Emails from Around the World: What Atheist Christmas Means To You

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In last week's newsletter, we asked you to write us about what you're doing during the Global Everything Lockdown known as Christmas. Below are the best of your responses, including a few from those of you who were drunk.

How are you spending the holidays? Add your comments below.


My Christmas will be very sad this year, not because I found out that Christ and the Christian faith was about as credible as Santa.  I came to that conclusion when I was a boy of ten. Nor will it be because I'm  65 years old, have no grand children and I'm alone. It will be very sad because my only son of 35 years, Paul, one of Richard's greatest admirers, died from cancer died this month.

Paul introduced me to the writings of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins. Because of Paul living in Perth, Australia, and my living near Hobart Tasmania, we'd spend hours on the phone talking. Often it would be about debates between the religious and the above mentioned. 

Instead of a religious ceremony at his funeral Paul had a friend read a lengthy quote of Richards about how lucky we are to even exist, and although his life was short, he was ever so grateful for the time he had. 

My special thanks to Richard from myself on behalf of my son, who gained so much joy from his lectures. 

Rod
Tasmania

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Here in the epicenter of obscurantism and superstition (namely, Italy) the preparation for Saturnalia have been going on frantically for at least a month!

However, I haven't lost all hope yet: I finally managed to dress up like a Native American (an idea I've been flirting with for years) and do the rain dance when the priest came to provide the blessing to my house… Yes, things like these still happen over here…

Picture that: the priest walking around my house reciting magical formulas and doing pompous gestures with his hand, while I go berserk dancing around him…!

I strongly believe that the priest won't be back next year, and I think we should all do that, record it and post it on YouTube and the social medias! 

What better way of spending the holidays?

Eugenio
Italy

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I am enjoying the sunny weather here in Cyprus.  I live in the Turkish part of Cyprus which is occupied by the Turkish military.  The Turks invaded in 1974 and divided the country so that the south is Greek and Orthodox Christian while the North is a secular republic. The president of the whole island before division was Archbishop Makarios.  Christmas is celebrated here even by Muslims but not the religious part of it, just the tree and Santa and only as a gesture to the Christians, although most of them are British, and they are hardly Christians. lol

I find Islam far less invasive of my life than Christianity was with its proselytizing and the commercialization of religious festivals.  No one speaks of religion here and Mosque attendance is at 2%.

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

David
Cyprus

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Christmas (and I still culturally say it this way) will be spent with family (including my 93 year old Mom!) celebrating the joy of life – even with its personal and global tragedies and hardships I remain optimistic. A month ago a road accident took in an instant the life of my wife and spared me of any injury, so sadness is powerful for awhile – yet I still consider myself and my Debra too as "… lucky ones…" for the chance, the opportunity and privilege of having a life at all, and an appreciative awareness of it. The writings of Dr. Dawkins has added greatly to my understanding and appreciation of it. 

To you and all at the foundation and your families my sincerest wishes for health and peace. Please carry on the great and important work you do… I know you will!

D'Arcy
Northern Ontario, Canada

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My friends and I have created our own very secular holiday, which we call the "Halcyon Days".  It's a 14 day period that spans the Solstice.  For a full description, visit our Halcyon Days page at:  http://www.sacredsecularsanctuary.com/halcyondays.html.

Happy Halcyon Days!

Karen
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

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For me and many like-minded folks everyday is a 'holiday'. I'm glad to be here and act like it! My friends and I are celebrating with a Winter Solstice party. And I welcome everyone to the next big thing.

Hwesi


My wife and I (aside from averting our attention away from the "Keep Christ in Christmas signs'…haha) are spending the festive season being extra-aware of the joys of life. From simply waking up in the morning on a plentifully rich and amazing planet, to sharing in each others company by individually reading in our family room, there's innumerable opportunities to step away from the Santa-crazed season of hyper-consumerism and unthankfulness! For the two of us (soon to be three!), a season such as this changes nothing in our usual routines, aside from seeing the family a bit more which, for many people, may mean a huge change in routine.

