Being Politically Correct around Christmas

The holidays are always a complicated time of the year, when one need to be extra cautious navigating the different cultural contexts for each and every person you care about, and much of society where we live our lives.

It can be really stressful and sometimes overwhelming to walk the fine line of saying what you feel or think openly (very much my nature), or use some more politically correct way that won’t offend others. Where is the point when I’m being dishonest and unfair to myself for “cutting some slack” to so many others? It’s hard to know for sure.

The holidays are first and foremost, a matter of tradition and upbringing. I have this dear friend of mine from Australia, for whom Christmas was the best time of the year. A time for family, songs, lights and celebration, all with a summer flavor. I know, back in Chile where I grew up, December 25th is total party time, the official beginning of the summer.

But I didn’t get any of that myself. Since my mother raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness, Christmases were off limits. No matter how you want to portrait it, Christmas is, and has always been a religious holiday, and as weird as it sounds for the folks that don’t know, the Witnesses do not participate in Christmas, citing (correctly, may I add) its pagan origins. So the attitude in my house growing up was of a deep sense of isolation and dismissal of Christmas. That’s hard to shake off, even after all these years and now being openly atheist.

Interestingly, there is no such a thing as an “atheist community”. It would be like herding cats, since atheism is not a belief system; it’s a lack thereof. Some have opted to just embrace it like another day off or a great time for shopping, while some others hold a grudge against it. Some, like Richard Dawkins, probably the most famous atheist alive, openly celebrates it. To each their own.

But I just can’t. It’s probably a mix of that deep brainwashing from my childhood and my profound commitment to a secular-only life. I draw the line by having a tree in my house and may be outdoor lights later on to please my wife, but that’s as much of it as I can take.

It’s also hard for me to make the decision of attending or not when friends invite me for Christmas dinner, out of respect for them, as well as self-respect. I don’t want to be the only one around not fully engaged in the expected rituals of the gifts, Santa, the special music and the songs that everybody seems to know by heart. It’s not fair for them and it’s not fair for me.

Part of embracing diversity is also accepting that other people may feel uncomfortable with the way I am, and that I can be uncomfortable with a very mainstream celebration like this one, so I think it’s perfectly OK to keep my distance so we can all have our space.

I, for one, will enjoy watching “Christmas Movies” (Die Hard and Die Hard 2) while eating Chinese food in my pijamas. Live and let live.

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