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So, today I’m going to talk to you about the True Meaning of Christmas, because right now it’s that or the True Meaning of Art, and there’s a seventeen floor drop outside my flat, and I’d hate to have to throw anyone or thing off of it. Not least because it’s specifically in the Tenant’s Agreement for the entire block, Part Two, Subsection Seven, Thou Shalt Not Throw Projectiles From Thy Balcony. One small paper aeroplane, no matter how tempting, will cause the entire residents association to stop squabbling about the colour of the stairway to the laundrette; the TV Aeriel in the gym and the Legend Of The Missing Sinking Fund and instead come down upon my head like a ton of – tastefully repainted – building blocks. Presumably not ones thrown from a balcony, however.

Anyway, where was I before I started talking about throwing people from tower blocks?

Ah, yes. Respect For Your Fellow Man, and other themes of Christmas.

I’m going to be Privileged here, in the internet liberal sense of the word[1], and entirely redefine a word based purely on my perception of it. I am not religious. I have had the standard British education, which is carefully non-denominational, but is Church of England non-denominational. I sat though a large number of family services while a cub scout and later a scout, and my enduring memories of church are a) standing in the cold and frosty morning waving a flag, and b) not getting the decent parts in Joseph because I didn’t go to Sunday School. I have, over the last couple of decades, carefully formulated my own personalised form of religion which has the useful properties of supporting what I believe to be the case anyway, providing me with a personal moral compass, and being entirely uninteresting to anyone else in the world. In these three things it lacks only the community aspect a more mainstream religion would give me, and this is offset by the fact that I know every follower of my set of beliefs personally.

(I especially like comparing atheism to other kinds of religion. If only I could find some way of drawing electrical power from boiling blood, I’d be set for life. This is filed alongside the idea of attaching basic dynamos to coffins, so that if we’re going to do things like, for example, allow people to publish Hitchhikers Guide fanfic we should at least reap the rewards of Mr Adams’ post-respiratory revolutions).

So, for me the concept of “Christmas” has little to do with the celebration of the Nativity, Lights, Lack of light or anything more specific than “We, and people we like and are related to, and combinations of the above, have survived into the depths of winter. Long may this continue. I’ve thought of you, and would like you to have this gift. Now, lets eat”. Everyone else in the world is free to celebrate whatever they like. Enjoy whatever you celebrate, whoever its with. Even if you’re not in the depths of winter.


  1. (Copy & paste:)

    I think that wherever you are, whether your midwinter is in December or June, you need some kind of big to-do with lots of lights at roughly the midway point of the dark season, just to cheer you up enough to get through the rest of it.

    I don’t “celebrate Christmas”. I “have a midwinter party”. But since that takes too long to explain, I *say* I celebrate Christmas (or Yule, as the case may be).

  2. FWIW the Church of England _is_ denominational – it’s part of the worldwide Anglican communion, which is Episcopalian.

    Oh, and @Marco: what about people in the Southern Hemisphere? 25th December isn’t midwinter for them….

  3. mrben: You’ve missed the irony bit of my post, I think. A lot of religion at school level is “non denominational” religious activity undertaken exclusively by people of a specific denomination, which whether they realise or not isn’t actually the same thing.

  4. “… wherever you are, whether your midwinter is in December or June…” 🙂

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