“What does Christmas mean?” Fiona asks me, minutes after we wake up and seconds after the lights are turned on and the tree plugged in.
Yeesh. I don’t have my ducks in a row on this one. I am bleary eyed, and coffee craving. I haven’t found my glasses yet and I stare at the blurry, lit-up tree, and fumble for an explanation for my smart three-year-old. “Um. Well, Baby,” I begin stalling for time to organize my lethargic thoughts, “Christmas means that we celebrate all of the joy of the year before and are happy that even though it’s cold outside and the year is ending, the sun doesn’t stop shining and it will get warm again.”
“Oh!” She says excitedly, “And that’s why we have a tree! They keep growing! And a star! Because the sun is shining!”
“Yep.” I say, smiling at her joy, but dissatisfied with my explanation. See, if I haven’t said it before, we’re atheists. So, Christmas is… challenging. I like it. But, I also kind of believe that I should call our celebration Yule, or Festivus, or really anything without all the religious connotations.
I also think that I needed to address the other part of the equation, that I didn’t mention, and let her know that a lot of people believe a lot of different things. And that that’s okay, the world would be a dull place if we lost the diversity of belief, thought, and culture that defines the human experience.
A few days later, I was talking about this conversation with my sister and she suggested that when I get these kinds of questions. The ones that make the gears in my head grind way too early in the morning that I tell Fiona ‘that is a great coffee question’. Then I take her out for coffee and we talk. It’ll make it special and give me a chance to come up with an answer that’s a little more complete, an answer that doesn’t leave me with a puzzled frown on my face two hours and three cups of coffee later.
Still, my answer isn’t bad, such as it is. And I really like Christmas. So, I’ll leave you with a song by another atheist who likes it. Here’s Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”
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