Waking up to the smell of a succulent Christmas ham is heavenly; it works wonders in encouraging you to get out of bed. It’s December 24th, and my Mum is in military-style preparation mode for our annual Christmas Eve party. There’s just enough time to grab the last chocolate from the advent calendar before everyone joins in with lending a hand- whatever needs cooking or cleaning, the sooner it can be done the less stressed everyone will be.
I find it surprising that some festive schedules carry such flexibility on Christmas Day, when I compare it to the rigid tradition that lies within my family over the three day period. The celebrations start on Christmas Eve with our party, with my Mum providing a delicious spread and easing us into the guilt of eating too much over Christmas. Another part of Christmas Eve that me, my Mum and a few other family friends partake in, is going to our local church St Swithuns for the annual crib service.
It’s fair to say the crib service is one of the biggest gigs of the year for my local church; the vicar always takes time in the service to stress that Christianity is for life, not just for Christmas, which shows how important it is for drawing in new denizens. I’ve been going to the service for as long as I can remember, and I’ve watched scores of shepherds and kings march down the aisle in the same old costumes; I’ve even noticed pages progress to more important roles, and then I wonder how I can remember such things in comparison to revision notes.
Overall, the nativity is the ultimate feel-good story to enjoy at Christmas. Yes, it is the same story every year with the same old carols in-between, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable with each telling. I have been pondering this year’s crib service more than usual because this year I finally swayed from the awkward middle position of Agnostic to deciding I was Atheist. For me, if God made the universe, surely someone made God, and that you could keep going back in a never ending chain; it would have to start somewhere, so you might as well start with a Big Bang.
But this isn’t a matter for religion. I still highly enjoy the nativity story that provides part of the framework for Christmas, and I would loathe to give up the tradition of celebrating the story, but surely it is quite a contradictory and hypocritical image to see me in a church on Christmas Eve, singing carols praising God on high, when I don’t believe it myself? I suppose the difference is that I do believe in Jesus; I mean virtually all scholars who write on the subject accept that Jesus existed.
The main thing is, you cannot deny that Christmas day itself was partly born out of celebrating the birth of Christ, and in my opinion there are few things more joyful than celebrating the birth of a child. So yes, I will still be attending the church service, before going back to my family party and then on to town, spreading Christmas cheer along the way. Everyone should be allowed to celebrate Christmas in their own way, even if mine walks tenderly between different religious views.