My wife and I are in the process of discussing how to incorporate Christmas as a non-religious annual event into the life our forthcoming child. A challenging prospect.

Steve

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How am I spending the holidays? With a few days off from work, I shall travel to Hong Kong, where I'll enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of this great location. Hong Kong, a former British possession, does celebrate the season, but the emphasis is more on the secular aspects of the season, and that suits me just fine. You get a taste of the Christmas season, with decorations and music, and yet you are in a massive Asian city. Great fun!!

Regards,

Thomas

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Spending the holidays wondering how humanity will survive itself.  Pass the eggnog.

Bill Oxley
Oregon

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I have just finished “The Decline and Fall of the British Empire” and over the holidays will be reading “The Great Hunger” about how well the Irish were treated by god and queen.

I purchased Richard’s new book for my son (a grad student in oceanography) and will read it after him.

Best wishes for a New Year of Enlightenment,
Mike

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My wife and I are spending Christmas day at the movies. We are seeing Saving Mr. Banks, which is about Walt Disney and my friend, the supercalifragilisticexpialidocus Richard Sherman, who invented that word.
Don
Tucson, AZ

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I am spending Christmas with family, and friends. My family is steeped in religion. Perhaps not so much the children, much more my partner. My Mom and eight siblings. South Africa and sub-sahara in general is like modern Aztecs…and meanwhile I'm a full time Atheist, since two years ago after reading "The God Delusion" about three times. I have been a skeptic for years of course. I then bought "The Selfish Gene" and then "The Most Beautiful Show on Earth" plus "The Magic of Reality"…..I'm yet to finish "An Ancestor's Tale"….by the way my Boss is also a fervent Christian….I'm working overtime articulating Darwin and Evolution through Natural Selection. Anyway….I will spend Christmas Drumming Djembe drums with friends and family….it goes with story telling….it's spring-summer here, so gardening, working on the fields is common practice. I make collection of djembe drums….lots of reading too, will be reading "The Power of Habit" as well as "Learned Optimism"….Prof Dawkins' new book? I'm going to "Exclusive Books" at Mandela Square in Sandton, Joburg tomorrow. Richard Dawkins is my hero beyond adjectives and superlatives. He helped liberate my mental anguish, fear, infantile cognitives etc….THank you so much for continuing to nurture and share. Enjoy festive holidays. 

Sam

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Through Christmas and New year I'm working between the medical assessment unit and X-ray at Royal Blackburn Hospital. 

Michael
United Kingdom

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Meetup with Atheists for Winter Solstice Celebration.

Have a Happy New Year!
 
Gary

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I am living here at the former border between the two Germanys at a channel, which combines the Baltic Sea with the river Elbe and further the North Sea. Lilo, an ex-teacher and I (ex-designer) will be hosts for our three children, which are living in Hamburg and Berlin now, who will join us for Christmas to cook for us and tell us about their experiences in the world of the adults… We provide 2 bottles of red wine of French provenance for each of us per evening, knowing that our tongues will twist the sound of some of the difficult to pronounce words ("zwitschern") already after the first bottle. I love to ask for the meaning and listen to further desperately trials. No, I have not drunken yet anything beside one Italian espresso, but it was good to talk to you.

Carlo
Germany

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I'm in Kuwait (land of religious fanatics) for the holidays.  I am married to a Kuwaiti who comes from a Muslim family. He happens to be an atheist and helped me on my journey 15 years ago to science and reason. His moderate Muslim family will join us on Christmas Eve for my yearly holiday dinner where I make it a point to let the family know I love the music, decorations and holiday feasts because it brings the family together to enjoy being alive and to cherish each other. 

Caroline
Kuwait

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Spending the holidays looking for work, otherwise enjoying the pagan traditions co-opted by Christianity: Tree lights and what not.

