Every year when Christmas arrives I feel a bit weird and even more so since I moved to South Africa. I often feel like it’s just not right to use traditions of a religion I’m not a part of.
Even though my parents were never really religious, they did make me go to church as a child and do all the obligatory stuff till my first communion, just in case. After its confirmation I decided it’s time for me and church to go our separate ways. You see, how it works for most people in the world is that you’re born and you take whatever religion your parents chose and then you follow it till you die. I don’t know how come most people never question such things or perhaps they do but the sense of belonging wins with anything else. It does look to me like driving cars of a particular brand all your life just because your parents did so. To me it only makes sense if you really like the brand and to know that, you should perhaps test drive at least intellectually some other ones. You could argue that your religion and the subsequent views on life is more important than a car. I agree! Why then people are more likely to spend some time choosing a car and not their beliefs? Whatever works for them, though. I have decided for myself I don’t like Opel that much.
Can I keep Christmas from religion, though? Given that it’s all about Christ, it doesn’t seem right to celebrate it. In Poland my mother insisted on keeping the tradition going. I tried to reason with her but failed. We still would do all the food, presents, keep a place for a stranger, break the wafer and not eat meat on Christmas Eve. When I moved to South Africa I basically stopped celebrating because at first I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. However, since I started to date my husband things have changed. Obviously in my own family I finally can decide how I want to spend Christmas. It seems that the answer is: cycling, hiking, going to the cinema and meeting friends. In other words, by enjoying what’s good in life in a secular way as I would do during any other holiday. We still do the presents but it’s mostly because I always like presents. I don’t eat meat on Xmas eve either but that’s just because I don’t eat meat in general.
I still in principle disagree with the Xmas period being legislated as free. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to make sense in a country like South Africa. In Poland the majority of people is still Christian so I can see the rationale. In South Africa, however, Christians may rejoice but for people representing different religions or not believing at all, it’s just the imposed time to be merry right here and now when everything is overcrowded. When their own religiously imposed time to be merry comes, they have to use their annual leave and I don’t think it’s fair. Perhaps a good idea would be to add two days to the minimum leave package required by law and call it “Religious celebrations and other”. In this way people could use it whenever they wanted and the Xmas period would stop being such a nightmare with everyone taking leave at the same time.
You can think about what I said or not. That’s all, folks. Enjoy your holiday season (how cool and secular English is that it has this alternative to Merry Xmas?)!