I’ve been watching the Daily Show for a few years now, and I’ve kept in touch with US news regarding atheism and religion. There’s a funny thing that crops up every December, usually on Fox News, referred to as the ‘War on Christmas’. It sounds like someone poking fun, but they use the term in all seriousness; there are people, we are told, who want to destroy Christmas. This ‘destruction’ takes the form of saying “Happy Holidays!” or taking public space previously set aside for nativity scenes. This is strange to me, as I don’t think I’ve ever come across a controversy about Christmas in the UK. It’s quite secular here, and yet everyone says “Happy Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”.
Now, I’m aware of the arguments for not using public space for Nativity scenes. It seems to me that that the American Atheists are technically right on this issue. However my preference, even as an atheist myself, would be to show the Nativity and other Christian-themed decorations. I suspect this has something to do with my upbringing – it reminds me of all those Christmases as a child, participating in Nativity plays and performing Christmas carols in Winchester City Centre, near the cathedral.
I celebrate Christmas the traditional way, just as Richard Dawkins does. As trite as much of the celebration may be, to my mind there’s something special in the way that everybody puts their repetitive working life on hold for a short time and participates in a nationwide celebration. There’s something special about Christmas carols; of course I’m talking about Coventry Carol and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and not Do They Know It’s Christmas? and Merry Xmas Everybody. Even the church services that I had to attend as an apatheistic Boy Scout and pupil at a Church of England school were a welcome and profound change from the hustle of urban life. I still perform in cathedrals and nice churches from time-to-time, and the beauty and sombreness of such places is certainly one aspect of religion that I want to preserve.
Sadly I won’t be in England this Christmas (for the first time in my life), as I’m moving to Taiwan. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to visit for a month or so to experience another British Christmas.