One of the most pointless arguments I have ever had was, some years ago, with a god-fearing friend of a friend who could not understand why I really like christmas. How on earth, went the argument, could I possibly enjoy christmas when I don’t believe in the existence of a celestial dictator up in the sky? (I don’t mean Santa Claus, by the way: he’s definitely for real.)
Well, I celebrate ‘christmas’ in the same way in the same way that people celebrated their winter festival long before Jesus Christ was born to a virgin mother. Of course, a virgin birth is impossible in nature but they happened all the time in the pagan mythology that preceded His birth, although it took christians some four hundred years to decide that the big day of celebration should be 25 December.
Polls suggest that only around 30% of the population regard christmas as a specifically religious celebration. My guess is that the real figure is likely to be far lower than that, in the same way that many people, when asked, give their religion as Church of England despite having little or not interest in the subject. For most of us, it’s a time to get together with our loved ones, to eat, to drink and watch telly.
We exchange presents, of course, and we decorate the christmas tree before devouring our turkey, customs which are not rooted in religion and indeed many of them are German and American. But so what if most of the traditions are nothing to do with religious superstition? Who cares? Those who wish to worship and celebrate the alleged Jesus of Nazareth can happily do so – and despite the Shock! Horror! stories in the red top newspapers, no one is stopping anyone celebrate christmas in any way they want to – whilst the rest of us can celebrate whatever it is we see as the magic of the festive season.
And as for us secularists and humanists, is it really worth getting all hot and bothered about whether we should really call the festive season christmas at all? Well, I’m not over fond of the royal family but I can’t see the point in getting rid of it. Like christmas, people like it, even if it does seem a little bit odd in the 21st century. It ain’t broke so why bother to fix it?
Whilst we are talking about mythology, just remember that there has been no ‘war on christmas’. No one has replaced christmas with Luminos or called the christmas season ‘Winterval’. No one has tried to stop children appearing in school nativity plays, christmas decorations have not been banned anywhere and minorities have never been offended by the festive season (or christmas, as I had better call it). Political correctness has not gone mad because political correctness doesn’t exist, except in the eyes of racists, bigots and of course, Jim Davidson.
Merry christmas, everyone. May your god go with you, or not as the case may be.