Mauricio

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Lately, I do not have holidays, because I do not have a job, so every day is a holiday for me, hahahaha. I have just realized that your English word (for festival) "holiday" has that "holy" part in it, hahah…  paradoxically, one of prof.Dawkins work is to get rid of religion and religious terms from everyday (secular) life :).

I wish You, and Your RDF team, very happy new year, best of luck and success :).

Vanja

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We are retired so don’t have holidays from work, but the volunteer things we are involved with, go into recess for a few weeks and that gives us time to catch up with our family and enjoy festive gatherings. The children and grandchildren also have some time off from work and study. None of us are religious, but the season is an opportunity to celebrate life and family and a bit of gift giving.
 
It is refreshing and encouraging to spend time with the younger members of my ‘tribe’ who are intelligent and hard working people who give me hope for the future.
 
Our christmas will be hot as we are in Australia. No white christmas for us!
 
Anne
Australia

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I am spending it with my 5 grandchildren who are being catholic home schooled!

The saving grace (no pun intended) is that they are getting a healthy dose of science and math which I hope will keep their minds open and curious and spark an interest in secular education in the future.

James

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Now my daughter lives in the UK and she is watching the film with her housemates, and I am in Australia doing the same. I've since come to realise that Jesus isn't really an historical figure, there being no extra biblical evidence for his existence. So we just remind ourselves of all the reasons we don't celebrate with the rest of our strange religious family.

Happy summer solstice from Australia,

Ruth
Australia

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I don't celebrate with my family, and am working through the holiday instead. It's a bit lonely but if I can just get on top of all my tasks, I'll get to relax and that will feel great. It's nice to see that I'm far from alone with my atheism on Christ Day.

Johnny
USA

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I am touring with the band as I am a jazz singer cum entertainer here in France where I live, (around the Med and up in the Alps) all thro the fete,so it will be hard butfun ! Have a gudun, bloody humbug!
 amic 

Here in WA state it's dark much of the day!  So we're joyfully celebrating the winter solstice, the return of the sun and the lengthening of the days.

Keep up the good work!
Jay
Washington State, USA

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Together with my son & his wife we are leaving Sydney to spend the season with my 89 yr. old lady friend, my daughter in law's mother, in the rural town of Tumbarumba at the foot of the Snowy Mountains in NSW. 400 klms. South. She has recently recovered from a bout of pneumonia, whose cause & cure I'm sure you will agree was of no spiritual nature whatsoever! I am 80.

Frank
Australia

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I am a 19 year old freshman in college. I plan to spend the holidays with my family and friends. To me christmas is not about christ but what we can give to others how we can make other people happy. I love getting these emails because it is a reminder to me that I'm not alone. I live in mobile alabama and I struggle with the fact that I am one of the few down here in the south that feel the way I do thank you for what you guys are doing and I hope to receive many more emails to come!

Ryan
Mobile, Alabama

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We will spend the holidays avoiding the roads crowded by Christians who have had had too much to drink, avoid the shops crowded by Christians who have had too much to spend, avoid the restaurants crowded by Christians who are gorging themselves, avoid the TV with its diet of Christmas kitsch, love each other, read, do problems in number theory, sit on the verandah, knit, wander through our woods and patiently wait for the holiday season to be over.
 
M. D.

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Special, big meals with family.

Decorative lights on trees indoors and outdoors.
Solstice greeting cards sent through the mail to family and friends.
Saying Happy Solstice.

Sarah

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Do you really want to know how I will be spending the holidays? I'm afraid this is going to 
be a bit of a whinge,  I am a devout atheist, I am sick to the back teeth of all this "Christmas cheer" , rampant consumerism, gluttony and waste.  I have been derided for not "getting into 
the Christmas spirit" by the hypocritical dead heads that I appear to be surrounded by.  To quote
Roy Harper, "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. you can lead a man 
to slaughter but you're never gunna make him think". I feel better for getting that off my chest
actually. Thanks happy equinox… 

Mick

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Hey- we’re decking the halls for Solstice! In celebration of humans having enough science to keep an astronomical calendar. And because humans like traditions, and big parties. It’s not Boston in 1860, so we don’t need the dour attitude to not believe. 

