So Queen Elizabeth II made her Christmas speech today. On the news, I thought she looked like Mrs Santa Claus (I mean she really looked like Mrs Santa Claus!). I am republican and I cannot believe how easy the royals make it to poke fun at them. But I digress... So every important public figure make Christmas speeches, so I thought why not also a commoner like me? I thought about writing here a speech or three reasons: first because it is time for Christmas speeches, as I said, second because my brother sent me a video of the wedding speech I gave at my other brother's wedding, and thirdly because I received as a present The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, which I have been wanting to have and read for ages. It made me wonder if I could write one on the topic. I am an atheist, ideologically I am a secular humanist, but I love Christmas. So why does it matter to me?
Well, it matters because Christmas is a celebration which roots predate Christianity and which significance goes way beyond it. Its imagery is often more Pagan than Christian, it's a celebration of life (yes it is corny to say it, but still true) and I love its excesses. While religious zealots historically found these excesses deplorable and were even against celebrating Christmas, I embrace the Pagan roots, the excesses, the non-spiritual aspect of the holiday. Even as a devout little Catholic boy, I could have never imagined myself spending Christmas in prayers and penance. It does not mean that I disregard charity work done during Christmastime (or done at any time), but any charity work is done to give material, physical comfort of some sort. The pleasure I take from the holiday is desperately physical (for better or for worse, when I have eaten too much like now): I love its atmosphere (and what it represents to me), its religious music I appreciate on a strictly aesthetic level (not believing of the historical truth of its story anymore, but also because its carols have a beauty of their own regardless of their religious significance), etc. In a way, the religious aspect of Christmas is merely cosmetic. And of course there is the question of the nostalgia. Like Halloween, I have strong recollection of my the Christmases of my childhood. At some point, the celebration is in itself a justification of its existence, the memory you have of the past Christmases and the creation of new memories to share in the future are important. I think it is Oscar Wilde who said that all a man is his past. As an utter nostalgic I completely agree. And this is why Christmas as a celebration matters.
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