Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone from the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign! Below are some reflections on the season from Tim, another person involved in the campaign…
I just got wished a merry Dawkins-Mass from a Christian friend. This got me thinking – what do atheists actually celebrate at Christmas. We do not celebrate the birth of Christ. We also certainly don’t celebrate the birth of Richard Dawkins (or Charles Darwin for that matter).
Looking at the history of the festival, Christmas is actually not the date where most Christian scholars believe Jesus was born. The date for Christmas was originally based on an ancient festival – the winter solstice. This is a celebration of the days stopping getting shorter and starting to get longer. An indication of the coming of summer, the ending of winter, or the light at the end of the tunnel. Many cultures use the solstice to mark the life and death rebirth cycle of their deities.
Given we’re in New Zealand, and are at the summer solstice, this makes Christmas for Kiwi atheists doubly strange – neither of the two traditional reasons for the holiday are meaningful. So what do we celebrate?
Christmas has always been a time for family and friends to get together, eat good food, and drink good wine. It’s a defined time where everyone has time off work. Time to make the effort to come to a shared place. Do we need a reason beyond that?
*tag* back to Simon…
I don’t think we do need a reason beyond that. Certainly coming together as family and friends to share, celebrate and strengthen relationship bonds is a great reason. Just as Christianity has redefined the festival to meet its needs, the increasingly secular population has done, and is continuing to do, the same. Christmas is just as much, if not more, a secular holiday/festival in 2009.
I’d like to end with the wise words of the talented Derren Brown, as he reflects on ‘being good for goodness’ sake’…
As ever, the journey is the thing, and should be enjoyed accordingly. To forgive purely because it is nicer to forgive, and to do so when it’s a tough call; to try to speak only kindly of those we know because it is preferable to do so; to enjoy the successes of others because living thus is more enjoyable than the stress of living resentfully: such kind things make us better, lovelier people. And to try to live this way for its own merits, without invoking a supernatural reason for doing so, is to celebrate our humanity and to give kindness back its teeth.
I wish all readers out there a very merry Christmas and, since we are in the southern hemisphere, hope that you can all enjoy drinking white wine or orange juice in the sun with family and friends.