You need to get some Mediterranean style on. Festivus!

Elizabeth

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I'm spending the holidays working on my diploma, going to see  the live production of the lion king and touring the NSW alpine region on the beloved motorcycle.

Kaye
Australia

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I'm spending the holiday's as a fellow non-believer and as a secular humanist. I am also spending time with my religious family who are unaware of my non-belief and enjoy the season as Christians do. As a new subscriber I look forward to more newsletters from you! Have a good year! 

Alex

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We are planning on going to an Indian restaurant for curry.
We, or I should say that I don't feel any need to flaunt my non belief in other's faces so I give
presents if I feel like it.  No Christmas parties, though.

Nancy

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Our entire family is atheist, but of course we get together, enjoy good food, wine and talk.  Watching my grandkids opening their presents is fun as well.

So, anyway, keep up the good work and enjoy your Christmas!

Paul
Vancouver Island, Canada

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Tomorrow we are celebrating the winter solstice with friends and like minded people. We'll be drinking good old red wine and playing games!

My best greetings to you and to Richard!

Cheers,
R.R.
Germany

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For the first year ever we do not have any decorations as such.  A few cards and such like have to be displayed.  I am trying to find another possible way to celebrate life once a year.  Religion has played a lot in my mind having lived through a troubled sectarian Northern Ireland.

Difficult to tell relatives of my decision to 'ditch' god though.

Cheers and happy what ever this is!!

Simon
Northern Ireland

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My mind said, ''oh no, not you too,'' when the photo of the Xmas tree beside Richard came into view.  Admittedly, I helped put up the Xmas tree where I work  because the person who runs my workplace is a Christian, but I did only help on the basis of him fully understanding that I did so not being a Christian in the slightest.  It looks quite nice.  The central pole that most grown Xmas trees have are normally circular like if they'd been lathed and I used to make these into make handles for chillington hoes and smallish pick axes as a non-christian years ago.  I also used to hang around the Hindu a lot because they used to let me use their Temples grounds to do some gardening, fully aware of my scientific stance.  I don't hang around them much anymore  because, asides from the historical science, especially their maths, it is not really my thing…
 
I'll be low key as usual this Xmas, I came home early today and will be staying in a lot unless its a sunny day.  If the Sun is out, I'll go bird watching by the coast.  I've also good a few home repair jobs.  I really don't want to know about Xmas though I'm grateful for the week I've being given off at work, it being a venue run by the local Ministry for Culture.   I am not a christian because I just believe in pure science, I believe that all human social problems stem from  patriarchally aggressive hominoid origins therefore rejecting anything that might be purely patriarchally biased…

Thanks for cheering me up, seeing Richard by the Xmas tree was so funny.

Andrew

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I'm going to be curled up alone(by design-HAHA) rereading The God Delusion!!!!!

Happy Holidays,
Sam 

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Spending the time with Family in a wonderfully religion-free environment!  And enjoying it :)

Keith

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I'm still at my high school as I have one student that is completing an overdue exam.  The rest of the staff has left, the students have emptied the halls and the building has become quiet.  I'm looking forward to my first trip to London from Boston on Christmas Day.  I'm dragging my wife to make a biology pilgrammage with me.  I'm coming to visit Charles Darwin's Down House.  I also plan on seeing the London Museum of Science and the Watson/Crick DNA model and the British Museum of Natural History for some of Darwin's specimens.  After that, my wife and oldest daughter will drag me to the more "typical" tourist spots of London.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Todd
Boston, USA

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I'm spending this xmas tending to my fruit trees in Lorida Florida.
Martin
Florida, USA

