December Nights

7 Dec

I pace the mall, and it’s aisles like a cat. Staring, searching, watching, senses open for rushing mothers, stray children, bored husbands. The yes dears resound in my ears like candy.

I stay aloof from all of this, staring at the frenzy, the overful carry alls, the whining children and parents alike. I’m staggered by the smells-the stench from the women coated in hand creme, the horror of the walking aftershave, popcorn, pretzels, cheap white man chinese food.

Giggling. I head giggling as hoards of teenagers stumble through, hanging from each other and each word, dressed up for no where, perfect in their nonchalance. OMG! Did you hear that! She totally didn’t…..they move past me, their conversation hovering with them, tying itself to their low rise hips and thin ankles.

I don’t know why I look at them with nostalgia. That was never me.


I feel a yearning to make myself feel Christmas this year. Every year it gets hard as an atheist. I can run the “winter festival” crap up the flag pole all I want, but it doesn’t help me reconcile the fact that I am celebrating a christian holiday. I don’t believe in baby jesus or a virgin birth or a god above. None of it. It stares back at me accusingly, as if my mind, and my soul can be changed that easily.

My atheism rests awkwardly with  my roman catholic upbringing. Hand me a hymnal and I can sing you a tune, many in fact. Throw me into mass and I’ll have a knee jerk sense of peace-AHA! you say, see! She’s being spoken to by HIM!

Don’t get all excited, those of you who think I’m going to hell. I feel that peace because mass is the one place I remember my mother clearly, the one place where I’m not alone, the place where I can lean to the right and she’s there, steady, unwavering. I believe in my mother, not omnipotence.

This time of the year reminds me that I wish I could believe-I wish I had the simple faith that so many of you have, in something, even if it is something I believe to be a figment, a creation for the comfort of lonely souls. A crutch. There are days where that crutch is something to envy, even if my legs work just fine. There’s a serenity in a believer I could never match-perhaps this stems from the fact that the believer can see forward to their implied reward, whereas I only have the now, the here, and so I must make fast with my life.

I’d like to be able to say that my atheism stems from purely scientific study, from rationality and logic. In part it does. But it starts out in the hollow place in my chest, the place where love and faith would be in most of you. That place is empty, as it always has been. Even as a child, I knew I didn’t believe. But I filled it up with as much symbolism as possible, and clung to it, clung to my rosary and my prayers.

But the airwaves remained empty, my soul unanswered. Until I answered it myself.


Already Vivian has asked what God is, and I’ve attempted to answer without snickering. It’s not my place to deny her faith if she needs it. But explaining “Some people believe that they have a big father in the sky, others believe god is the earth we live on, others still believe gods are in the wind and the rain.” this doesn’t quite cut it with a 4 year old. But I don’t have the scale of reference to explain all this to her-I don’t know how to explain something I’ve never believed in without making her believe it’s nothing more than fairy tales.

When Mogo swears too much for the nth time, and I have to explain who Jesus Christ is, I don’t have the answer. I don’t want to tip the hand in either direction.

But soon she’ll be taught what Christmas is, and why it is, even in a public school. And I’m not quite ready for it.


I’m nearly broke. I just got paid and after the mortgage, groceries and a few gifts, I’m left with nearly nothing. I’m so tired of this, and I’m tired of Christmas. I’m tired of feeling locked into gifts, of worrying that some people won’t like things, or will get upset since it’s obvious we didn’t spend on them what they spent on us.

I’m tired of something that should be lovely feeling like such a fucking chore.


10 Responses to “December Nights”

  1. marcelarhodus December 8, 2007 at 4:44 am #

    one of the things that I love most about your writing is that you always take me there with you, wherever you are… somehow you find the right words to transport me to the corner you’re coming from. I love that, and I acknowledge it as such a talent… I so look forward to reading your posts…

    ok. that was just a public announcement, for my real comment: I so can see the crowds, and I so hate them… exactly the way you describe them, that is how they are, the one thing I don’t miss being in Japan, the crowds in the malls, the rush everywhere to buy something to impress someone.
    When the hubs and I got married we agreed that we would not be doing big things on Xmas in regards to presents. He and I give each other sentimental presents that pretty much are worthless monetarily. Now that we have kids, we have agreed that they’ll get one or two presents each, and that is it, total… We have had to threaten family members to not buy things from them (if they insist on a present, they should contribute to each kid 529 plan).
    I hate buying for people you don’t know much or have pretty much everything they need… you never know if they’ll like it or if they’ll judge you poorly for giving such a gift. So we don’t give presents to anyone in our family (yes, I can officially be called cheap, and I prefer so) I always send my dad (and my mom back when) printed photos, specially of the kids, he loves that… he does not need more.
    To those close to us, we give handmade things, like we bake stuff for them.

    as a rule, I stay away from malls and big stores in Xmas season, there is a certain madness in the air…

    In regards to faith, well, it’s such a tricky concept. Specially when it comes to your children. I so totally agree with you on not wanting to go one way or the other when it comes to talking to your kids about God, but the one thing I’ve found out, is that they see faith with their own eyes no matter what you say to them, and it’s part of the fascinating process of getting to know them. Yes, we are a big influence in them and their beliefs, but we don’t shape them all. Don’t fear the conversation, just take her cues and go from there.

  2. Judy December 8, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve been finally feeling like Christmas this year (even though it’s going to be 90F (32C) here today). But, coming with the holiday feeling has been the holiday stress, and I’m wondering if you can have one without the other.

