A Christmas Conversation

The electronic sliding glass doors of the city mall separated as Gregory
walked through. Although it was winter, the weather was not terrible and
Gregory was content to wear mere jeans and his black Darwin fish shirt. It
was a few days before Christmas, and Gregory still needed to find a gift for
his mother and father. A couple of days earlier he had been shopping for
his siblings, but at the time he could not decide on what he wanted to get
for his parents. When a present idea was discovered, he proceeded to the
mall once again.

Gregory walked into the craft shop of the mall, searching for a nice
picture frame which he would purchase as his gift. As he strolled down the
aisle, looking through all the items that the shelves contained, he
encountered someone he knew from school. The name of the person was Josh,
and he was apparently searching for a Christmas gift as well.

‘Well, hello there,’ was Gregory’s greeting.

‘How is it going?’ Josh replied. ‘I imagine you are still shopping for
Christmas?’

‘Indeed, I am. You are doing the same, of course. What do you plan to
buy here?’

‘Oh, I was merely looking. I might simply buy a gift certificate.’

Gregory discovered the picture frame that he wanted and grabbed it from
the shelf. ‘I see. Well, I found what I wanted. Hey, I’ll see you at
school.’

Both of them noted each other’s farewell and Gregory proceeded to the
cash register. He placed the frame in a plastic bag and walked out toward
his car. He had his license for three months now and he was glad that he
could go purchase gifts on his own.

* * *

A week and a half after Christmas day, school resumed. Vacation lasted
through the holidays but the beginning of January brought and end to the
break.

During lunch period, Gregory was walking down the hall of lockers to put
away his textbooks before going to the lunch line. He was in a bit of a
hurry since the lines grew long quickly and he didn’t feel like eating only
a few minutes before the bell rang to proceed to the next period.

Josh, the person he encountered at the mall, was also putting his books
away at a locker near Gregory. When Josh put his books away, he approached
Gregory.

‘Hey there. I just have a question. What were you doing at the mall
shopping for Christmas?’ Josh inquired.

Gregory was confused why Josh would ask such an obvious question. ‘Well,
I had to get gifts for Christmas, didn’t I?’

‘Well, yeah, I know that, but aren’t you an atheist?’

‘Yeah, but what’s your point?’

‘If you’re an atheist, don’t you disbelieve in all that? Especially with
Christ, which is what the holiday is all about?’

‘Yes, I disbelieve in it, but my family still celebrates it.’

‘But that doesn’t make any sense,’ Josh continued. ‘If you don’t believe
it, why do you practice it?’

‘I think the distinction is that I do not practice the religious aspects
of the season. I do not acknowledge this time of year as Christmas but I
refer to it as the winter solstice, which it really is. But I still buy
gifts for my family, and they buy gifts for everyone else within the family
as well.’

‘That is just too odd for me. I’ve never met anyone who celebrates
Christmas while disbelieving in what it is all about.’

‘Well, it’s only about the character of Jesus Christ because the
Christians believe that this is the time of year when Christ was supposedly
born.’ Gregory responded. ‘And since this country is predominantly
Christian, of course it will be a big holiday throughout the country. This
is all irrelevant to me, of course. However, I still agree with what
Christmas is about, religious aspects aside. Christmas has also been
regarded as a time for giving and a time for receiving’a time for sharing.
It is also a time for the family to get together, to bond over a
considerable evening meal, just like in Thanksgiving. I agree with all
this, just not with the religious manipulations. Why should this be
strange? I merely celebrate a secular wither solstice, that is all, but the
bit about family bonding is a tradition that is still valid despite the
religious manifestations of the season.’

‘What do you think about decorating for the season? Do your disbeliefs
interfere with this?’

‘Not really. We put up decorations because they look lovely, not because
we want to express a belief. We still purchase a tree and decorate it and
place gifts under it, because it adds color to the living room and we enjoy
the smell.’

‘What about Christmas songs and Christmas carols, then? Most of them are
religious, and surely those bother you, right?’ Josh inquired more.

‘I do not accept much of the lyrics of those songs, but I still enjoy
the songs themselves, whether it is because of the beat or if they sound
beautiful. The lyrics do not destroy everything. I simply ignore them. I
can understand why you may ask this because most atheists present an
attitude that they absolutely despise Christmas’but sometimes it may just
seem that way. I do sympathize with those atheists who do despise
Christmas, because they are in a small minority here and they seem
overwhelmed by all the religious practices that are exaggerated during this season.’

‘Being an atheist, don’t you wish you could just eliminate all of it?
Does it bother you that people practice the religious aspects?’

I’m not sure I would eliminate the season altogether. I still think
this holiday could still do as a good time for family bonding, as I’ve said.
As for people practicing it, I could care less. People have the freedom
to believe anything if it makes them happy’I merely reject those beliefs.
Yes, I would be happier if there was less religion, but I am content with
the status quo, to a certain degree. I simply do not like it when people
shove their religious opinions on other people, and that is something that
unfortunately occurs at this time of year.’

‘What about Easter? Is it the same way?’

Gregory’s only word in response was ‘precisely.’

Josh acknowledged Gregory’s opinions and his curiosity seemed satisfied.
With this, they departed and each left for the lunch lines.