Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Celebration, New Traditions, and the like

As most of you who know me know, I am an atheist. Like most of my Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, and Atheist/Agnostic friends, I don't do the Christmas thing, and like some of them, I don't celebrate any "replacement" holidays for it. Judaist people have Channukah, so this doesn't apply to them, but for others, there's a temptation, so as not to feel as left out when the majority of people (being nominally or more-than-nominally Christian) do the Christmas celebration thing, to celebrate Winter Solstice (although most neoPagans and the like I've known don't celebrate Summer Solstice), Festivus (Thank you, Seinfeld), and similar. I've come to the tenative conclusion that this practice, like using Shabbat Goys for Judaists who are Shomer Shabbat or for the strange games that banks play to pretend they're not giving interest in some Islamic countries, is a sneaky comprimise of principles. Celebration of Christmas, to me, is a comprimise of principles, and even going through the motions or doing something similar is, to me, suspect. There are principles in Judaism and Islam that suggest similarly -- people are to avoid the trappings of other religions, even in the most minor of ways. I do think that taking it to that degree is a bit silly, but I agree with the sentiment -- one path to sacrificing one's principles is to indulge in small breaches that keep growing. This is, I think, how eventually a number of activists and social movements sell out over time. I don't really celebrate any other holidays -- most of them, like Thanksgiving, have a historical context that make me deeply uncomfortable.

The thing that I've been wondering about and struggling with, is whether I should seek to celebrate anything at all. I have values, morals, and similar that, while in many ways alien to the culture around me, I stick to and when appropriate (and hopefully not irritating) talk to others about. Should I have holidays? I could celebrate, for example, International Labour Day. I'm opposed to celebrating birthdays, for much the same reason that I wouldn't celebrate or idolise people -- I feel that in the full context people are flawed, and that going from beyond "she is an excellent author" or "he had a great vision for society" to calling oneself a fan can lead one into a murky ground where one might approve of things from a person that would (again) sacrifice one's principles. I don't know if celebrating events feels any less hollow.

Lest you think I'm super holier-than-thou (Maybe I am anyhow), I should note that last year at this time, I celebrated Christmas with Nicole and her family, taking care not to take the additional step of saying prayers or the like with her family. Although she could hardly be called principled in any area of her life, she did it for her family's sake, and I did it for her sake. I am prepared to make some sacrifices for a significant other that I would not make for anyone else.

For those who might be interested in tossing in their 2¢, some starter questions..
Is culture possible without holidays? Are their benefits worthwhile? Would you celebrate something you don't believe in? For family? For a lover? What if it were of something that made you uncomfortable? Do you put guards in your life against sacrifices of your principles? Do you consider yourself to live in a principled way?

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