I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a couple of weeks now, mostly because I just haven’t had time to finish it. I’m also working really hard to balance complete honesty with respect. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m insulting their beliefs. The opposite is true, but it’s a fine line. In the meantime, Chris Stedman said most of the same things – only better. For your sake, I should just link to his post and stop talking now.
I love Christmas and I celebrate it enthusiastically. My tree is usually up sometime in early November. I love buying presents, making cards, writing the family Christmas letter and listening to Christmas music. I love spending time with my family, watching Holiday Inn on Christmas Eve with my parents, and the quiet cup of coffee Christmas morning before the madness of the day kicks in.
I grew up in a Catholic family, where Christmas meant pageants recreating the birth of Jesus and Christmas Eve Mass – and I loved it. I loved being in front of the congregation, reading the story of the wise men, Joseph, Mary, the manger and baby Jesus. I loved the idea of humanity’s savior being born in the most humble of beginnings. I loved helping to decorate our small church with Christmas flowers. I loved the ceremony of bringing baby Jesus to the altar and placing him in the manger during Christmas Eve Mass.
And then I went home, crawled into bed and waited for Santa Claus.
I stopped believing in the literal reality of Santa Claus when I was five years old. I continued to pretend to believe for years after, because it seemed important to my parents and because I enjoyed the myth. I think I stopped believing in the literal reality of Jesus* a couple of years later, although I continued to pretend to believe for many years after, because it seemed important to my parents and because I enjoyed the myth.
I continue to enjoy both the aspects of Christmas. I think that Santa Claus is a lovely story that encourages us to spread kindness and joy – and keeps little kids in line when they misbehave. There are so many random acts of kindness and charity during the holiday season that we attribute to the spirit of Santa Claus.
I also still believe that the story of Jesus’ birth is a lovely story about greatness coming from humble beginnings. Teachings attributed to Jesus inspire many people to do wonderful things for others.
There are vocal groups of atheists who put up billboards every Christmas to encourage people to give up their religious myths. I want no part of that community. I want people to believe in whatever it is that provides them with peace and joy.
I also wish that we didn’t need these stories to be kind and charitable to each other. I would like to believe that humanity has the capacity to be our best throughout the entire year – not just at Christmas. However, the annual reminder is the nicest possible kick in the pants – and it is comes with sugar cookies.
* To be clear, I do believe that the biblical representation of Jesus is based in historical fact. However, I don’t believe that the bible is historically factual or literal reality.