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Dec 24 2010

Movie Friday: Merry Christmas!

There is, underneath all the eye-rolling stupidity, a point to the annual debate in the atheist community about the celebration of Christmas. Yes, it has become so mainstream as to have its religious significance diluted. Yes, it is so pagan in its celebration as to strip it almost entirely of any overt Christianity. Yes, it can be (and has been) rebranded as a holiday celebrating humankind’s ability to be at its best in the way it treats other humans, regardless of any person’s beliefs about a supernatural force.

However, the celebration of Christmas does reinforce the false equation of Christianity with goodness – as though Christianity is a moral system (it isn’t) or that Christians are better people (they aren’t). Christianity may offer opinions on good and evil, but can claim no monopoly of either understanding or execution when it comes to questions of morality. However, thanks to centuries of religious domination, we in the west subconsciously equate Christianity with righteousness (“it’s the Christian thing to do”, “we’re God-fearing people”, “WWJD”).

Celebrating Christmas, no matter how secularly we try to do it, requires the inclusion of Christmas songs. Some of them are simple winter ditties (Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells), others are secular (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas), and a great many are explicitly religious (O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing). By flipping through those messages interchangeably, we prop up the notion that Christmas is explicitly religious, which in turn equates all the virtues of Christmas with the religious celebration.

Luckily, there’s guys like Patton Oswald who ask us to maybe think about things just a little harder:

Whether you’re celebrating a secular, egg-nog-filled Yule or a Jesus-heavy Christ-mas, I hope you enjoy yourself. Remember, I’m off my vacation starting the first weekend after the New Year, and I look forward to seeing you all in 2011.

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4 comments

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  1. 1
    Brian Lynchehaun

    That was freaking *awesome*.

    That said, I really do enjoy Christmas songs, including stuff like ‘O Holy Night’ (one of my favourites, if sung well).

    I think that there is an issue of general public broadcast, but private enjoyment can work out if the listeners are on message, so to speak. :)

  2. 2
    Angela Squires

    I love traditional Christmas music and hate what I dub suck hole songs like most of the contemporary and popularized crap such as ‘White Christmas’, Rudolph, Silver Bells et al. I hate this stuff!!! I went to a fabulous all girls grammar school with a great music tradition; we sung the descants, French, Spanish and German carols, the Messiah, Bach, wonderful classical music that lives on in my head and ears today. Back in 1976 before many were born I organized a Brit style carol singing group. We collected donations for the Vancouver Richmond Mental Health Association because one of my roommates worked for them and I felt it was a great cause to support. We had a real lantern on a stick, a snare drum, and rehearsed once. Every house we sang outside loved us, thought we had to be from a professional choir and were amazed we were just a bunch of friends. What we had in common was our British education that included this awesome musical tradition. We were from diverse backgrounds, yet we had all learned the descants to the traditional carols!
    I must get some of the British Ex-Pats MeetUp Group organized next year to go carol singing in this traditional British fashion. Canadians are most welcome to join us and enjoy singing for the joy it brings. I was at the Solstice Celebration on Granville Island with my friends the Vancouver Morris Men who sing magnificently – there is no greater experience than to be part of singing together in my opinion. Those old time religion wallahs recognized the appeal!

  3. 3
    Angela Squires

    For a long time I have not seen Christmas as a particularly religious celebration. I don’t have a problem with Christians claiming it, just laugh because they adopted a pagan tradition; I often dispute their claim to goodness, graphically illustrated by my descriptions of the unchristian treatment I have received from card-carrying and church attending, self-identified Christians. If I meet people who declare themselves Christians I am basically on the defensive because my experience says they are evil!

  4. 4
    Beauzeaux

    I never even heard this song until “22 Minutes” did a parody. I didn’t know it was a “real” song.

    What a piece of shit.

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