HUMANISM AT CHRISTMAS

Some of my atheistic Humanist colleagues choose to have nothing to do with Xmas and even take organised holidays to escape the Xmas festivities (and Easter) altogether. Generally we say Midwinter or Yuletide instead of Christmas.

I do send Yuletide cards, only if they don’t depict the Nativity, or religious images of any kind. It’s not wrong to exchange gifts with family and friends, and the Yuletide promotion of ‘goodwill to all men’ is one I happily promote. I do have turkey, etc at Yule. I am worried by the commercialism of Yuletide, and how it overshadows other major festivals such as Ramadan, and Passover. For me, Yuletide is a prelude to the secular New Year celebrations.

If I have children, I will, like some of my colleagues, tell them from the start that Father Christmas is a story some children are led to believe. It’s unhealthy to delude children with such a potent story and then leaving them to discover it was a lie when they are about seven or eight years old. My own discovery that Santa wasn’t real left me feeling saddened that the magic of Xmas had faded for me. The cruel claim that bad children get no presents must be upsetting to a child who does something ‘naughty’ in the days leading up to Yuletide, as s/he wonders whether or not Santa will bring anything. I read Science fiction as a child, and knowing that the robots and starships depicted weren’t real didn’t rob me of a sense of wonder there, so letting a child of my own in on the joke of Santa Claus wouldn’t be a problem to me.

Humanists shouldn’t have qualms about taking the good aspects of Yule from Christians, as the festival was established long before their saviour was allegedly born anyway.

Virgin birth myths are common to many religions. Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Mithras, Perseus, Horus, are all allegedly virgin-born. December 25th was first designated as the Nativity date in 525 AD, by Dionysius Exiguus, to tie in with the Roman use of that date as the birthday of the new Sun. Woden, the Viking God, was believed to have delivered goodwill presents at Midwinter, from his eight legged flying horse. Santa is a plagiarism of the Saint Nicholas legend, who first appeared in his present cloak and beard garb in a Coca-Cola advertising campaign. We need celebrations to give us a chance to be with our loved ones and to be happy for a brief respite before work starts again. The more secular such festivals become, the more we can look into each others eyes, rather than being distracted by false beliefs in Gods, angels and miracles, which for Humanists, ring no more true than the story of Santa Woden Claus.

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