Christmas. It’s a wonderful time of year. Everyone’s in good spirits, there are parties a go go, the kids are excited, the Christmas trees smell fabulous and all the twinkly lights are oh so pretty! For the purposes of this post I’m going to minimise my ranting about manic shopping and Christmas spice (two of my pet hates!).
But, given that I don’t believe in God or Jesus (or follow a religion of any denomination), does my celebration of Christmas make me a hypocrite?
Yes, I know that the timing of Christmas itself is a rip off of the Pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice, and it’s generally believed that Jesus was born in the Autumn. But the church adopted December as the celebration of his birth sometime in the 4th century. It seems there are various reasons for this, Wikipedia states that “The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived as well as the date of the southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice), with a sun connection being possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2”
But, I digress; I’m done with the ‘history’ bit!
But, I digress; I’m done with the ‘history’ bit!
It does seem that Christmas and the festive season is more of a universal holiday now, rather than a religious one, which I’m sure the church are just thrilled about! Oh, I know many will still hold Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth rather than the sometimes sickly sweet celebration the rest of us follow, but it does seem that the meaning of Christmas in its fundamental sense, has been lost somewhat.
It feels slightly odd making the statement above, because I do not believe in a higher power of any kind. Having said that, I’ve been christened (into the Church of England I think….), and I’m a godmother to 3 children. I enjoy a bit of carolling, when the mood takes me, and I have been known to go to midnight mass (although it was about 20 years ago!). My family was never religious when I was growing up. Sure, we studied Religious Education in school and I know a bit about the different faiths of the world, I just don’t have one myself. I like to think I fully respect the beliefs of others, whilst making my own views clear. It’s a two way street no? Mutual respect and all that.
Not too long ago, I encountered someone who appeared to hate the Church and all it stood for. This took me aback slightly, but it was a post this person had written on the role of godmother that angered me. She was adamant that soon enough one of her friends would ask her to be godmother to one of their children (which was laughable in itself, talk about expectations!). Her whole post was about how she’d turn it down but wouldn’t want to offend the person asking. Fair enough, had she not then gone on to rip into the faith of the church. I found myself reading it thinking “You turning down the role of godmother won’t offend a friend if you explain you’d rather not given that you don’t believe, but what will offend them is reading this post that you’ve posted publicly in which you rip to shreds the beliefs of others”
I mentioned above that I have 3 godchildren, and each time I’ve been offered the great honour of this role I’ve readily accepted. The parents of the children involved are well aware of my beliefs, and rather than asking me to fulfil this role in its traditional religious capacity, I’d like to think they’ve chosen me as someone who would have a positive influence on their child and care for them no matter what. I’ll strive to do the former and the latter is a given.
It was only recently that I experienced a church community and although it didn’t make me want to convert to Christianity or one of its variations, it did make me appreciate something.
I went to church this year with a very good friend of mine on a few occasions before she was married there. And although at first I did feel slightly out of place and a bit awkward, I soon came to realise that it didn’t matter to the congregation, or the Canon, that I wasn’t a regular member. They welcomed me with open arms, as they had my friend a few months before. There was a real sense of community in the church and it was rather heart-warming. And it was with genuine, heart felt emotion that the Canon called my friend, her husband and their daughter ‘part of the family’ on their wedding day, and his words were incredibly moving.
I may not believe in God, or Christ, but I do believe in communities. I’d never looked at the Church in that way before, but I do now. I’ve seen first hand how welcoming and accepting a congregation can be, and it’s lovely. I suppose, coming back to my original point, that’s what Christmas stands for for me, the community of my family.
I live away from my family and although I see them throughout the year, it’s rare I see them all together. But it happens at Christmas, and it's lovely. For those of you that may know me through Twitter or Facebook I do give out about my family, well, mainly my parents. I know I do, but I still love and cherish them dearly. And as slightly stressful as it can be, I enjoy seeing them at Christmas. I’m spending Christmas day this year with my sisters; no parents, just us 3 sisters and their families. I’m massively looking forward to it. My sisters and I go a bit mad when we get together. We often end up giggling about something no one else finds funny, or that we can’t explain to anyone else, but it’s freaking hilarious to us.
Post Christmas day there’ll be a get together of us all (parents, daughters, grandkids etc), along with (hopefully) my step brother, who is a rather recent but very welcome addition to the family. This get together can be stressful, and I have dreaded it in the past, but this year I’m going to remain positive and remember that it’ll be times like this that I’ll look back on with fond memories when I’m older, and my parents have gone.
Although I may not celebrate Christmas in its fundamental sense of the birth of Christ, I’d like to think I honour it with the family bits I do do.
So, to all of you out there, I wish you a wonderful Christmas, however you may celebrate it, or hold it in your heart.
Much love and many festive greetings.