Halloween is over, so it’s time for…

…Christmas! I’ve already seen Christmas trees up, so I guess I have to gird my loins and gather up my hosts and prepare for another seasonal campaign in the War On Christmas. Here’s an early salvo, The Ultimate Christmas Quiz. Christians and scholars, click on the link and find out what a confusing botch of a holiday it is.

Of course, this campaign will ultimately end with me gathering up the family and celebrating something or other anyway.


  1. Jonas says

    Celebrate jul or yule instead: The darkest day have passed, and we are now heading toward spring.

  2. H.D.Lynn says

    Go watch Rebecca Watson’s skepticon 3 talk on ruining Christmas. It’s hilarious, but it also manages to address the idea of how atheist might want to celebrate ‘religious’ holidays. Personally, I’m going to get my ugly sweater(s) on and buy some shiny, tacky decorations for my new apartment. SO MUCH TINSEL.

  3. Carlie says

    Giliell – but I’m sure you have all of the usual objections to consumerism and the commercialization of an ancient religion, to the westernization of a dead Palestinian press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer.

  4. says

    Why don’t adults believe in Santa ? Because either they figured it out by themselves, or some parent or peer took them aside at some point and told them “pssst, it’s all made up and not really for real !”. What happens if those who don’t figure it out for themselves get their magic beliefs reinforced instead, can be witnessed at your local church.

  5. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    I’d rather celebrate some goats than the birth of a child conceived by its father with the express purpose of being gruesomely executed ASAP.

    But we should really celebrate something more meaningful, the big bang for example – what a great idea for an annual celebration that would be. I could instantly think of a ton of traditions for the whole family that should come with it, brewing big bang beer, singing carols, celebrating the stars that have made us by making lanterns and hiking with them through the winter night (with some supply of mulled wine for the grownups), visiting neighbors and bringing them the good news, and some bottles of the big bang brew + cookies …

    Celebrate jul or yule instead: The darkest day have passed, and we are now heading toward spring.

    Typical hemispherist chauvinism… ;)

  6. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    We’ve had Xmas shite in the shops since about September. Right winds me up, that does, it should be kept in December under pain of something unpleasant…!

  7. What a Maroon says

    *I really like christmas. It#s sentimental, I know, but I really like it*

    That’s fine, as long as you remember the reason for the season.

    Which is one weird religion trying to co-opt the established traditions of another weird religion for their own nefarious purposes.

  8. says


    Even though my family is going to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I will be there with them celebrating the fact that I get yet another year to spend time with my family, enjoying their company, laughing and playing games, and eating delicious food.

  9. Yoav says

    That’s fine, as long as you remember the reason for the season.

    Something about axial tilt isn’t it?

  10. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Katherine Lorraine,

    That’s exactly what I am going to do. Above proposals were simply meant as a bonus ;)

  11. Gregory says

    I celebrate Holiday, which runs from Thanksgiving to the first Sunday after New Year’s Day. It encompasses Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Festivus, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s, all of which run into one another in a glorious egg nog fueled haze.

    Holiday is marked by putting up a Holiday Tree decorated with mementos of childhood and family; when Holiday cards arrive, they get are put on the Tree as well. During my annual Holiday party (mid December) guests are invited to a table with construction paper, scissors, pens, glue, glitter and the like to make an ornament. It is amusing to watch normally staid 40 somethings return to kindergarten for a bit.

    I usually fall back on the old American custom of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Day. Remember, the Puritans saw Christmas as Satan’s Own Festival, so New Year’s was the reasonable alternative to get together and celebrate. But if I know someone has a strong preference, I’m happy to accomodate them for some other date: that helps keep things interesting.

    Family, friends and community to share food, song and merriment, all while thumbing our noses at the winter weather. Truly, it is the most wonderful time of the year :-)

  12. Gregory says

    @What a Maroon #15:

    That’s fine, as long as you remember the reason for the season.

    Keep the Sol in Solstice?

  13. DLC says

    “Marley was dead: to begin with. . . .”
    From a supernatural tale as unreal as the various testaments of the bible, but with what I consider to be a better moral lesson.

  14. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Keep the Sol in Solstice?

    Can I haz highway billboard?

    This gets better and better ;)

  15. zugswang says

    That’s fine, as long as you remember the reason for the season.

    Keeping the “starch” in Christmas?

  16. davidct says

    I guess all you have to do to be a vicious anti-christmas anarchist is to say “Happy Holidays”. I for one will be putting up the colored lights and my little tree. There is no way I am going to pass up a perfectly good Pagan holiday. Christians may label me an atheist but they cannot tell me not to partake of good fellowship and good cheer at the return of the sun.

  17. Gregory says

    I wish I could take credit for “Keep the Sol in Solstice.” I first heard that from a Wiccan friend of mine back in the 80s; her coven was working on a counter to a “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaign. They also used “The ORIGINAL Reason for the Season.”

