Trials of a Softhearted Scrooge

Christmas time is a pain in the neck for me. But this year I’m trying to be a nice atheist.

Today I went to the hardware store for a light bulb and some batteries. The place had transformed since I’d been in a few days ago, from hardware store to mondo-bizarro-psychedelic-drug-trip-surreal-fantasy-forest. On my left there was a nine foot tall purple and white inflated penguin with snow cap and scarf, as if a monstrous Chilly Willy had been considered for the climax of “Ghost Busters” before they settled on the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. On the right was an army of plastic snowman families dressed in Dickensian clothes huddled together as if for warmth, singing carols. In front of me was a larger than life statue of Santa Claus wearing shades and straddling a Harley Davidson motorcycle with recorded Christmasy versions of “Born to Be Wild” and “On the Road Again” coming from a speaker in his chest. Beyond that was literally a forest of ready made artificial pine trees decked out with every toy-snowflake-bulb-trumpet-ribbon-angel-elf-snowman-reindeer-tin soldier-candycane-package-harp-star-sleigh-icecicle-teddybear-drum-locomotive-doll-bell-resembling, but still unidentifiable object that could ever come out of the scrambled minds of a thousand psychotic Christmas product designers.

If I was struck sharply on the head, given large doses of PCP, methamphetamine and LSD and suddenly transported into the center of an extraterrestrial civilization all in the same instant the experience would be similar but less disorienting than walking into that former hardware store.

The place was crowded and people were almost frantic in their searching and buying. As I stumbled through the labyrinth of lunacy to where I thought the batteries and light bulbs used to be, a woman nearby was looking at a box of exterior Christmas lights and saying, “Look Honey, these change different colors and flash at different speeds. Let’s get these.” My befuddled mind flashed back to 1962 “light shows” with colored lights pulsing to the rhythm of rock music.

I found my merchandise and prepared to escape with what shreds of sanity were still mine when I saw a display of several shelves of plastic nativity scenes with the Holy Family, animals and manger. On the base of each one was a red button labeled, “Try me!” I pressed the button and a recorded voice started saying “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem…blah blah,” followed by some of the more religious Christmas carols. There were eighteen Nativity Scenes on display, so of course I pushed every button. “When Jesus was born…” “When Jesus was…” “When Jesus…” The cacophony of eighteen of them all going at once in staggered sequence was impressive and it continued for several minutes as I left the store, somehow feeling better.

When I got home my lovely, wonderful, deserving-of-anything-I-can-give-her wife said, “Richard, we’ve got to get the Christmas cards sent out.”
Now I’m trying to be a nice atheist this year so I said, “Ohhhhh, okaaaay,” muttering “humbug” under my breath. So I pulled this big carton out from the garage that has 37 pounds of old leftover Christmas cards. We buy them by the boxful to try to save some money and we end up with leftovers. There are pretty ones and funny ones, but no really religious ones. Some say, “Merry Christmas,” or variants of that, some say, “Happy Holidays,” or variants of that, and a few odds and ends mention Hanukkah. The reason we have so many leftovers is because our family and friends fall into so many categories: devout Christians, not-too-heavy Christians, observant Jews, unobservant Jews, a few Buddhists and of course other nice atheists like me.

So we had to carefully sort out who gets what kind of card. Some of the devout Christians are getting touchy lately about sentiments that don’t mention the word “Christmas.” They’re not happy with “Happy Holidays.” The not-too-heavy Christians are fine with anything except of course the Hanukkah ones. Our observant Jewish friends don’t complain, but we don’t really want to send them one that mentions Christmas. Our unobservant Jewish friends don’t seem to mind either way, but still it would be better that they get a Hanukkah or at least a “Happy Holidays” variant. The Buddhists welcome any good wishes even though they know it’s all an illusion. Finally the nice atheists (like me) don’t care much one way or the other but if we send them either kind of card they might think I’m starting to get religion and I wouldn’t want that. But then we don’t want them to get nothing….

Then there was the problem of whether or not we sent a person one of these cards before. We don’t want to send anybody the same card twice. Most of them are pretty smart and would remember a duplicate even if it was several years ago. Some of these cards are getting really old.

All this took a lot of time and I was tempted to chuck the whole carton into the fireplace and print up my own cards that say:

“Wishing that you don’t get seriously injured while fighting in the tiger shark feeding frenzy at the mall trying to find thoughtful and valuable gifts for everybody else who’s out getting stupid cheap stuff for you that you won’t like but will have to pretend that you do and trying to avoid going broke in the whole nonsensical process, in observance of whatever the heck holiday you celebrate, if any.”

