As a non-Christian who is ever more aware of that aspect of her identity, I’m finding the Christmas season an increasingly strange and surreal one. There are three major ways, I think:
- The “Christmas story” does not actually appear anywhere in the Bible. It’s a hodgepodge of bits of stories from each of the gospels, combined with other totally made-up details, and disregarding some details in some of the gospels that would make the narrative awkward or outright nonsensical. Could it really be that no one in these church pageants has actually read the New Testament? Or do they just not care?
- The traditional way to celebrate Christmas for most Christian families in the US involves the Santa Claus myth, too. I know there are some Christians who think Jesus should be a bigger part, and materialism is bad, etc. etc. But shopping mall Santas are still around and still have long lines of kids waiting to see them, I see lit-up Santas on lawns all around town, and a red hat with a puffy white tassel is basically the fastest visual signal of Christmas … so I think this practice is alive and kicking, even among Christians. Is that weird for them? It seems like it should be. Does no one ever really think about it?
- The Bible specifically condemns the practice of cutting down trees and decorating them. (And it’s a “This is what the Lord says:” kind of Bible verse, not just Paul sharing his personal opinions or something.) Pretty sure most Christian families in the US celebrate Christmas (at least in part) by doing exactly that, though.
Now, I celebrate Christmas, to some extent, and I obviously don’t actually believe the stories behind the holiday. But the vast majority of people who celebrate Christmas do believe the stories, or at least align themselves with schools of thought that claim those stories are true. I don’t know what to make of it, except to observe that people apparently care less about truth than we might assume.