Just another WordPress.com site


Maps and Legends, originally uploaded by Roadduck99.

I am a devout Atheist, yet I love Christmas.

I scoff at the notion that Jesus is the son of God – I scoff at the notion that there IS a God – yet I love many of the most reverent Christmas Carols.

How can this be?

I celebrate what I call HypoChristmas – Christmas celebration by one who is not Christian. I am happy to label myself a hypocrite, as I am sure most Christians consider me to be. But I don’t in my heart think myself to be a hypocrite when it comes to Christmas.

You see, in my family Christmas was always a big deal. But despite the fact that my mother was a Catholic, and I was raised Catholic (to a point), Christmas in my house was never a hugely religious event. My mother usually went to Midnight Mass, but I never had to attend. Christmas simply was never a religious event for me.

And yet, Christmas was never a highly commercial holiday for us, either. Oh, there was definitely and abundance of gifts. Probably an overabundance of gifts. But I don’t recall Christmas as being about buying. I don’t recall an over emphasis on shopping, or getting the latest toy, or getting a great deal. It was a time to share the prosperity of the year just past, not a time for material gain. Though there were some years with substantial material gain.

My fondest memories of the holiday are not of receiving gifts, though I did love to receive gifts. No, my fondest memories are the sometimes kitschy decorations we had, some of 1960’s vintage, and some true antiques. They are memories of quiet times, with the TV off, with all the lights dimmed other than those on the tree. The warm glow of colorfully painted bulbs filling the living room. I remember going to my father’s Uncle Ralph’s house on Christmas Eve, to drink punch and have candy, fruitcake and other sweet treats.

And there are memories of decorating the tree. I loved to hang the unbreakable plastic ornaments that my parents bought in England. I loved to hang the fancy Shiny Brites that were hung from the hightest boughs, where the cat couldn’t get them. I loved to drape fistfuls of tinsel from every limb. And every time I remember decorating the tree as a child, I remember a football game that was on one year when we were decorating the tree – the Dolphins vs. the Colts. It must have been from 1972, the year the Dolphins went undefeated.

My memories of Christmas have more Hail Mary’s than Holy Mothers.

And so I think it’s OK for a committed Atheist to celebrate Christmas without a twinge of guilt, or a feeling of hypocrisy. Yes, it’s a Christian holiday. Then again, many of the rituals were co-opted from Pagan traditions. Cultures have been holding winter celebrations for eons. These celebrations will outlast Christianity, of this I am certain. It doesn’t have to be about Christ. It can be about the lights, and the shiny ornaments, and the quiet times, and connecting with family. I believe this without a hint of hypocrisy.

Southwestern Style Christmas Ornament

Southwestern Style Christmas Ornament

Baseball-related Christmas Ornaments

Baseball-related Christmas Ornaments


9 responses

  1. Beth

    Call this season what you will, it is not all about Christ. One of my least favorite sayings for Christmas is “The reason for the season.” This season holds many traditions, as you mention, most have nothing to do with the Christian takeover of the holiday. I too have many fond memories of Christmas’s past, getting together with the extended family, huge feasts, abundant sharing, music and laughter, having the tree together with my family, the hope for snow and the joy when it came just in time. Making our own tradtions when I started my own family is ongoing and fills my heart.

    I am Christian. I started questioning at a very young age just what Christmas was. Since the adults only said “Jesus’ birthday.” I had to so my own research. I was, and am, a reader. My parent’s should never have gotten those encylopedias if they didn’t want me to find out things for myself.

    Wonderful post, Joe. I do believe in Santa Claus.

    December 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

    • Joe

      That reading thing causes all kinds of problems!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your memories, Beth.

      December 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

  2. What a great shot and a great commentary, Joe! You are going to think I am such a dope, but in addition to getting your blog emailed to me when you make a post, I have internationally famed shooter, Joe McNally’s photo blog sent to me when HE makes a post. So, when I read your post at first, I just assumed it was Joe McNally’s shot and thought, jeez, that’s a really nice shot and thoughtful post.

    Then I happened to go on flickr and saw “Joe McNally’s” beautiful map-wrapped present boxes photo on YOUR flickr account and you were claiming to have taken it–then I went back to the blog email and saw it was YOU and not the other Joe! lol! (Brain cramp for cindy obviously!)

    Anyhow, it just shows what a good photo you’ve taken, that I thought it belonged to Joe McNally!

    Merry Christmas! Cindy

    December 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

  3. Joe

    LOL! Thanks, Cindy. All of us Joe M.’s are interchangeable!

    Merry Christmas to you, too.

    December 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm

  4. I guess so, Joe! Too funny! Cindy

    December 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

  5. Karen Knox

    Great thoughts Joe! I am agnostic – I guess. We were not a religious family, although I went to Sunday School through 6th grade. My memories of Christmas are about the decorations, the tree, the food, the family gatherings and fellowship.

    I love to decorate the tree, remembering where all the ornaments came from and the stories and memories behind them. Listening to older family members recalling their Christmas memories and stories of their youth.

    While there are certainly memories of gifts received (and given) most of my memories are about the traditions and events.

    Perhaps the true meaning of the season isn’t in the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth but in celebrating our families and friends.

    Thanks for making me remember what the season is truly about for me. I think I got caught up in the commercialism and gifting this year.

    Merry Christmas!

    December 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    • Joe

      Thanks for your thoughts, Karen. This is why I don’t give up Christmas despite my non-Christianity.

      December 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm

  6. Jason

    Loved this post Joe. I think I’ve been celebrating HypoChristmas for a long time. You really captured my feelings on the holiday better than I ever could have expressed it.

    December 23, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    • Joe

      Thank you, Jason. And thanks for checking out my blog!

      December 23, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s