As the years have passed, I have found myself getting more and more resentful at Christmas time, and it’s not all about my atheism. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Rather than ramble in incoherent paragraphs, I find it useful to dot-point my thoughts to help clarify my thinking, so here goes:
1. I believe that the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas is to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the Christians probably adopted and adapted a Pagan festival or two way, way back, but today, and for many hundreds of years, Christmas (the modern form of ‘Christ’s Mass’) is about celebrating Jesus’ birth.
2. I believe that the ‘modern meaning’ of Christmas is about retailer expectations. This year, the first report on ABC news about retailer expectations was in November – roughly six weeks out from Christmas. I’ve been hearing it said since I was a little girl that we are losing the true meaning of Christmas, but I now believe we are there. The latest retailer expectation update was on the news again last night – four days out from Christmas Day. Yet not a word was mentioned about Jesus’ birth.
3. I believe that the public holiday which the western world, and, in fact, many other parts of the world, celebrates these days is an excuse, and for some, an obligation, to spend ridiculous sums of money on stuff we don’t need, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, eat excessive amounts of food, and coerce people we normally wouldn’t spend time with into feeling guilty if they don’t wish to spend time with us at Christmas.
4. I believe that the public holiday we observe as Boxing Day is now 180 degrees opposite to what it is meant to be. In the past it has been, at different periods of time: a day when those with status, economic security, food etc, honoured those without; in the Middle Ages, masters would give boxes of food or gifts to their servants; and in later years, ordinary people would box up their Christmas Day leftovers for the poor and less fortunate. Today it is about breaking retail records in the post-Christmas day sales.
5. I believe that the recorded rate of Christianity has declined over the last 100 years, even in ‘traditionally Christian’ western countries, and will most likely continue to decline as western populations uphold religious freedom in the ‘separation of church from state’.
6. I believe it’s time we returned Christmas to the Christians. I know my unionist father will be starting to roll in his grave right now, after all the unions fought for us, but seriously, why do I get a paid day off (public holiday) because someone I never knew in a country far, far away was born 2,000 years ago? I mean, it’s all very nice, and I’m sure Jesus was a lovely bloke, but why do I, an atheist, deserve a public holiday? I don’t get a public holiday for Eid al-Fitr or Rosh Hashana or even Woolgoolga Curryfest, so why should I get one for Christmas? And, conversely, should I choose or be required to work, why should I be compensated with double time payment of my salary?
7. I believe that we should eliminate the Christmas and Boxing Day public holidays from our national calendars. In compensation, we should have:
a. one extra day off for celebrating the start of a New Year. This would be classified as a national public holiday and standard penalty rates should apply for those required to work
b. a system whereby all employees should be allowed to nominate for one paid religious holiday per year. And if you have no religion, or don’t align yourself sufficiently with any one religion, then you may have one paid day off anywhere in the year that suits you (and which is agreeable with your employer), to compensate. If we truly believe in freedom of religion in our democracies, then we either offer no public holidays for religious festivals, or allow everybody one day for the festival of their choice.
8. I believe that we need to stop basing our western economies on the end of year splurge which accompanies the Christmas gift-buying orgy, and start focusing on a more even, sustainable spread of sensible spending throughout the year based on need, not on excess. This for both spiritual reasons as well as stabilising our economies.
9. I believe that the expression ‘Christmas is for the kids’ is ringing true more frequently these days, and yet what are we teaching them? We’re not teaching them about Jesus and love for our fellow man. We are teaching them about one gluttonous day of the year where they get paid to take two days off, expect lots from other people, and for what reason? We are feeding a sense of entitlement into our younger generations through this non-authentic celebration of Christmas.
10. I believe that this blog post will upset lots of different people for lots of different reasons, but the simple messages are:
a. We should be returning Christmas to the Christians.
b. We should be practising true equality and freedom of religion and non-religion in our western democracies.
c. We should be less gluttonous and more circumspect about our Christmas spending, and a little less selfish and a little more honest about when and where we have our paid public holidays during the year.
Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful, happy and financially stable 2014.