    I doubt they came up with either slogan.

  18. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    PZ linking to small sites in posts is the web version of Judas’ kiss of death :)

  19. Brownian says

    That’s fine, as long as you remember the reason for the season.

    My favourite winter celebration tradition is the Wringing of the Hands Over How We’ve Forgotten The True Meaning of Christmas. There’s nothing more Christian than standing there with armloads of cargo and clucking your tongue at everyone for worrying about aquiring armloads of cargo in time.

    Like plastering your car with “I Support Our Troops” ribbons, it’s an opportunity to shut your brain right off and let your heart speak from deep within you: “Duh!”

    I guess all you have to do to be a vicious anti-christmas anarchist is to say “Happy Holidays”

    I get a smile on my face just thinking of the self-centred Christians who shit bricks if you don’t applaud their specific choice of cult while alienating those who chose a different cult, or none at all.

    So Happy Holidays, Bill O’Reilly. Happy Holidays!

  20. Randomfactor says

    Christmas in the US is nothing more than the dominant religion co-opting a previous religion’s celebration for its own purposes.

    Santa and Black Friday, the avatars of Consumerism, have won out over Christianity. They shoulda seen it coming.

    (Christmas carols in the dollar store last night. Of course, in MY neighborhood, the local ice-cream truck plays “O Come All Ye Faithful” in July…)

  21. Ing says

    ~Christmas is the time to say ‘hey fuck you’
    To shit on Muslim, Jew and Hindu cheer
    Christmas is the time to say “hey fuck you”
    And a remember you’re our bitch throughout the year~

  22. says

    Men and Women to you battle stations! The war on Christmas has begun. Oh, the fat devil and the holy hell child think they can win this year! But we will show them! Sure Thanksgiving may have fallen, and it’s smoldering rumble a testament to the horrors of Christmas. But if we do not stand up against this monstrosity of horrible music and even worse movies, next year even Halloween will be under siege! This year I shall not rest until I have twelve bloody reindeer heads on my wall, and a red nose to use as a night light.

    Scream Happy Holidays to whomever you meet. Tell everyone you know that the true meaning of Christmas is “being with friends and families and getting shit,” not the birth of a a poor little demigod. We will hold the lines!

    the birth of Sasquatch jesus

  23. Gregory says

    If you are interested in the history of Christmas in the US — from the Puritan horror of Christmas to the creation of Santa Claus to the rise of holiday consumerism to how it was celebrated by slaves — I recommend The Battle For Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum.

  24. See Nick Overlook says

    @ Alex 20, actually Yoav already stole it. I first heard it last December on a video by Aronra.

  25. says

    Last year, a family on our block put a big ugly sign in their yard that read KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS and then, almost as an afterthought, MERRY CHRISTMAS at the bottom, nearly invisible as they had it at ground level.

  26. Carlie says

    myeck – I would be so dearly tempted to put another sign right next to it with an arrow, reading “Well, bless your heart.”

  27. raven says

    The War on Halloween this year was a big disappointment.

    I didn’t hear anything. Nothing about all the witches the candy companies employ to put demons in the candy. The undead walking the world and son on.

    The last few Wars on the War on Xmas haven’t been very exciting either.

    Hard to say if the fundies are running out of holiday hate or people are just getting bored. At the end of the day, babbling idiots are just babbling idiots.

    And, don’t forget the War on Easter. The War on Easter is one that a lot of people forget. Last year, the only firefight was friendly fire when some Pastor claimed the Easter Bunny was a pagan symbol. Which it is but so is everything else about Easter including the name, Easter.

    Happy Holidays everyone.

  28. What a Maroon says

    I’m surprised the Xians haven’t expanded on their campaign to go back to the original meaning of their holidays. Some suggestions:

    Put the East back in Easter!
    Put the Pip back in Epiphany!
    Put the Fry back in Good Friday!
    Put the Sump back in Assumption!

  29. raven says

    raven – you missed JesusWeen?

    No, I saw jesusween.

    It looked too silly to count. It’s another example of fundie xian friendly fire, them shooting themselves in the foot.

    While normal kids are going out, having parties, and wearing costumes, the fundie kids are getting what, bible tracts?

  30. Sally Strange, OM says

    I know the answer to some of those questions. Mostly the ones I don’t know are about what the Bible actually says about Jesus’ alleged birth. I do recall that a December birth is mentioned precisely nowhere in the Bible, but beyond that, I have no idea.

    Then again, I don’t care, because it’s the Bible and it’s full of nonsense anyway! Yay Solstice!