    I’ve been struggling with my lack of faith lately. I’ve never really called myself an atheist – I tend to think agnostic, largely because I think there is something as arrogant about some people’s conviction that they are certain there is nothing as the people who are convinced their faith is the only right way. I just found out my mom likely has colon cancer, and with her health habits, I don’t see a good prognosis for her. I found myself wishing I could go pray, and wondered if it would help to pray to gods I don’t know that I believe in.

    My sons have not started asking any questions about gods yet, as no one we know would ever mention it to them, but I don’t know how I’ll handle it when the time comes. I want them to feel free to choose for themselves, too.

  3. Caitlin December 8, 2007 at 4:46 pm #

    I’m not a big fan of the big money grab Christmas has become. My family on my mother’s side has been agnostic/atheist for over 100 years now. For us, Christmas is a time when everyone in the family conveniently has enough time off at the same time for a get together. It’s about gathering in my great great grandparents’ house, doing a cookie bakeoff, my aunt Carla making white girl gumbo, and my aunt Jamie making the margaritas a bit stronger than everyone expected. It’s about sitting around the table at family dinners and the big slumber party on the back porch for the youngest generation (or in the treehouse if it’s warm enough). It’s about posing for photos on the front steps, and quietly doing the tasks my grandparents aren’t spry enough to manage on their own anymore.

    My parents allowed me to ask questions, read the bible, and go to church if I wanted. I chose to become agnostic in my teens. I think it’s unlikely that the Christian god (or any of the old pantheons of gods) exists. But if the Christian god does exist, he is not someone I wish to be associated with. I grew up in the Bible Belt, where his many of his followers took great delight in telling me I was going to hell and I would have to watch my parents’ be tortured in hell, starting when I was about Paul’s age. The Christian god apparently doesn’t care that his followers are scaring a young child in his name. It’s not right that as a child, hell was for more real to me than say … New Jersey or Canada.

    If I had grown up around more Christians like my best friend and mother-in-law, I would probably would not have such a negative view of Christianity in general. The fact that they quietly do what they feel is right without making sure everyone knows that they are Christian spoke to me far more loudly than threats of hell and the 6am door to door conversion crew.

    Paul has already been asking about going to Mass. I think it’s impossible for us to avoid, since my inlaws are devout Catholics. He’s already been asking why my parents don’t go to church, but his other grandparents do. He seems fine with “it’s ok for people to do either”, but I suspect that he’ll need a better answer long before I’ve figured out how to explain it on his level. We’re allowing him to go to Mass a week from Sunday, but it’s very hard for me to trust a group of Christians to not take advantage of his impressionability after my experiences. I don’t mind if he chooses religion, but if he chooses it, I want it to be because that’s what he believes, not because he fears hell.

  4. daisybones December 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    What you said is pretty much exactly what I’m planning to tell Molly about God. It sounds perfect to me. I have days where I feel my pagan stuff is all metaphor and I’m technically an athiest. The semantics don’t concern me much…

    I envy the feeling you describe being at mass. I feel a more intoxicated version in ritual sometimes, but not always.

  5. artemis2 December 8, 2007 at 6:22 pm #

    I grew up in a non-religious household and was agnostic until my mid twenties. I remember that feeling of wishing I could believe. I also remember thinking that it was a crutch, that good ol “opiate of the masses”. Perhaps if I had been indoctrinated at a young age and had outward religiousity rammed down my throat, I’d have trouble with the concept of God now. I do have trouble with how some people conceive of God. Anthropomorphism drives me crazy. What fascinates me is the common thread through many religious whether Abrahamic or not. i.e the concept of God in Advaita/Vedanta is so similiar to God in Islamic mysticism, and yet outwardly Hinduism and Islam are diametrically opposed. I guess my point is exactly what you have already mentioned. People hide behind symbolism, it’s a form of polytheism in a way, people hide behind dogma, because they are scared that without it, faith will fall away, although I doubt it’s even conscious most of the time. The problem is the kind of small minded concept of God, that is propagated by a large proportion of the worlds population, drives questioning people away. sorry for long comment.

    As for celebrating christmas..just make it your own. It’s a fluid celebration anyway and includes pagan symbolism..make it about what it is for you.

  6. thordora December 8, 2007 at 6:27 pm #

    I think I could have a better relationship with faith, and religon in general if it didn’t always seem so counter productive and ultimately hypocritical and oppositional to the point. I was raised RC, went through RC schools, and had the basic tenents of the faith internalized-be kind to others, do as you would have done to you, live a life you can be proud of.

    Those are the values I ultimately wish to pass along to my children-those are the values I believe society can benefit from, and yet oddly don’t.

    My troubles come from wanting to teach my moral code without the religon that taught it to me.

  7. Mogo December 8, 2007 at 6:37 pm #

    RC = Rotting Christ? 😛

  8. sweetsalty kate December 8, 2007 at 9:50 pm #

    “I’m tired of something that should be lovely feeling like such a fucking chore.”


  9. jen December 12, 2007 at 11:56 am #

    Just wanted to say that I’ve only just discovered your blog, but in the few entries I have read I already relate to so much. Your thoughts on Christmas might as well have been my own. Adding you to my list of must reads 🙂

  10. meredith December 15, 2007 at 10:50 pm #

    I wanted to point you toward my father’s latest post on his blog. I enjoyed it very much and he helped me realize that I don’t need “a reason for the season”, as the season just ‘is’.

    Also, I feel the same way you do about atheism, but then I read this: and everything made more sense.

    I stand by you on your journey!

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