I was unprepared for how difficult this Christmas would be. In years past, my husband and I have easily followed along with our family’s traditions because it was easier to grin and bear it. Before our son was born, it seemed senseless to ruin everyone else’s fun because we don’t believe Jesus was the son of god, or that people should spend obscene amounts of money on useless stuff in the name of Jesus. It never made sense to us, but we didn’t have a stake in any of it. And last year, Soren was too young to actually participate in the Christmas frenzy, other than being forced by my mother to wear a frock adorned in sparkly script letters that read, “My first Christmas.” This year, however, he’s nearly two, and we feel strongly about establishing how, when, why and to what extent we will participate in Christmas. I think we have been gentle, respectful, yet firm in communicating to our families and friends on this account, but now, as The Holiday is breathing hotly down our necks, so are throngs of Christmas-obsessed loved ones with questions, demands, concerns, and expressed disappointments.
Many people who love us are very concerned about our Christmas tree — the Christmas tree that does not, and will not exist. The Christmas tree we have never had, nor plan to have. Apparently, this is a great disappointment for at least a dozen people, many of whom have never even been to our house. They seem to think that not killing an evergreen and erecting it in your living room and wasting electricity on lighting is both a depressing way to live through December and neglectful of our son.
My husband and I have also heard many gasps in incredulity about the gifts we won’t be giving Soren for Christmas. People actually seem to believe that our son is going to suffer great damage if he doesn’t peel away shiny wrapping paper from new toys on the 25th of December. They seem to be confused that we aren’t kidding or being humble or cute because they plan to give us gifts despite our repeated pleas to the contrary. Let me clarify: we don’t need anything. We don’t want anything. And it’s not even a lack of want (as atheism is a lack of belief). We want to receive nothing. We aren’t being polite or humble. We aren’t kidding. We aren’t confused or simply unsure of what we would want if we wanted anything. We want people to not even consider getting us anything. Please. Just spend time with us. Set aside an afternoon and hang out with us. That’s all we need. Because time with the people we love is the one thing we don’t have enough of. But people look at us like we’re strange. They act hurt and disappointed. It’s like we have robbed them of the meaning of Christmas. Which is funny because we’re trying to give them back some meaning of Christmas. That’s ironic coming from atheists.
I am not going to show up to our families’ houses on Christmas spewing anti-Jesus rhetoric. I would never do that. I would never try to convince the people we love, or anyone, that their gods don’t exist. I would never ask people to foresake their (mostly harmless) traditions because I disagree with them. But I expect the same amount of respect from them.