But I didn’t do that, because I’m being a nice atheist.

Later my lovely, wonderful, deserving-of etc. wife said, “Richard, could you put up the Christmas lights and set up the tree while I’m at the market? I know it’s a pain in the neck for you, but makes me happy.”
“Ohhhhh, okaaaay.” I said, muttering “humbug” under my breath again. She has fond childhood memories attached to all this paraphernalia so hey, if it makes her happy, what else is important? So I dragged out several boxes of Christmas geegaws for inside and out without complaining the way I usually do. And this year, just to be a nice atheist, I removed the sign from the front door wreath that says,

“Co-opted pagan symbol displayed for traditional purposes only; no religious affiliation implied.”

This year I’m going to be a nice atheist, dammit. If the neighbors mistakenly assume I’m a Christian, so what? Screw ‘em. (muttering “humbug” under my breath)

Risking life and limb teetering on a ladder I put up the exterior lights around the eves of the house, a string of colored ones and a band of white ones supposedly resembling icicles. That’s weird too. It hasn’t snowed here since 1951, and no icicles since the Pleistocene. Only here in Lotus Land would people use lights to imitate icicles. My neighbors compete by the thousands of kilowatts to express who is the most frikking joyful, making the neighborhood look like an electrified Currier and Ives lithograph on steroids. I’ve heard that icicles can kill people back east. I hate snow. It almost died in it. Humbug.

Oh for the days of my youth when front yard Christmas decorations were sensible like the tumbleweeds painted white and stacked up and decorated to look like snowmen. Decorations with deep meaning like the two Santa feet sticking out of the chimney or the all-aluminum Christmas tree, dazzling in the color-changing floodlights on the dichondra, or the glowing plastic camels carrying guys looking like bin Laden marching toward a glowing plastic manger, overseen by a much larger glowing plastic Rudolph. Those decorations were tasteful and meaningful. What has become of it all? (sigh) Humbug.

Season’s Frikking Greetings.
Richard

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • Angela Lord

    It would be fun to switch Jesus’ voice box with Barbie’s: “Math is hard!”

  • JeffN

    We all have to deal with the Christmas shopping frenzy. What makes him (Richard above) so special. ;)

  • Heather

    I’m with you, Richard. Except I gave up on holiday cards years ago when it appeared I’d never be smart enough to get it “right.” We send out an annual Groundhog Day letter to friends and family, and I’m a lot more sane now as a result.

  • ash

    i gave up on xmas decorations years ago as i only have a small flat with nowhere to store them – plus they’re an unecessary expense (i have lights up inside all year tho ’cause i like the shiny). if i bother with cards (i do point out to friends that i will deduct the cost from any ensuing presents), i go for non-descript symbols; robins, snowflakes etc., no written sentiment other than my own.

    and you thought you were a scrooge. merry humbug right back at ya ;)

  • stogoe

    Meh. It’s not that difficult to get something the person wants, unless you’re a clueless halfwit who can neither comprehend human languages nor ask people what they want. And presents are fun. Maybe your problem is you’re buying presents for people who never get you anything.

    You always get these crazy rants around this time, always slobbering on and on and on about how putting up lights and eating well and giving gifts to (and gathering together with) friends and family makes the ranter homicidally insane. Maybe the problem is you. Seek help.

    As for your card dilemma, just send out the Happy Holidays version. If your wacky-Christian friends complain about ‘Happy Holidays’, just remind them that New Years is a holiday, too, and you’d hate to neglect it.

  • Mriana

    Oh you should have left the sign on the wreath. :lol: I do love the good atheist Humbug lights. :D

    We don’t decorate. It’s not only a pain in the butt, but we have no room for a tree and if we did, my cats would enjoy it more than we do, not to mention they’d point and laugh everytime they made us put it up again. So, I said screw it years ago. The cats are more important than any tree- no matter the size or having room or not.

  • ash

    We don’t decorate. It’s not only a pain in the butt, but we have no room for a tree and if we did, my cats would enjoy it more than we do, not to mention they’d point and laugh everytime they made us put it up again.

    soo know where you’re coming from…the last time i had a tree, i also had budgies. they loved the tree – and would have hours of fun gaily tossing all the decorations onto the floor.

  • Old Beezle

    Merry Sol Invictus, fundies!

  • Claire

    Thank you, Richard, for a most amusing rant! Yes, they do abound during this season, but it was a nice rant with a different perspective.

