As an atheist I would never have wished Christmas away, entirely. Granted, I bristled at the Christian takeover of a pagan solstice celebration; but I had nothing against a saintly old man who poured gold pieces into the stockings (hanging to dry by the fireside) of some desperate young sisters (their orphan-hood and poverty were luring them into a life of prostitution), nor his 20th century counterpart who brought proverbial gifts to ALL the children of the world on one winter’s night each year. No, I quite approved of Santa Claus.
When I was a child, and an atheist, I celebrated Christmas with my atheist family. We housed a decorated evergreen in the living room; we exchanged gifts and feasted on roast turkey; we raised our glasses, in-canting peace on earth – goodwill t’ward Man. We enjoyed the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson on record and the angelic contralto of my classmate Tommy Faulkner singing O Holy Night in the near empty church where my grade 5 choir performed.These days, even if I fall for the crass commercialism and consumerism of Christmas, my soul, I think, responds to a deeper yearning – to fall in love with the world, to wish everyone peace and harmony, to drink in the coniferous beauty of my urban forest home, to feel gratitude overflow in my childish ticker, and as Ebenezer says, ‘honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’