    And yes, I am a hemispherist. The Kiwis got really peeved at me when I told them it made no sense at all to celebrate Christmas in December, and they should switch it to June. What’s the point of Christmas lights if you’re putting them up when the days are longest and the nights are shortest? You barely get a chance to see them! I really think they’re missing out by not taking the chance to invent some winter Solstice holiday to celebrate during June. But whatever. No accounting for taste.

  31. Marius Rowell says

    Screw Christmas, I celebrate Yule and Hogmanay. More eating and drinking my way :)

  32. Marius Rowell says

    Another thought about the ‘when’. If shepherds were watching their flocks (like it says in at least one gospel) it had to have been late March/early April during lambing season or they’d have stayed home for the night.

  33. tbp1 says

    I love Tom Lehrer. He only wrote a few dozen songs, only gave a few dozen public performances, but virtually every song is a classic. His topical songs, which usually have a shelf life comparable to that of unrefrigerated fresh fish in the tropics, are amazingly apropos 50 years or so later.

  34. CJO says

    What pagan holiday did later Christians “borrow” to celebrate Jesus’ birthday?

    a. The Greek Brumalia festival
    b. The Roman feast of Saturnalia
    c. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (“the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”)
    d. All of the above
    e. None of the above

    Grumble. I assume this is intended to elicit the answer “all of the above” but it’s hard to say that with any real assurance. First of all, I don’t know where they came up with Brumalia being the name of a Greek festival, as it’s obviously a Latin word. Starting in the republican era, the Brumailia was actually a month long festival at Rome, beginning on November 24, and culminating after the solstice. It was nominally a celebration of Bacchus, and because of the association between Dionysios and Bacchus, it’s speculated that the origins of the Brumalia were in the authentically Hellene Lenaia, which was a winter theatrical contest sacred to Dionysios. However, the identification of Bacchus (who had deep roots in native Italian religion) and Dionysios (an Eastern exotic, even to the Greeks) is problematic, and I know of no evidence that there were any other common elements between the Brumaila and the Lenaia, other than drinking wine, and that’s common to, well, parties in general.

    Natalis Solis Invicti likewise has a tenuous connection to Christmas. First of all, it’s late, probably 3rd century, in origin, and very much associated with imperial power and the imperial household. “Invictus” always has military overtones in Roman imperial usage, and the holiday had none of the popular roots and ancient traditions associated with it that made Saturnalia, in particular, such a good candidate for “borrowing” or co-opting by Christians. Incidentally, the form this “borrowing” took was likely the simple fact that many supposed converts to Christianity continued to take part in pagan practices, especially ones like the Saturnalia in which the entire city would turn into a giant revel. Tweaking these traditions slightly and adopting them as Christian was making a virtue out of necessity, not anybody’s conscious attempt at co-opting a pagan holiday for the purposes of suppressing paganism or bolstering Christianity.

  35. says

    I walked into one big downtown store some years ago to find that they had their Christmas campaign in full swing when it wasn’t even Hallowe’en yet. I left and never went back. It’s entirely coincidental that they went bankrupt a few years later–my custom never stops my favourite restaurants from going out of business. I could hire myself out as a one-person “kiss of death” focus group–if I like something, it will shortly fail due to unpopularity.

  36. sceptinurse says


    Very true. I am amazed at that every time I listen to his albums. Even the songs that do come out as slightly dated only need a word or a line changed to bring them right back up to date.

  37. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I was disappointed with one question in the quiz:

    11. Who started the War on Christmas?

    The correct answer, Bill O’Reilly, is not one of the choices.

  38. Ing says

    The War on Christmas moniker is like the War of Northern Aggression.

    It’s the Christmas War. Christmas fired the first shot when it annexed Thanksgiving.

  39. otrame says

    I also celebrate Holiday.

    My family, or as much of it as can make the trip in any given year, gather at my sister’s farm (next door to my parents)vfor Thanksgiving. We often have as many as 20 people and usually about 18 dogs. We do have a good party.

  40. Lord Autumnbottom says

    No, bad biologist! Every year we see a vicious attack on Thanksgiving and it’s gotten to the point where we just gloss over it on our way to December. This War On Thanksgiving must stop, now you spaghetti monster damned heathens, go kill a bird and eat it for linguini’s sake!

  41. foodmetaphors says

    My answers: 1: A 2: C 3: D 4: D 5: A 6: C 7: E 8: E 9: E 10: B 11: A 12: D Bonus: BCD

    If 3 isn’t D, then it’s B but yeah. How’d I do :D

  42. Tex says

    I liked the suggestion to celebrate Krismass instead of Christmas. That would be celebrate Kris Kringle (or st. Nick/santa) and the idea of giving to others especially those in need and being happy with making others happy. (maybe this was suggested earlier in the replies I honestly stop reading after the first 10-20, if so well good on them :-D )

  43. Senritsu says

    With all the Terry Pratchett fans here, I can’t be the only one that celebrates Hogswatch, right?