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We do in fact celebrate the Solstice and not Christmas; not from any
Druidical notions, but just because we believe that the Earth with all
its' cycles, beginnings and endings is simply a part of all that is going
on in the Universe.
We steward, plant and grow on a large area of land and are in tune with
Earth's cycles of renewal, regeneration and decay. We live in very 'Dark
Sky' area and have a 360' unpolluted view of the sky so feel very in-touch
with all that is;  celebrating the Solstice affirms our ideas of all this.
Seasonal Greetings to you all   :)

Kathleen
New Zealand

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Saturday the 21st I am participating in a Solstice / Humanlight celebration being put on by REASON-Omaha and Omaha Atheists. In general conversation I have been replying to  "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Humanlight" or "Happy Holidays" and engaging people in discussing the Solstice…amazing how many people don't realize the astronomy of the shortest daylight day and the lengthening of days thereafter etc. I also take this time to reflect on all of the wonderful people that have been part of my life this past year and look ahead with enthusiasm and hope to being more involved in the spread of reason in all of it's aspects. I am a member of and support all of the secular organizations that I am able to (AHA, American Atheists, FFRF, CSI, RDFRS) and as such. I have made a 2014 'resolution' to not only continue this support but to be more involved where and when I can in local events and activism. 

Joey
Omaha, Nebraska

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I grew up in a fundamental, pentecostal "speaking in tongues" home with church 4 times weekly.   Speaking in tongues is considered one of the gifts
of the Holy Spirit.  So now as a 59 year old enlightened woman I am spending 
the day with a few like minded individuals who speak good English and like to have a drink or two!
 
Have a great atheist day!
Emilie

 

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Celebrating with Chinese food and a Dr. Who festival at a friend's house.
Gerry

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I'm spending them by myself actually….

Franco

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I will spend the holidays visiting friends and those fam members which don't make me feel homicidal.
(I was raised in an extreme fundamentalist clan.)
Cheers to Richard and the RDFRS, to ALL freethinkers and liberators of the oppressed.

Glenn

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Nice picture of Richard beside a Xmas tree. Lucky for us that most of the trappings of Xmas are pagan and celebrate the winter solstice ( the days are getting longer!) Those if us living in Canada appreciate that a lot. So we can enjoy all the lights, egg nog, and other Yuletide things without compromising our feelings about religion! 

My daughter, husband, and their 9 month old daughter are here visiting from Australia so they can have a "real" Xmas with snow. 

Merry Solstice to all!

Winston
Canada

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Xmas for us means having fun, being with family and friends and trying  just to be good and tolerant with  each other.  Symbols of Xmas? Well the tree, yes, greeting cards and King's College carols also but that's where it ends for us. 

Barbara

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My Humanist (read Atheist) wife and I are in Terlingua, Texas, into our second month at the BBRA campground.  It is our third time here, and if you know anything about the area, only a few miles from Big Bend National Park, you would know that it is a quiet peaceful place that lends itself to the appreciation of evolutions handiwork in real "creationism": the sculpting of majestic mountains, valleys and awe-inspiring visual natural gifts.  While I know that many that live here will partake in the holiday rituals that sadly manifest themselves in this month of December, my wife and I will do our best to simply relish the opportunity we have to enjoy the real and true gifts of natures never-ending tinkering using all it has ever needed: wind, water and time.

Enjoy what you do in this too hectic time in peace and the joy of the stars.

Michael
Texas

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My wife, Joyce, and I still enjoy the Christmas Season.  While we don’t attach any sort of religious significance to Christmas Day, we still have a decorated and lighted Christmas tree as well as lights on the trees outside our home.  Our son and daughter are busy at this time of the year; our son is a long-haul driver hauling fuel between Edmonton, Alberta and Fort McMurray, Alberta while our daughter is a flight attendant with WestJet Airlines.  So we spend Christmas and New Years on our own.
 
Our day for celebrating is February 1st.  That day in 2014 will mark our 50th Wedding Anniversary and we will spend it at Waikiki Beach on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu!
 
