Alan Rhodes

Joy to the World

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

As Christmas approaches my wife Susan and I are doing the things we always do at this time of year. We put up our Christmas tree in the living room and decorate it with the same ornaments we’ve been using for decades. We string colored lights through the shrubs along the front of the house. We sit at the dining room table and write Christmas cards to friends in other states we rarely get a chance to see. We do all this and more, even though neither of us is a Christian or, for that matter, even a believer in God.

By my teenage years I had lost whatever faith I might have had, which wasn’t very much to begin with. I had a preference for reason and evidence over faith. But I continued celebrating Christmas without being quite sure why I was doing it. I wondered if I was being a hypocrite.

The confusion was cleared up for me on a December Sunday in a sermon delivered by an agnostic Unitarian minister. He was a man whose intellect rejected the concept of deity, but who was profoundly spiritual in his actions and his very way of being. In his sermon that Sunday he confessed that for years he had been offering up shaky philosophical justifications for celebrating Christmas as an agnostic. He said he was through with the flimsy explanations and was ready to level with everybody. “I celebrate Christmas,” he said, “because it’s fun.” That’s it, I thought. So simple. Christmas is fun!

The sparkling lights on our tree give the room a festive glow. That’s fun. It’s fun to open the mailbox and find a stack of Christmas cards. It’s fun when a friend drops by unexpectedly with a plate of cookies. It’s fun to walk around downtown on a crisp, clear night looking at the window displays and the lights in the trees. And a big Christmas dinner is not exactly a bad time either. There are all sorts of joyous activities going on this time of year: concerts, parades, solstice celebrations, festivals, holiday events, parties—it’s a season that calls for fun.

None of this is meant to take anything away from people of faith. If you’re a Christian believer, this is a time of deep spiritual joy for you, the celebration of the birth of a savior. There are also many other celebrations going on this month and next month as well, observances that are specifically religious or have strong spiritual elements. This is the season of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Bodhi Day, Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti’s birthday, Makar Sankranti, Mahayana New Year, and Baha’i World Religion Day, to name a few. For people of faith there’s plenty to rejoice in at this time of year, but in addition to the sacred aspects of their observances, much of what they do will be simply festive. In the meantime, we atheists and agnostics can skip the religious stuff and just enjoy the good times.

Here’s something that got me in a merry mood recently, a study from WalletHub.com that revealed that Bellinghamsters spend half as much as the national average on Christmas purchases. Nationwide the average person will shell out $1,077 on Christmas buying. We Hamsters will spend more than $500. The conspicuous consumers down in Bellevue will spend over $2,000 per person.

Does this mean that we’re a bunch of skinflints? I don’t think so. I think it means we’ve got our values straight and aren’t falling victim to the frenzied commercialism that infects many around now. The holidays are for fun, not bankruptcy.

As I write this I’m listening to Christmas songs, not the carols that play on endless loops in grocery stores, but some of my own favorites, such offbeat delights as Canned Heat’s “Christmas Boogie,” the Van-Dells “Doo Wop Christmas,” and a 1954 gem “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus,” by Oscar McLollie and the Honeyjumpers. Man, is this stuff fun!

If this emphasis on amusement seems shallow, think for a minute of all the misery of this past year: multiple school shootings, a rise in hate crimes, rapid advancement of global warming, floods, hurricanes, mudslides, wildfires, war and starvation in Yemen, genocide in Myanmar, and the havoc caused by the amoral sociopath in the White House. We need a break, and this is the perfect time for it.

So whether you’re celebrating a sacred event or, like me, just enjoying the side benefits, have fun this holiday. See you next year.

Past Columns
The Lilliputian Gazette

November 20, 2019

Election Elucidations

October 15, 2019

Buying Sedro-Woolley

September 4, 2019

Rescued by Rachmaninoff

July 17, 2019

Hurrahs and Harangues

May 8, 2019

Ranting and Raving

March 6, 2019

Bellingham 2050

February 13, 2019

Looking Backward

January 2, 2019

A Second Spring

October 3, 2018

Dog Days Deliberations

September 12, 2018

Mr. Cranky’s Files

July 11, 2018

Can We Talk?

June 20, 2018

Midnight Musings

May 16, 2018

April Fools

April 4, 2018

Rollo and Me

March 7, 2018

Egregious linguistic offenses

February 14, 2018

Events
Today
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Sedro-Woolley Community Center

Winter Faire

10:00am|Whatcom Hills Waldorf School

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

10:00am|Pioneer Park Pavilion

Old-Fashioned Christmas Market

10:00am|Friday Harbor Brickworks

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Fairhaven Winterfest

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Sumas Book Club

10:00am|Sumas Library

Mastering Wisteria

10:30am|Full Bloom Farm

Award-Winning Book Club

10:30am|Lynden Library

Snow Geese of Skagit

10:30am|Christianson's Nursery

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am| South Whatcom Library

Saltadena Celebration

11:00am|Saltadena Bakery

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

Holiday Craft Bazaars

11:30am

Holiday Maker's Market

12:00pm|Terramar Brewing and Distilling

Holiday Joy with Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Holiday Tea and Crafts

1:00pm|North Fork Library

Festive Feasting Reception

1:00pm|Good Earth Pottery

Teen Art Fair

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Big Holiday reds tasting

2:00pm|eifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Shrinking the Worry Monster

2:00pm|Village Books

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bowman Bay Holiday

3:00pm|Bowman Bay

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

A Deep Dive Into Eve Deisher's Psyche

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

One Meditation

4:00pm| Boulevard Park

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Early Railroads of Whatcom County

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Center Into Solstice

7:00pm|Cafe Blue

Holiday History Hi-Jinks

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Winter Solstice Concert with SeaMuse

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Cidertails with Alexine Langdon

7:30pm|housand Acre Cider House

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

The Kelley World Tour

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Sunday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Celtic Yuletide

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Scarlett and Dicey

4:00pm|Village Books

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

see our complete calendar »