Although it still holds great religious significance for Christians across the world, Christmas has become, in the west, as much a cultural holiday as a spiritual one. Shops and streets and centres throughout the country put up lights and tinsel and fat, plastic Santas so that everyone, no matter how godless, can join in with the festivities.
Personally, I follow no doctrine. I was brought up ‘sort of’ Christian and went to church for a short time during my childhood. I was in the nativity play for at least one Sunday school. But there was no real faith behind my attendance. I now live happily without religion of any kind.
But I have always celebrated Christmas. And I always will.
Partly, because it is one time of year when my whole family and all my friends will make an effort to get together and be on their best behaviour to just enjoy spending a day in each other’s company. I get to see them all and know that they’re making a conscious effort not to bicker and to make everyone else happy.
I get to spoil them.
I like buying gifts for the people I care about. While it’s generally acceptable for me to buy random presents for my one-year-old goddaughter, presenting anyone else with something for no apparent reason can come across as … creepy.
But if it wasn’t, I would, whenever I could afford it. Sometimes I do. Even when it’s weird. Even when I’m broke.
But at Christmas time, it doesn’t matter. I can buy as much as I like for everyone else with complete impunity. I like seeing my friends smile, giving them things they appreciate. I like having an excuse to do that during the holidays, because everyone else is doing it.
I like making my house look pretty and having people round so I can feed them chocolates and alcohol.
I like getting all my favourite people into one place and all gorging ourselves on nice food – and chocolates and alcohol.
For me, it isn’t a religious holiday. I know people who celebrate it from near enough every religion, because it’s the done thing where we live.
And that’s okay. Being able to share in the joy and togetherness of this kind of festival without the religious conviction isn’t a problem, and it makes the holiday all the better. Including people who don’t buy the backstory is what makes Christmas great.
What it represents today means so much more than a simple story ever could. Today, it is about unconditional love for your fellow man. It’s about taking a day out to appreciate the special people in your life.
And that is important to everyone.