Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Father Christmas is real

So here we are, it's Christmas Eve again, and an air of expectation abounds. I am not going to say anything about how quickly years pass as one gets older, still less am I going to say that last Christmas seems like yesterday, true though both statements would be. What I am going to say and do say is that Father Christmas is alive and well. To me he will never be Santa Claus because he was Father Christmas when I was a little boy. That's it, issue closed, Father Christmas he is and he is real. I know he's real because I see his influence every year.

What is Christmas? The answers to that question provide proof that Father Christmas exists.

For some Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the most significant figure in their religion, a real man who was not just a human being but the Son of God. It is the second most significant celebration in their calendar, Easter being the most important, yet they do not put up trees and decorate their homes for Easter as they do for Christmas. Despite it being of secondary importance to their religious beliefs Christmas seems to have a little something extra.

For others Christmas has no religious overtones but is still the main family party of the year. No doubt the timing of that party is a consequence of it being a major religious festival historically, yet the absence of any religious belief does not lead to Christmas being any less significant or exciting for most atheists and agnostics. They also decorate their homes, send cards and exchange gifts. An elderly neighbour of mine refuses to wish anyone a Merry Christmas because he is an avowed atheist, but he shakes hands and wishes the Compliments of the Season. And he means it, it is the season of goodwill for him just as it is for Christians.

What about our Jewish, Islamic and otherly religioned friends? There are a few rude and disrespectful ones who will not acknowledge that Christmas is an important time for almost everyone in this country, however their numbers are so small they can be ignored. The vast majority wish us a Merry Christmas. In the area around FatBigot Towers all the Turkish businesses decorate their shops and I know from talking to the people who own them and those who work in them that a great many also decorate their homes, invite guests, exchange presents and treat it as a special day even though they have their own significant religious festivals at other times of the year.

When we go out and about in mid to late December there is a lovely atmosphere. Wonderful trees and street decorations help to make it a special time of year. There must be something that draws us all together to celebrate and enjoy Christmas whether we are Christian or not. Something makes an octogenarian atheist wish the Compliments of the Season when for him there is nothing to separate this time of year from any other apart, perhaps, from the change of calendar a week later. Something makes people of non-Christian religious beliefs have Christmas dinners. Something gives us a tingle of excitement no matter how many Christmases we have lived through before.

I have no doubt there is something special that transcends religious and cultural differences and makes Christmas the most important festival of the year for almost everybody in this country. It cannot be explained by either religious or secular reasoning. It is an atmosphere, a pervading aroma, a feeling. Despite our differences something brings us together at Christmas and, most significantly, it creates unity between those with mutually exclusive views. That takes a great power. It cannot be Christ because he is a mere prophet to Jews and Moslem and is of no importance at all to those without a god and those of a different god. It cannot be the date because the 25th of December is neither Arthur nor Martha, it is not the winter solstice nor is it the change of the year. It is a mystical force that turns the latter part of December into the Season of Goodwill. The only mystical force to fit the bill is Father Christmas. He does it every year and I hope he will continue to do so.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Bob's Head Revisited said...

What a nice post! Cheers, and Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Of course in the northlands father christmas was spreading winter cheer long before these religions were invented.In those days he probably wore the reindeer,complete with antlers,instead of driving them.Probably smelt a bit ripe too at this time of year.
Letters to him would have been fascinating though"dear father christmas,please can i have a new stone axe as i blunted the last one on Ug's head"
merry christmas all.

Mark Wadsworth said...

IMHO, the fact that it is three days or so after Winter Solstice is the key to this - that's when the days start getting measurably shorter again (the sun comes up about 4 minutes earlier* on 25th than the 22nd), for example.

* Think about it. In England, the sun comes up at 5 in the summer and 8 in the winter. So that's a 4 hour time difference (adjusting for BST) = 240 minutes divided by 183 days = 1.3 minutes per day, so three days = 4 minutes.

Pogo said...

Merry Christmas old bean! I hope that you and all the denizens of Fat Bigot Towers have a really good 'un.

Personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my liver doesn't run up the white flag!! :-)

Stan said...

Happy Christmas, FB!

Charon QC said...

Absolutely.... just seen this... so hope you had a Merry Christmas.... good post!

Fellow of The Institute of Confirmed Atheists