December 2013: C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. is here!

Ah, the holiday season.

Bah, the holiday season.

My feelings for the holidays change every year, it seems. Or it may be that they just have less meaning to me the older I get. And I’m probably not alone- I think unless you have children (which I do not. Save the applause until the end, please) the magic of whatever holiday you choose to embrace wears a little thinner each year without a child’s wonder to bring it all back.

I’ve had holidays both good and bad, traditional and non. One year I got a crossbow. That was fun. But then there was the year two friends and I, alone except for each other, had our Christmas dinner at a truck stop. Which was actually the high point – decorating the potted palm plant turned out not to be nearly as whimsical as I expected. Kind of a low point, really.

Or that Christmas I threw up on a sheep.

(This story is far less interesting than one may presume; but I’ll bring it all back up again anyway. Growing up on a farm, caring for the animals came first. Christmas morning, at the age of 17, I was out feeding my sheep when I leaned over the fence to toss some grain into their bucket but instead tossed my Christmas cookies on Wooly’s back. Never the friendliest of sheep, this did not improve her disposition one bit. She didn’t even appreciate that I’d gotten the colors right.)

Like many, a large part of my fondness for the holiday season is gift giving. This used to be a frantic thing for me, which eliminated much of the fun, as I would frequently find myself wandering in a stressed-out daze throughout a department store packed with other last-minute holiday zombies, wondering if the racy, yet festive underpants I choose were really too risqué for my casual friend?

(They were.)

These days, I’ve narrowed down my list of gift recipients to remove much of the stress. Now, I only shop for the few children in my life, and for the fewer adults who know where I live and can murder me in my sleep.

Not that they would.

(I hope. But why chance it?)

Being an atheist, I don’t really have a holiday of my own to celebrate. Usually, this either gives me the chance to sample other holidays or ignore them altogether. But deep inside, I think there’s still a part of me that wants to recapture that magical feeling I’d get as a child, of being too excited to sleep, of trying to stay up to catch Santa in the act, of the excitement of  the presents and decorating the tree and trying to keep the cats from eating the tinsel because what goes in must come out and tinsel strands aren’t digestible …

So, in 2008, I made up my own holiday to celebrate.

It’s not like this is without precedence. Holidays get made up all the time. Festivus was thought up in 1966. Kwanzaa was also celebrated for the first time around then.

As for my made-up holiday, I decided I wanted one that was stealthy … one that could be celebrated under the radar, as it were. One that I could co-opt other holiday fixtures and dates and traditions to use as my own.

(I’d rather not have throwing up on a sheep become a tradition, thanks.)

Again, this is not without historical precedence. Christmas itself borrows heavily from earlier holidays and traditions such as Yule and Saturnalia, and Santa Claus has gone by many different names and appearances throughout time and around the world.

So, my adding one more branch to the holiday family tree wasn’t going to take up much notice.

I started off calling my holiday the Day Atheists Get Together and Give Each Other Gifts Day, which I’m sure you’ll agree does not exactly trip easily off the tongue, especially when you’re at the checkout line at the grocery store, buying the traditional Day Atheists Get Together and Give Each Other Gifts Day turkey and you need to say something in parting to the cashier.

So, I changed its name to one more easy to pronounce and also easy to hide: Cheery Holiday Revelry In Secular Togetherness Marking Atheistic Sincerity.

Or, C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

(I could probably sell that on t-shirts.)

So now, I can buy all the cards I want, and I can even wish others a Merry C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S., because while it’s a terribly annoying word to type out, the periods are silent when it’s pronounced.

(Fun fact: if a string of initials spell out a pronounceable word, it’s an acronym. If not, like I.R.S., it’s an initialism. I carry useless facts like that around in my head in the hopes of one day giving them to other people so I can share the clutter.)

(The more you know.)

I celebrate my holiday on December 25th. I choose that day because I usually have it off from work anyway, so why not? And I can always pretend the big parades are just for me. Plus, it’s always marked on the calendar, so that makes it easy to remember.

As for all the other holidays this time of year, I like to be non-excluding, which is why I try to say Happy Holidays more often than not. I have no idea what holiday other people are celebrating, and I honestly don’t care.

I’ll gladly accept a gift from any person for any reason, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Festivus, Saturnalia, Leaping Goat Day, or Night-To-Dance-Naked-In-The-Woods-If-It’s-Not-Too-Very-Cold Day, because I hope that giving me a gift makes them as happy as gift-giving does me, which I want the recipients of my C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. gifts to realize as well.

Now granted, I’m sure there will be persons who find my personal holiday to be scandalous and offensive, or even a mockery (although I have yet to meet one.) Mainly because there are people who like to be offended, I think. (Party poopers. You don’t get a t-shirt.)

Celebrating C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. makes me happy, and gives me a holiday to lean on when I want to give presents to people who are special to me, so I don’t really give a lump of coal what other people may think.

Besides, one of the best things I realized as an adult is that no matter how someone else chooses to celebrate a holiday, it doesn’t offend or affect me at all. How can I be angry at someone for finding joy in their life, and a reason to celebrate that joy, when there’s so little of it to go around so much of the time?

No matter what you celebrate this season, or even if you celebrate nothing at all, I sincerely hope it brings you some amount of happiness and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of that long-ago magic as well.

So, from this not-so-tiny Tim … Merry C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. to all, and to all a good Night-To-Dance-Naked-In-The-Woods-If-It’s-Not-Too-Very-Cold Day!

(Just- mind the sheep.)

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