Tom Being Tom

Just me, talking about stuff.

The Reason for the Season

the real reason for the season

By on 22 Dec 2017

The winter season brings an interesting cultural paradox for me. I’m a Christmas reveler who doesn’t believe in Christ. Yet I face the supposed “reason for the season” everywhere I turn. I understand that. For many, around the world, Christmas Day is the birth of a savior, or at least it became that over time. No problem. But I have a completely different reason for the season. And you can, too. You can love this time of year for your own reasons. Throughout history, millions and millions have.

Christmas is an adopted holiday, anyway. It doesn’t belong to any faith in particular. Jesus Christ himself wasn’t born on Christmas day until several centuries later.  The Bible actually hints towards a non-wintry birth, according to some. The date of December 25th as the birth of Jesus Christ was announced in the 4th century by a Pope named Julius, to take advantage of the celebrations already in place throughout Europe. Pagans had observed customs we’d come to identify with Christmas for centuries before anyone believed in a New Testament Son or Biblical God.

See, the solstice has always been sacred. As the days grow shorter and colder, life tends toward the bleak, particularly in the north. It’s the most terrible time of the year. But the solstice represents a critical turn. From roughly December 21st-on the days get longer and, symbolically at least, warmer. Every culture since the beginning of mankind has celebrated this time.

Christians barely did. The celebration of the resurrection – the Easter celebration – was a far more important holiday, historically. But Pope Julius saw all the revelry occurring around Saturnalia and wanted in on the action. It was a clever coup. By adopting the rituals already in place – the ornamented tree, the mythical powers of mistletoe, the Saturnalian custom of gift-giving, and the cult of old St. Nick – it became easier over the ensuing centuries to sell December 25th as the birth of the Christian savior. It was a brilliant ploy and helped Christianity become the dominant religion of the western world.

Of course, the true reason for the season today is consumerism. Billions are spent on advertising; trillions on gifts. The average American spends nearly $1000 a year on Christmas presents. Every retailer, during the holiday season, is battling for your last end-of-the-year dollar. It’s preposterous. Honestly, I can’t blame the Christians among us for reminding us, when they do so politely, that Jesus Christ is the reason for the season for them. The belief in divine saving grace is certainly better than blind fidelity to capitalism run amok.

But these are not the reasons that I love Christmas. Not for the birth of a savior, not for the commercial insanity, and not even, to be perfectly honest, for the ritual of renewal. I’m not particularly spiritual even in the pagan sense. We don’t mess with holiday giving around the Cummings house, either, preferring instead to fulfill our wants and needs organically. We generally buy when logic or preference dictates, not when advertising or tradition does.

So why does this atheist love Christmas?

I love Christmas for all the lights on the street. I love Christmas for the cheerful music. The wonderful imagery. Christmas is great for the happy celebrations, whether pagan and debaucherous or holy and sublime. I love Christmas because it brings out the best in people despite the commercialism of the season. I love Christmas because I loved it as a child, and I am still a child inside.

If Christmas, to you, is the birth of Jesus Christ, I accept that. If Christmas, to you, is the night that St. Nick comes around, I accept that, too. Is it a holiday from work? A reason to give gifts? A wintry renewal or royal pain in the ass? I accept that, as well.

Whatever the reason you have for Christmas, just enjoy it.

But while you do, please accept all the reasons that others do – or don’t – enjoy it, as well.


37 comments on “The Reason for the Season

  1. Great points and very well written as always. It’s so sad how much it is about consumerism. I have small kids so Christmas is magic again around here but tbh it would be all about the food for me otherwise 😂

    1. Thank you, Mandi! I often wonder if having children would have changed my approach to Christmas. I think not, but one never knows “what might have been.” My mother always thought I’d return to Christianity, in time, were I to become a parent. 😄

      At any rate, Merry Christmas to you and your family, Mandi! Have a joyous celebration!

      1. Oh I’m a pretty hardcore atheist and nature worshipper lol. It’s magic because of Santa and decorations 🤷😂😂

        1. That’s likely the Christmas daddy I would have been. I still love the decorations! But there’s also a chance I might have been the daddy that told my kids that Santa was a myth, and to spread the word of truth far and wide. 😉 😂

  2. I adore this post and all of the reasons you love Christmas. Your writing is beautifully inclusive and illuminating. I wish you a super Happy Christmas!

  3. Great post Tom.
    I guess our love of spending money (and energy) is bigger than our love for God.
    I am no believer either, nor is it customary in our tradition to buy Xmas gifts. So, let’s say I’m enjoying my ‘don’t have to do anything’ state of mind. Marry Xmas to you too and may the force be with you.

    1. Haha! Love the final salutation. 😉

      Thank you, Bojana, for enjoying this one, and for saying so. One of the big drawbacks of modern media-driven democracy is our utter willingness to be led around like sheep. We get told what tradition demands, what Christmas “means” and we listen. Then we tell others they have to do the same things we hate to do ourselves, because of our customs.

      Poppycock.

      If you enjoy the beautiful lights of Christmas, love the smell of pine in the living room, but hate the hassle of battling all the shoppers at the malls, then hang the lights, get the tree, and eschew the gifts. If your thing is vice versa, vice versa to your heart’s content.

      And if not doing anything is your favorite thing, do nothing as much as you can!

      Happy Solstice to you, my friend… and thank you again for your input! Live long and prosper!

      1. I never liked being told what to do so that explains it. I haven’t been downtown in ages just to avoid the awful crows and ‘we’re having so much fun’ faces.
        So, I’m doing/planning nothing much and enjoying so far. We forgot to put up decorations too. Go figure. Didn’t forget the booze though. So it’ll be MERRY for sure.
        Speaking of which, I need some more wine. And chocolate. And some apples. And Narcos. Perfect. Oh, life is good.

