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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Enjoy Your Days Off

The holidays are fairly low level here in Spain. There are certainly traces of the consumerist orgy that Christmas has become in the United States, but those voices are being shouted down by the Spanish populace too busy going about their lives to give much notice. People buy a few presents but I don't think anyone goes off the deep end. The most popular decoration is a Santa doll climbing up a rope ladder that people hang from their balconies. I’ve seen little kids dressed up as Santa, I’ve seen a string of lights or two hanging from apartment balconies, there may even be a Nativity scene on display in a public area, and people take the day off (except the immigrants), but Christmas here doesn’t have a fraction of the grotesque hysteria it has acquired in America. I don’t think that it ever will.

The big thing here is the Christmas lottery with the drawing held a few days before the big day. The drawing is called The Day of Health because if you aren’t “touched” by the lottery people say that you have your health. The drawing is on just about every TV channel. Little kids in school uniforms chanting the prizes to be given out draw the numbers. There are interviews on the streets with people who hope to win and the lucky few who have already won something. It is impossible to miss the spectacle. Everywhere you go the TV is tuned to the lottery. I didn’t play; I don’t gamble.

After the lottery, Christmas simply came and went. Except for most people taking the day off it wasn’t a very big deal. I heard a bit of holiday music, but it didn’t start in November and it certainly wasn’t ubiquitous. All of the little Chinese mini Wal-Marts had decorations for sale—they sell everything. Almost every one of them had these really annoying electronic toys that play electronic holiday music. If I was in one of those stores for over 15 minutes the noise was enough to drive me crazy. That’s kind of how I feel about holiday music in America that starts at Thanksgiving and lasts until January 2nd. The whole idea of Christmas annoys me like those shitty little Chinese-made, electronic toys. I can’t wait for the batteries to die sometime during the first week of the New Year.

If you do believe that Jesus is your savior, I don’t see how you couldn’t be incredibly offended by what goes on in his name during the holiday season. The ridiculous commercial juggernaut that has become absolutely crucial to the American retail economy is a hell of a lot less respectful of your God than anything that I have ever written. I would have to say that about 99% of what goes on during the holidays hasn’t a single thing to do with religion. Trees, Santa, elves, reindeer, presents, decorations, wreaths, are all just items up for sale. It is absurd to think that anyone could find spirituality in any of that, and if they did we couldn’t possibly respect them for it.

I think that it is up to atheists to stand up and speak out against this commercialization of the holidays. Christians themselves don’t seem to feel any repugnance to all of the garishness that goes on in their savior’s name, so it may as well be the non-believers to put a little dignity back into this holiday.

I don’t know how we are supposed to go about this task other than professing our disbelief. I am not a Christian and although I grew up in a Christian household, I never was. I never believed in any of it but I had the most difficulty getting my little six year old mind around that impossible concept of hell. I never believed that a person would be made to pay for their sins in this fleeting existence for all of eternity. From that point of departure the other teachings of the church melted like a snowman on a summer day.

I was watching a panel discussion about the nature of religion and God with leading clerics from many religions. It struck me that no one can possibly know anything about God so listening to these people’s superstitions would be about as rewarding as listening to some stoner’s view on the universe—it is completely without merit and a waste of a rational person’s time.

About the only thing good that I can say about Christmas is that a lot of people have the day off. I can drink to that.

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