Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?
My son asked me why we celebrate Christmas.
“We’re atheists and you say you don’t believe in magical sky beings, so why do we celebrate a Christian holiday?”
I told him we are celebrating the solstice and the renewing of nature. As human beings, our existence depends on the planet. Here, in the northern hemisphere, the solstice marks the point where the planet is furthest away from the sun. Afterwards, we begin leaning back towards it. To past generations, a successful growing season and having enough food to survive the winter was incredibly important and a reason to celebrate. Christians co-opted this celebration and labelled it with their mythology.
Now, our relationship with nature has changed. Humanity has become so powerful we can destroy nature. We have a new role to take on as stewards of the planet. We must protect and enhance nature to ensure our survival into the future. The solstice marks the starting point for the return of growth and life for another year. Make no mistake, we are still in a symbiosis with the natural world. We can create a nuclear winter or a fiery climate hell, but we can’t survive it. Well, aside from Elon Musk and a few friends on Mars.
The Christian heritage of the season reminds us of some ideals that are worth celebrating too. Peace, charity and helping your fellow man come to mind. So, we celebrate those and successfully partnering with nature for another year. Let’s hope our species’ survival will not be as elusive as peace has proven to be. For that I can pray. Not to the magical sky beings, but to you, my fellow travellers on this magical ball of life.
Happy Christmas, everybody.