The very best of the season to you and yours and a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year, Edwina.
 
Warmest regards,
 
Dan & Joyce
Canada

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I am working at the Ministry of Legal Affairs,Sultanate of Oman as an Adviser.

Oman is an absolute monarchy but the monarch ( the Sultan ) is generally accepted as benevolent and moderate.Oman according to the Basic law of the State is an Arab,Islamic State (Article 1) and the religion of the State is Islam and the Islamic Sharia is the basis of legislation ( Article 2).So that is it.Other religions are tolerated even though their activities are regulated.

As for non religion,agnosticism,atheism et al, there is no space at all.Most nationals cannot even think that such thinking and trends exists elsewhere!.

Now for the "holidays".Christmas is not a holiday here and this is not the holiday season.But Chritmas is well marketed here because there are a lot of expatriates here and also because of the new year.It is after all promoting sales!.But I think Christmas is celebrated with fervor by the Philippinas,the Indian Christians etc.Incidentally I am from Kerala,India and was born in a Syrian Christian family.My family was never very  religious even though my parents were/are members of a church.So the religious aspect was never there.As far as I am concerned, I am secular and humanist in belief.

So on 25th I will go to office as usual and perhaps have a drink or two if someone come visiting in the evening.Now my wife and children loves to have some sort of celebration, but nothing planned, as of yet!

I am sorry that the mail is a tad long and (biographical).Any way I wish all at the RDF seasons greetings and a fruitful new year.

With Regards,

Joseph
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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It's minus 38 celsius in Winnipeg Manitoba
and I'm looking out my window watching the cold and the snow drift by in the great wide open.

I enjoy this time of season and if you are able to ignore the religious hysteria it is really quite beautiful.
It is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and we have  the FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS ….since time immemorial.
Have a Happy happy and a Merry merry.

Denis
Manitoba, Canada

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We found a creative way to spend a few holiday hours, and we're very pleased with the results! Too bad we didn't have the idea in time to promote it for the holidays. It's a wooden tree decoration with a magnetic detachable clip so that it can be used as a fridge motif. 

My son Bram intends to market it this year to boost the college fund.

Delightful, don't you think?!

All the best…

David

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Holidays have been rough since I was a child. My mother and father fought during the holidays when they were married and after the divorce. Living in dominant Hispanic catholic state, church was the cure all. My mother would jump from church to church or do yoga but it seemed at the time it did not help.

My catholic roots are not negative in a way where there were permanent scars but my family was extremely divided. The problem I had was the factions my family and other families created during the holidays. True during the holidays factions are everywhere even in a secular Christmas. Holidays meant a lot to me especially Christmas. The food was out of this world, music was just so divine and I got to spend it with family. After awhile it became dull, full of fighting over nonsense. I would pray to God please fix my family and he did.

I became the black sheep of the family, distanced from every single one till I hit rock bottom. Holidays became something sad; it was such a kick in the face. I began to volunteer a lot during the holidays and met an interesting friend. He was an artist and used to live in Hollywood. He took me in for the holidays and told me stuff that really hurt but ringed true in my brain. The first was that he was an Atheist, oh no! My stigmatization of non-believers was still deep within me. Second, that he was a spiritual Atheist; I did not even know that even existed.  The third was the most shocking, "stop feeling sorry for yourself and get your degree!" A complete stranger had more heart than my family did at the time. He cooked Christmas dinner and I really felt I was going to get out from my slump. That night we cracked jokes about the Catholic Church and talked about stuff the really was eye-opening. Now I am close to graduating and I feel I owe him a lot of gratitude. Thank you for reading.

Edward Silva
New Mexico

 

 

 

 

Written By: RDFRS
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1 COMMENT

  1. Interesting reading! I’ve just popped in to RDFS for a quick look, while I keep out of the way of my wife in the kitchen.

    Today and during the next few days we will be relaxing and having meals with various family members.

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