I love Christmas. Unashamedly, while all the cool people declare how much they hate it and that they’re done with it all, I love it. The decorations, the lights, the process of finding things I think the people I love will rejoice in, the food, the warmth. But most of all, I love seeing the people I call my family, both biological and chosen. I love getting together, eating and laughing and just sitting with them.
For my whole life, in the various forms of therapy I’ve had, when I’ve been told to conjure up a good place, a place where I feel safe, it has been the Christmas Eves of my childhood. The memories have a sense of peace and contentment that makes something in me let go. The people I love, all in the home I adore, pottering about as people converge from all over. I am aware of how lucky I am that these memories are filled with love.
This post isn’t about my life, though. It isn’t a well-written bit of exhortation to love the people you call family while you can, for time grows short. Other people have done that much better than me (and I’ll link below). Instead, it’s a kind of party I’m hosting, that I want to share with you. I’m an atheist (technically an atheist pagan), and, while I love the carols, I also collect other songs which reach me. So these are the articles and songs which help make Christmas for me. Many of the songs are sad (because Christmas can be hard as well as beautiful), but they’re meaningful nonetheless. These are the elements which, for me, show that Christmas is neither Christian-only holy day, nor is it just the commercialised festival of capitalism it can be. It’s spending time with the people you love, eating good food, laughing and lighting away the long dark.
So here goes.
(note – the songs have all been collected on a Youtube playlist, too)
I won’t include notes for all of them, just where I want to (it’s my party!)
First, the articles. This piece by David Wong of Cracked is the single greatest article about Christmas I’ve ever read. I sobbed when I read it the first time. And the second time. And it still makes me teary and weepy. I won’t quote from it because you should just read it. It is beautiful, and religion has nothing to do with it. The world is dark, and time is short. Rejoice that we get to be here at all.
And here’s the funniest Christmas article I’ve ever read, also from Cracked, by Adam Tod Brown. Again, not going to quote it, but it involved the real implications of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
And the greatest scene from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Hogfather’, which is full of amazing scenes, including the fixing of the Little Matchgirl’s story (see my other piece from today):
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.”
The greatest of all non-religious Christmas songs for me: White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchin. The first time I heard it I sobbed for a full ten minutes (which was embarrassing, because it was at the end of a gig and I was in a room full of people). But these lines, for me, evoke exactly the feeling I wrote about up top:
“And you, my baby girl
My jetlagged infant daughter
You’ll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a primary school
And you won’t understand
But you will learn someday
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world
My sweet blue-eyed girl.”
Brilliant lyrics from ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake:
“I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah! Noel! Be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve.”
Here’s the Youtube playlist including all these.
Here is my Spotify Christmas Chill playlist, which is beautiful and includes a lot of songs not listed so far (particularly check out the Christmas Song by Stars, it’s stunning). It’s not always the happiest of playlists, but these are my favourites.
Here’s my general Christmas playlist, with quite the range of songs.