Atheists have an interesting gig come holiday season. Thanksgiving is okay and obviously New Years doesn’t bother me, but it is exceptionally tough to navigate Christmas.

I didn’t believe in a god from a very young age and this carried over into any secular sense of Christmas as well. If I didn’t believe in an Almighty traffic cop in the sky, you sure as hell weren’t going to get me to believe in a red-suited fat man popping down the chimney. I remember my dad having a talk with me when I was six asking me to keep my opinions to myself so as not to ruin the holiday for my older siblings.

And so it has gone. I suffer in silence every year through the holiday I hate the most.

Not that there weren’t parts of it I enjoyed. We used to sit around the Christmas tree with my dad listening to the Mormon Tabernacle choir on the stereo with the all the lights off just talking about whatever. I really could have done without the presents. Receiving them has always embarassed me.  Just sitting like that, around the tree, with the TV off, drinking mother’s lethal eggnog was enough and I looked forward to that every year.

winter_solstice_pivatoI liked walking around the neighborhood at night looking at the lighted houses. The tackier the decorations, the better I say. Bring me back the 1970’s anytime. And I love Solstice. Always have. Something about celebrating the sun standing still and the longest night of the year has always appealed to me. 

But as a married adult, I am more trapped by all this holiday hooplah than ever. Sailor and I don’t put up lights, we don’t have a tree, and we don’t send out cards. But Sailor’s family is all into this nonsense and they “tolerate” my atheism (although not a single damn one of them goes to church) so long as I play nice through what I believe is hipocritcal nonsense. I’m expected to give and receive the knick-knack junk I whole heartedly detest, to put in the time on Giftmas Eve and Day and to attend holiday parties with the same people I see week after week. And I do it. Every damn year. Because I love Sailor and these tribal rituals are deemed somehow necessary in his family’s life. 

But here’s the thing, I would actually play ball and cease being so pissy about all of this any of them actually believed in any of this either.

Sailor’s family do what they do only because it has been so deeply programmed into them as the socially appropriate response to the season. And that’s crap. I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about wanting to ignore it all for simply enabling their bad habit.

I forgive it in my own parents because they do go to church. They do actually believe in all of this. Wholeheartedly. And despite our differences in philosophy, their staunch belief makes all this activity easier to deal with.

But, for better or worse, I also belong to Sailor’s tribe now and, per usual, I am making nice.

I try to focus on the one year where I got to do what I wanted. December 25th, 2004, Sailor and I, back in Maine, out on the island. We watched all 13 hours of the Lord of the Rings extended dvd’s along with a quite few appendices. We stopped only for soup, eggnog, and the brief run with the puppy dog through snow in the cemetery next door.

Best day ever. My happy place. You can be sure I’ll be focusing on that during the next holiday party.