    Now that I have talked most of my family and friends out of doing presents, the season is much more enjoyable. Is it that we don’t like presents? No, we LOVE presents! We just all have too damn much stuff. We are all middle-to-upper class, not young and starting out, and mostly trying to get rid of stuff because we are drowning in it. Even the most wonderful present is still clutter if you have no place to put it.

    What’s left without presents? More time for friends, family, getting together, tasty food, lots of fun, and pretty decorations. I do love a shiny sparkly christmas tree……

    On those rare occasions when someone gets huffy about enjoying the season in a secular fashion, I just point out that thieves never prosper, and if someone steals the holiday they stole, too damn bad.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I like the humbug lights. They’re sweet, just like your story.

    They hang up icicle lights here too, where it absolutely never snows.

    For me, I can’t stand the music. They’re all, like, happy and stuff. The major key really starts to get to me.

  • Maria

    So we had to carefully sort out who gets what kind of card. Some of the devout Christians are getting touchy lately about sentiments that don’t mention the word “Christmas.” They’re not happy with “Happy Holidays.” The not-too-heavy Christians are fine with anything except of course the Hanukkah ones. Our observant Jewish friends don’t complain, but we don’t really want to send them one that mentions Christmas. Our unobservant Jewish friends don’t seem to mind either way, but still it would be better that they get a Hanukkah or at least a “Happy Holidays” variant. The Buddhists welcome any good wishes even though they know it’s all an illusion. Finally the nice atheists (like me) don’t care much one way or the other but if we send them either kind of card they might think I’m starting to get religion and I wouldn’t want that. But then we don’t want them to get nothing….

    Having many friends of so many different backgrounds, I can soo relate to this. I’ve bought about 5 different kinds of cards………

    “Wishing that you don’t get seriously injured while fighting in the tiger shark feeding frenzy at the mall trying to find thoughtful and valuable gifts for everybody else who’s out getting stupid cheap stuff for you that you won’t like but will have to pretend that you do and trying to avoid going broke in the whole nonsensical process, in observance of whatever the heck holiday you celebrate, if any.”

    LOL

  • monkeymind

    On those rare occasions when someone gets huffy about enjoying the season in a secular fashion, I just point out that thieves never prosper, and if someone steals the holiday they stole, too damn bad.

    Good one! LOL:-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade,

    Spoken like a true Scrooge! But what do I do with the present I got for you? ;-)

  • monkeymind

    Oh, and great rant Richard. I think you could have left the sign on the wreath, You can still do some snark and be nice!
    Here is my Yule present to you: a funny video from Fry and Laurie I also think youll like the one you get if you search You Tube for “Fry and Lauire psychic spoon bender”

  • http://salemmassblog.blogspot.com/ David Moisan

    Some years back, I was with my brother, who’s a very religious, born-again Christian. He and I and my two nephews were heading back from a Christmas party and remarking on the houses that were lit up.

    We pass an unlit house, and my oldest nephew asks his dad, “Why isn’t that house lit?”

    “Because they don’t believe in God”, says Dad, sternly!

    I boggled, silently. I was speechless!

    Christmas has always been my least favorite holiday. Sadly, new reasons why seem to come up every year.

  • http://www.friendlychristian.com Bill Cecchini

    Sorry dude, but this is simply hilarious. Awesome post! Well written!

    bc

  • Pingback: FriendlyChristian.com » Archive » Christmas With The Atheists

  • Jen

    Wonderful! Though, as someone who works in retail: Buy, buy everything! More Christmas-related crap! Endless crap! And for the love of Santa/Jesus/God/Buddha/All the Myths- please be nice to your associate, who is not trying to ruin your Christmas.

    There were eighteen Nativity Scenes on display, so of course I pushed every button. “When Jesus was born…” “When Jesus was…” “When Jesus…” The cacophony of eighteen of them all going at once in staggered sequence was impressive and it continued for several minutes as I left the store, somehow feeling better.

    Sometimes I miss being able to wish people to Hell, because whoever made voiceboxes on teddy bears/ dancing Santas/ that damn fish from a few years ago needs to go there.

  • J Sveda

    Merry Sol Invictus, fundies!

    How was winter solstice celebrated in ancient Rome, anyway?

  • Richard Wade

    We pass an unlit house, and my oldest nephew asks his dad, “Why isn’t that house lit?”
    “Because they don’t believe in God”, says Dad, sternly!

    I’ve encountered that kind of nit wittery too. It seems that colored lights are the twenty-first century version of lamb’s blood on the lintels.

  • Siamang

    Damn… is it lamb’s blood season again already?

    I still haven’t taken my donkey blood down from Halloween.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X