This is my first holiday season as an atheist. I live with a theist who is Jewish by heritage. So, this is also my first Hanukkah.
First of all, where has Hanukkah been all my life? I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be fun, but it is – at least how my boyfriend has introduced me to it. He simply lights the menorah while saying a prayer in Hebrew, with a little part in English, and then he hands me a gift. Yes, please. If sermons had come with gifts, my evolution as an atheist might have been delayed by quite a few years.
In all seriousness, the holidays have caused me to appreciate the difference between religion and tradition. Just to be clear, I do not believe in the supernatural. The natural is already fascinating enough for several lifetimes. There is no need to fabricate stories that defy every ounce of reason that we have. Whether or not the historical Jesus existed, the two different versions of his early years both take leave of logic, and they contradict each other. Any god worth the title would not need to sire himself, then (temporarily) kill himself in order to save humanity from himself. Huh? Nevertheless, the holidays are an important time of friends, and family, and reflection.
What I’ve learned this year is that life is not under my control. Things don’t happen TO me; they just happen. I get to choose how I respond. Life is not always fair; it’s not always fun; but it is always interesting if we see ourselves as the main characters in our own novels. We don’t know how long or short the novels will be. Some people’s lives are only a few lines of poetry; while other’s live long, fancy novels a la Tolkien. All we can do is love as hard as we can, make as big a positive difference as we can, take nothing personally, and try to have as much fun as possible without getting into any inconvenient trouble.
And, along the way there are sweet traditions like Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve to make the journey a little more special. Especially Hanukkah. Love it. Eight gifts. Whaaat?