Another holiday season is upon us and we are assaulted by the Christmas music, the holiday sales, the cold, and of course, religion! It is getting to be that time of the year where you can’t go a city block without seeing a house decked out with Christmas lights or a nativity scene. But this post isn’t about the nativity scenes or the lights or the commercialism. Its about what Christmas really means to many people and how it came to be.
Now, you may not have heard, but the American Atheists have purchased a billboard right at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, right before you go inside. People drive by this billboard every day very, very, slowly as rush hour comes on. The billboard reads “You know it’s a myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason”. Pretty catchy, eh? Of course there has been some backlash concerning it:
“Oh those atheists are trying to ruin Christmas”, “why can’t they leave well enough alone”, “Christmas is a Christian holiday, they shouldn’t even worry about it”.
But is it now? Lets look back at some of the things we celebrate around Christmas. Take say, the nativity scene. Three Kings came to see the baby Jesus, right? Except there is no mention that there were specifically three men in the bible, there could have been any number! This was just a pop-culturization of the myth in relatively recent years. December 25th? This was easily stolen from pagan religions that celebrated the Winter Solstice. What better way to attract new followers than to coopt some of those myths into Christianity? Not to say Christianity is specifically guilty of this, all cultures do it, but to say it is not a myth is to be intentionally misleading.
The point of these discrepancies isn’t to knock a cultural celebration of a holiday. I mean, who doesn’t like the time off work, the time spent with family, and the general feeling of goodwill some people choose to espouse during this time of the year. The point of bringing it up is that we should now be able to move beyond the myths and have a celebratory time for the sake of family and friends. There weren’t really three kings, women don’t spontaneously have babies, winter has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth, and the whole rest of the story. There really are reasons to celebrate that do not require a belief in Christian dogma though!
So when we go into the holiday season or we see supposed “Christian” culture inserted into our holiday time, remind yourself and others that we all know it’s a myth. We all know this stuff doesn’t and didn’t REALLY happen the way it is depicted in our culture today. We can be good for goodness’ sake without God.