As both an atheist and a secularist, I have absolutely no issue with people of ‘faith’ celebrating their festivals. People can have their Diwalis and Eids and I carry on with my life as usual. But there are stirrings from some faith groups in the UK that they are not being treated in the same way as Christianity. Diwali and Eid, for example, were socially distant affairs because of COVID-19. So, they argue, why is Christmas being treated differently, with the government saying that we can get together for five days when Hindus and Muslims couldn’t?
Well, for starters, Christmas is anything but a religious festival for most Brits. A minority of people celebrate the birth of the alleged Jesus of Nazareth, but for most of us it’s a family affair. Hardly any of the Christmas traditions we enjoy, such as the Christmas tree, presents, the turkey, excessive drinking and generally loafing around in front of the telly are featured in the bible. That, in itself, is why Christmas is different to other religious festivals because by and large, it’s not how most of us see it. And that’s why we have paid time-off to enjoy it.
In any case, it appears that COVID-19 is taking a five day break, too. Whereas we could not meet those from other households in recent weeks, it will be all fine and dandy as we all sit around the table working out how we can avoid having to watch Mrs Brown’s Boys.
I suppose the government could have relaxed the rules a little for the earlier festivals but in truth I can scarcely be bothered with it. Everyone has to make sacrifices at this time of year – we won’t be able to go to the pub during the festive period, for one thing – so it’s true: we’re all in it together.
To make things even easier in future, let’s separate the church from the state and make Christmas a wholly secular affair, perhaps moving it to June when the weather is bit nicer. People can continue to celebrate their various gods whenever they like and we can sit in the back garden scoffing port and stilton, pulling crackers and arguing over Trivial Pursuit. You know it makes sense.