No Offense, but Have Yourselves a Merry Christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year (you’ll notice I didn’t call it Xmas, or “the holidays”). It’s the season of chilly nights, snowy days

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

and cozy mornings by the crackling fire, that I long for during the dry summer months. The Solstice —with its leafless trees, longer days and promise of spring—adds its magic to the spell. To this devout unbeliever—this compassionate atheist—the arrival of winter has always been known as Christmastime.

Make no mistake; I don’t believe in virgin births, any more than I believe in Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or the talking walnut. It’s all a bunch of anthropocentric hooey. But I think it’s sad that Americans aren’t supposed to say “Merry Christmas” any more.

I wouldn’t expect store clerks to assume their customers are all church-going Christians. I for one am not and never have been—my church is the DSC_0082wild forest, mountains, rivers and oceans. Yet I still think of the giving season simply as Christmas. When I’m out shopping for Christmas presents, I’d rather hear a hearty “Merry Christmas” than a sheepish “happy holidays.” Instead of spreading good cheer, the latter comes across as an embarrassed, “the capitalist corporation I work for will fire me if I’m caught wishing you a Merry Christmas.”

I enjoy all kinds of Christmas music—as long as it’s joyous—and all sorts of Christmas decorations, particularly those that celebrate trees and greenery. I’m not offended by manger scenes, especially the ones that include lots of animals bedded down on nice dry straw. But the religious slant can definitely be taken too far. I get irritated when someone includes a cross in their Christmas display.

To me a cross is a symbol of cruelty, suffering and death, not peace, love and generosity. It doesn’t belong anywhere near Christmas. I’ve never believed in needing savior to achieve redemption. And I’m already painfully aware of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man (not to mention, to the pigsDSC_0101 and turkeys, as well as the ducks and geese I hear being shot at out there as I write this—all in the spirit of holiday feasting).

Not that I think anyone’s ever coming back from anywhere, but I can identify with this memorable line in the Woody Allen film, Hannah and her Sisters, when Max Von Sydow’s character, Frederick, laments about the garbage on TV: “You see the whole culture. Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, a talk show. Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third grade con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

I’ve never thought of December 25th as the birthday of any god-incarnate or the day that reindeer can fly or when Santa visits every house in one night. But I’ll always call it Christmas—the name for a season that ought to last all year long. It’s not just a holiday—the spirit of selfless giving should be a year-round sentiment.

Oh, and if anyone up there really is listening, all I want for Christmas is world peace for all beings— and enough freaking snow to ski on.

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12 thoughts on “No Offense, but Have Yourselves a Merry Christmas

  1. Jim! Perhaps we were separated at birth! My friends could never understand why I got so into Christmas when I am one of the least religious people they know. I told them I blamed my early childhood conditioning. But yes, there is so much about Christmastime I love. And I also feel the same about crosses as you do. Would you hang a picture or sculpture of an electric chair on your wall? A gallows? It’s too bizarre. Anyway, I don’t get to say this to too many of my friends–Merry Christmas!

  2. Thank you, Jim! I second all of what you have said. Everything in this world does not have to be generic–and I still say “Merry Christmas,” without the religious crap.

    We have our “Gaian Feast” on Christmas, with our small, green, very real-looking tree, which I bought at the Animal Shelter Thrift Store called “Guess What the Cat Dragged In” (don’t you love it?) and we have Quorn “Turk’y Loaf, so delicious, easy to bake, with vegetable-based Cornbread Stuffing, good veggies, bread, and of course pies and other goodies, with some good wine, & Christmas music.

    I must go out now, and feed the fifty or so beautiful Ravens in the yard, waiting for me, along with the smaller hungry birds, quail, a few rabbits and “squirrel-birds,” and who knows, a coyote or bobcat in the night.

    I am not sure how many more Christmases most of us will enjoy. Things are changing so fast now. But, I wish for you and all on this wonderful blog, the health, strength, and bravery to continue our difficult, often heart-breaking work, to save The Wild and the non-humans. I have the hope that those of us who correspond on this blog will do whatever we must to save whatever we can.

    May the powers of Mother Earth Bless You All. The only Peace is in Nature.

    My Best Wishes,

    Rosemary Lowe
    Santa Fe,NM http://www.foranimals.org

    • We have a family of ravens who nested on the hill opposite our beaver ponds. They fly over and talk to us every day, but they still haven’t stopped to join the other birds and squirrel-birds at the feeders. What do you attract them with?

      • Jim, I have been putting seed block out –it’s usually called Wild “Game” Bird block, and many places like feed stores, Wild Birds Unlimited, carry it now. I have noticed that the ravens take pretty big chunks out of them. Also, I have hung out some of the big seed cylinders from the tree limbs, and the ravens even go for them! One of the ravens is as large or larger than some hawks! Merry Christmas!

  3. I enjoy all kinds of Christmas music—as long as it’s joyous—and all sorts of Christmas decorations, particularly those that celebrate trees and greenery.

    I love this time of year also, and agree with much of what you wrote. I love the cold, the light, snow, and the promise of spring also.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. I hate christmas, I hate the phony religious side of it and the crass commercial side of it as well. I basically don’t celebrate it at all since I cut contact with my narcissistic father and the rest of the family. With that said I do understand the desire for a winter festival of sorts. Jim, would you feel like sharing what a vegan christmas dinner looks like?

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