Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

By Diana Hsieh

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Perhaps that seems strange, given that Modern Paleo is the work of Objectivists. After all, we don't merely deny the existence of God. We're staunchly opposed to the mysticism and altruism at the core of Christianity. So what gives? Why are we celebrating merrily too?

Personally, Christmas has always been a completely secular holiday for me. I grew up in a secular household, so we celebrated Christmas with Santa, a decorated tree, yummy treats, and piles of presents. I remember that my sisters and I used to write lengthy questionnaires to Santa, in the hopes that he would make some mistake and then we'd know for certain that he wasn't real. His answers were always pretty good, however -- although our suspicions were aroused by the similarity of his handwriting to that of my father. :-)

So, unlike many, I don't regard Christmas as inherently religious. In fact, it's not much a religious holiday, despite its name. As Richard Salsman explains, the end-of-year celebration is rooted in Roman paganism, and serious Christians opposed it when it arose in its modern merry form in the 19th century. Plus, Jesus was likely born in September. (Doh!)

Here's Ayn Rand's view of Christmas -- and to make matters even more interesting, she was raised in a secular Jewish family in Russia.

[In answer to the question of whether it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas:]

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men--a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: "Merry Christmas"--not "Weep and Repent." And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form--by giving presents to one's friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions--the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors--provide the city with a spectacular display, which only "commercial greed" could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976
For more, see Why Christmas Should be More Commercial by Leonard Peikoff.

So... once again... Merry Christmas, Everyone! Or, if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a fabulous day today!

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