Article published Barking and Dagenham Recorder 19 December 2018.
‘Do Humanists celebrate Christmas? It’s one of the most common questions Humanists get asked in school talks. Perhaps some students think non-religious people like us miss out. I explain that people everywhere have always loved to celebrate special occasions. It’s one of the things that makes us human. Bleak mid-winter is one such time. It’s marked all over the northern hemisphere, from native North Americans to the Zoroastrians of Iran. And let’s face it, many hallmarks of what we here call Christmas, like crackers, tinsel and pantomime, have nothing to do with religion.
The word Christmas still carries religious significance for practising Christians. But for others it has joined the many words absorbed into our rich language, reflecting our diversity and multi-cultural history, their origin often forgotten. Who now cares that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday refer to Norse Gods, or that Saturday is named after Saturn, the Roman God of renewal and regeneration? In fact the ancient festival of Saturnalia, held in December, featured gifts, partying and decorations. Like many Humanists I will be celebrating Christmas. These are times of great uncertainty, hardship, and attempts to sow division. That makes it more important than ever to celebrate our common humanity. Christmas is also a time to remember the importance of fellowship with friends, family and complete strangers, and of giving. And as the days start to get longer, it is a time to celebrate life itself. ‘
Chair East London Humanists