My big fat atheist Christmas

by Julie Frayn on December 24, 2012 in  Bric-a-brac

My tree is decorated and lit, the presents are wrapped, the stockings are already stuffed and the turkey awaits the same fate. There is no Christ in my home, but by Rudolph, there is Christmas.

I was raised by Anglican parents who both had strong faith but neither of whom felt it necessary to worship the way they were ‘supposed to.’ I don’t remember much about church (we stopped going when I was very young) but I remember a little of the story of my sister butchering the Lord’s prayer.

Harold be thy name

Deliver us from eagles

Father Christmas

Christmas exploded in our home come December 1. The tree was lit with big round multi-coloured bulbs. There was enough tinsel to cover five trees. Dozens of cards from friends and family hung on doors and picture frames and covered every surface that didn’t have a decoration. Poinsettias were all over the house, even adorning Dad’s kitschy apron, and his Santa hat was fixed firmly on his head. And on the dog’s. I think Dad’s secret identity was Father Christmas.

As the years wore on and my shaky faith crumbled to dust, I kept Christmas. Not the prayer, not the Jesus, Mary and Joseph, not the celebration of the birth of Christ in the wrong month and on the wrong day. No, I kept the parts I wanted to keep. The giving. The family time. The food. The fun. And for my children, I kept Santa. All the parts that make me wistful for a piece of the past. All the parts my father loved and reveled in.

Ming Sue the Elf

I will gather at my Mom’s tonight – but my kids will be at their father’s. Tomorrow I will make a turkey feast for my whole family – except my nephew and his fiancé who will be at her parents. But it’s okay, because we had pizza night yesterday, the one day that my family could all be together under one roof. Drinks flowed, food was gobbled, and gifts were exchanged.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear? But one Batman cookie jar and eight Heineken beer.

I am Batman Cookie Jar

I often get asked one particular question around this time of year. What do atheists do for Christmas? The answer, my friends, is simple.

Anything we damn well want.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila Pierson December 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Merry Christmas Julie, however you choose to celebrate it, and naturally the best New Year!!


Julie December 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

Merry Christmas to you too, Sheila! Hope you and your family have a wonderful time. :)

Carolyn December 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Oh Daddy, Oh Ming-Sue… miss you so. Nothing but smiles over this post Julie… apparently I stood up rather proudly on the pew to deliver my version, in one of those little smocked dresses we both wore. Thanks for the memories… :)


Julie December 25, 2012 at 12:40 am

I remember the dresses. Church not so much. Or maybe I blocked that part out.

Carolyn December 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

You have the best memory between us, or the only memory between us… so I vote for the block.

JoAnne Simson December 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Julie, right on! I wouldn’t call myslf an atheist, but my parents didn’t go to church. Still, we had wonderful Christmases with a tree and presents and family around the dinner table, etc…
I’ve started a new blog, and one of the first entries looks at the appeal of the Christmas Story, even to non-Christians. See:


Julie December 25, 2012 at 12:44 am

Thanks JoAnne. I never bought the story as a kid, and now as an adult know that it is just that – a story. It’s been turned into ‘truth’ but there is little truth to it. Not even the date is right, just a date chosen by the Roman Catholic Church, a date of convenience, not of history. But as stories go, the author had a heck of a good imagination. Ah, there’s my atheism, right on my sleeve. 😀 Have a great Christmas JoAnne.

Sean P. Farley December 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

Beautiful! You know, the older I get, the more I accept Christmas into my heart. That sentence alone speaks volumes, because I’m not usually so sentimental. But what you just described is basically what I look forward to – spending time with family. This past Turkey Day was the first time my mother and all my siblings were together under one roof in…seven, eight years. It was wonderful. I, too, was brought up without religion in my life, and though I can’t bring myself to say I’m an Atheist, I do have a strong spiritual connection to the universe. Happy Holidays, Julie! :)


Julie January 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

My parents brought me up with religion, I just didn’t buy it :). Glad your turkey day was wonderful.

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