  4. So far, you have crafted the only Christmas post well worth reading — quite an accomplishment considering that there are an estimated 74,652,852 WordPress bloggers out there. Merry Christmas, Tom!!

    1. Thank you, Paul, that is quite a compliment! I’ll take it, with my usual humble grace (or I’ll borrow some if I’m out), and wish you a very Merry Christmas in return!

      P.S. What does Paul do on Christmas Day, if I may ask?

      1. This year, I will spend a couple of hours doling out food at one of our local homeless shelters and then I will choose which of my friends’ dinner invitations to accept. How about you?

        1. A humanitarian! I like that. That’s an incredibly admirable thing to know about you. 🙂

          We’ll be in for Christmas this year (we went to friends last year) and Mrs C has promised me the most wonderful holiday enchiladas of all.

          I can never pass up an opportunity to enjoy traditions un-traditionally, whenever I can. 😉

          However, I will have “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the tube while she cooks…. assuming there isn’t football on all day. 😎

    2. ” there are an estimated 74,652,852 WordPress bloggers..” and I’ve got the most brilliant of all on my “follow” list…!!!

      1. I strongly suspect there is something special happening in this group of “us,” George. But don’t tell the president about it. He absolutely hates when groups of people come together and think for themselves. 😉

  5. I can honestly say that the season is different with kids. It pretty much MADE the season while they were 0-15. Now? Some good meals, yeah, that’s about it.

    The spirit of giving, the lift one feels viewing and hearing evidence of the holiday, I agree — are all reasons to enjoy this time of year. Would western culture still retain the intensity and fervor of the holiday if it weren’t for Christianity? I somewhat doubt it. So, grudgingly, I have to hand it the Christians — thanks Christians, thanks for Christmas.

    Now, who’s up for slaughtering that boar, that cow and those goats we can’t feed through the winter? Because, you know, come the end of spring — what the old folks use to call the “time of starvation” — is still months away. So, let’s gorge, debauch and party like it’s 0099!

    1. Hahaha! “Party like it’s double-aught-nine-nine” is gonna be my new thing! 😂

      Mole, I have no doubt that children make Christmas incredibly different; having none may have changed the season for me, entirely. The magic, I suppose, is gone, save for the magic I cast upon it myself. One never knows though, as I said above, “what might have been.”

      But you’re probably right, Christmas would never have been the same without the Christians. I’ll raise a mug for them this Christmas Eve and thank them for their contributions. They have, I must admit, given us much to be thankful for.

      I hadn’t quite thought of the winter festival in the way you presented there; fascinating. Let’s eat ’em while we got ’em cuz we won’t eat again til thaw! Certainly makes me wonder, then, why we need the feast today, at all…🤔

  6. I really enjoyed this post Tom.You write so eloquently. As for me, I was raised a Catholic but strangely since I lost my mum a year ago have drifted from my faith. I’m questioning so much more. I’m also not into consumerism and don’t really like to be dictated when or how to buy. It feels different this year with my kids older. I do enjoy the lights, the music and the happy feel of this festive season though. Oh and the food! I do love my wine and food. Cheers to happiness, spreading peace and good times!!!🙂

    1. Thank you, Miriam! Yes, I should have said more about the food; I love a good feasting (even if, after, I need to upgrade my walking and portion control programs for a while to get back to form 😉 ).

      Very sorry to hear about the loss of your mom; I lost mine in 2010 and the experience changed me, too. I was already unspiritual (< -- the squiggly red line under that tells me it's not a word; it should be!), but it drove me towards a bit of an unnatural obsession with my own mortality. A lot of good came from that, though, so I suppose the journey was worth the struggle. I miss her terribly, and dream I'm talking to her from time to time. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post; it was a little harder to write than most. I suppose I wanted it perfect, because the subject affects me deeply. But nothing is ever perfect so, at some point, the "publish" must be pushed! Cheers to all you said and more ... we live in interesting times, don't we! 🍻

  7. Well done! I’ve always felt like such a hypocrite around this time of year…but you’ve given me the logical reason to just enjoy it. And the most logical reason? Nothing really matters…so just have fun year round!!

    1. Thank you, George! There is no reason to not enjoy this time of the year, or any other for that matter. If we’ve been given life by divine grace (which, I suspect, we have not) then that grace should want us to live life to the fullest. If not, that grace should be defied. Who died and made them God, anyway? 😉

      And if there is no such thing as divine grace, or eternal hereafter (as I strongly suspect), then it is up to us to fulfill that promise for ourselves. So, dammit, let’s party like it’s double-aught-nine-nine every year (apologies, Mole!) and live like every day could be our last. 🍻

      Sensibly, though, of course. We still gotta pay the rent. 😉

  8. Merry Christmas Tom. You and Mrs C are two of my most favorite people I have ever had the pleasure to call friends. I cannot imagine a life that doesn’t include the two of you. Cheers and much love from all of us here in the bungalow – D, Huck, and V.

    1. Likewise, sir! Have a very Merry Christmas, and feel free to stop by for some homemade enchiladas on Christmas Day!

      I’ll be the one celebrating the Rams first playoff berth since 2003. 😉

  9. I am always telling people that Christmas was hijacked to take advantage of the party season! Merry Christmas Tom and Mrs Tom! x

  10. I still feel like a kid when I see Christmas lights. Particularly ones that nestled in an area without many lights, it is a present for the eyes. May you continue to enjoy the season.

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