very important holiday by demonstrating asshatness in a holiday card, well, that's just snotty and ugly. Nice little religion you've got going there.

Ian said...

I'm not a neopagan (too much magical thinking), but I also don't think being an atheist means you have to totally abandon the symbolic and transcendent.

As well as the joy of family, of giving, and of a change of the state of the community, I feel an affinity for Yule. The idea that this is the darkest time of the year: the cold months are ahead, but the darkest night has passed. Even in the worst of times, there is a light shining ahead.

Also in secular terms, it is the last week in the year, so it is a good time to take stock, to practice being the kind of person I'd want to be all year long, but haven't quite managed to, and to look forward to the coming of new possibilities and opportunities.

There's profundity there for me, at least, quite independent of mythological content.

Ian said...

... but I like Sander's reason better!

Tom Foss said...

This is just a variation of "why go on living if there's no God?" or "why be good if there's no ultimate morality?" I don't know, maybe I like living and care about people.

Christmas is more of the same: why celebrate around the winter solstice? The same reason that most cultures have: you've gotten through another long, cold winter without dying, and it's only going to get brighter and warmer and easier from here. There's the light of spring at the end of the tunnel, and if that's not reason to celebrate life and family, then I don't know what is.

FreeThought said...

For those looking for ways to celebrate the season in a more secular way, take a look at

We're not mentioned but we are having a Humanlight celebration in colorado springs on Dec 20th.

FreeThought said...

Should have added this - here is the description of our HumanLight holiday party from our website (we are celebrating on Saturday Dec 20):
"Please join us for a winter solstice celebration of the Humanist vision of reason, sustainability, equality, peace, justice, freedom and shared responsibility to humanity and our planet."

Traceytreasure said...

Love rocks!!


Geekwad said...

Also, it's just *easier* to grit your teeth and decorate the damn tree. Have you tried abstaining from Christmas? I've been trying for several years. IT IS NOT EASY! What Santa says, goes, whether one likes it or not.

CrypticLife said...

"the "Jesus is the Reason for The Season" stuff brings out my inner archaeologist"

Hmmmm, Jadehawk, it has a similar effect on me, except it tends to bring out my inner stomach more than my inner archaeologist. They know their savior wasn't born at this time of year. They know quite well that it was just appropriated from pagan holidays. And yet, they do this "War on Christmas" victimization thing every year where they persecute stores for saying "Happy Holidays" rather than making it a special reference to their religion.

Vamp said...

I've been ponderin' this for days. Anyway, I forget every year that I don't like this time of year. Even DH is ackwardly aware of my disdain for the materialistic holiday.

It's also a yearly reminder of the fact I don't have any warm and fuzzy moments growing up at xmas - none. Even worse for me was when I was in my twenties and living alone. I hated my stepmother so I wouldn't go see my dad. I usually spent it alone. And YOU know I wouldn't EVEN consider going to my mother's for the holiday, HA! As a matter of fact I haven't spent xmas with mother since before my parents got divorced. I was 9. I don't remember any holidays with her's all blocked out.

Plus, I have to remind myself constantly at this time of year, to put on a happy face and try and make my own traditions with my kids and hubby. It's pain I wish I could just disperse.

bah humbug? sorta

Amanda said...


Try and look at it from your friend's point of view; you are threatening the basis of her entire culture. Even if she does understand you deep down, you've offended her sensibilities, and now she is "fighting back." If someone says my outfit looks really stupid, I get offended and shaken, and even if I suddenly realize that they are right, or even just that hey, their tastes are different, I might still be bitchy toward them because they have upset the delicate social contract between us by doing something that is emotionally jarring. Silly humans hold grudges and can't get past our emotions.

I wouldn't try to convince her anymore. I recently armed myself with lots of Roman history in order to combat the first "Reason for the Season" crap I heard ... but in reading up on the history of the season, I learned there's 8,000 ways to celebrate it. I'm not going to be the one who makes it a point of contention (rather than a reason for the whole world to party), it's just not worth it.

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered your blog through a link on the Pernting Beyond Belief blog and I have to say I am loving it!!!

I can't believe anyone, let alone a friend of 10 years, would be so rude and condescending as to ask something like that in a greeting card!!

I was raised by a lapsed Catholic ( divorce, child out of wed-lock, living in sin, didn't go to church except Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, celebrated Christmas and Easter as religious as well as cultural holidays, etc...)However, my younger sister and I were free to explore any religion we pleased ( so long as we also explored the Catholic church @eyeroll@). My sister is Agnostic and if I had to place myself in a box I'd say Atheist ( though Buddhism and ancient celebrations do intrigue me) since I do not believe in any higher being)s) or diety(ies).

My husband is a non-practicing Catholic who was never exposed to any other line of thinking ( until he met me, LOL!) and so he does celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. For our four children, we expose them to every December celebration! We homeschool and so we turn December in to a giant unti study on cultural and relious beliefs and celebrations around the world. We have learned about Rohatsu, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Yule, Channukah and Kwanzaa and my children have thoroughly enjoyed out annual multi-culural celebrations. They enjoy reading A Solstice Tree for Jenney as mch as they enjoy hearing the Channukah story, the story of Buddha's enlightenment or the story of Christ's birth. To them, it's all just stories.

My children choose their own community service projects throughout the year but during December, they spend the entire month working only on their chosen service project.

We spend this time of year baking, singing, enjoying eachother and enjoying the company of our friends.

Isn't this the real reason for the season?