A swell Christmas carol

December 23, 2011 • 7:11 am

I am pretty neutral about Christmas.  I don’t celebrate it overtly, but it’s nice to get together with friends or family—and get that much-needed sweater.  When I was raised in a (mostly secular) Jewish family, we even had a Christmas tree, which my dad called a “Chanukah bush.”  But I’m not excited, either, about atheist attempts to celebrate the season: who cares about a “Happy solstice”?

But for those heathens who like carols during this season, here’s a great one:

h/t: Stan

55 thoughts on “A swell Christmas carol

  1. I must say that this carol strikes me in odd tone. In particular, it’s somewhat unusual when coupled with its video description wherein the creators write of Dawkins and Hitchens (whom they presumably admire considering it purports to be dedicated to his memory):

    “The shrill atheism voiced by the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins is fine for another generation, but there are plenty of atheists nowadays confident enough in their non-belief that they don’t feel like they have to be fucking dicks about it. ”

    So the reverse implication is that neither Dawkins nor Hitchens is ‘confident enough in [his] non-belief’ such that they have to be ‘dicks about it’ to, one supposes, offset their insecurity or some such?

    I’m no expert dedicating things to the memory of someone whom I admire, but I’m fairly confident that implying he’s an insecure prick isn’t the surest way to convey my like for someone, alive or dead.

    Let’ just say I’m less than a fan.

  2. We bought a shrubbery. A rather nice one, of rosemary, that we’ve decorated with a straw star from Czech relatives and a few choice ornaments. It should add to a nice two-level effect when I later plant it in front. Ni!

    1. Ha! This is great. I have to dig up my rosemary bush from the garden because it won’t survive the winter outside. This is the second year that we’ve decorated it with red curling ribbons to be our pseudo-christmas tree. And it smells amazing! We don’t have any decorations on it though. Enjoy your rosemary! Good luck with keeping it going indoors through the winter, they can be tricky. (Unless, of course, you happen to live in some wonderful Mediterranean climate!!)

  3. Welllll; at least, unlike the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, the solstice is real!

    Agricultural cultures certainly had reason enough to celebrate the solstice.

  4. What?!?! Northern hemisphere winter solstice is my favorite time of year! I usually celebrate by bringing greenery indoors and decorating it, and by sharing presents and good cheer with friends and family. Problem?

    1. Indeed.

      And, if I may, I’d like to take this opportunity to urge everybody to Marry Chris’s Mouse.

      Seasoned Gribenes for all, and a Hoppy New Beer, too!



  5. who cares about a “Happy solstice”?

    uh, every Nothern-hemisphere-temperate-zone agrarian that ever lived?

    Come on, man! It really is ‘the reason for the season’!
    Why, it sez here that “The Talmud recognizes the winter solstice as ‘Tekufat Tevet’.”

    so there you go.
    Keep Saturn in Saturnalia!

    1. I have family in central AK and I gotta tell you that the solstice is a visceral celebration there. They are truly happy to know that the sun is returning.

  6. I think the winter solstice is great reason to celebrate this time of year for anyone who spends a good amount of time outside in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re a person who loves winter, it’s fun to have a day to mark the approach of snowy days, following animal tracks through deep powder on a wintry hike, climbing to the tops of wind blown peaks in New England, knowing that the hours of sunlight will slowly lengthen. I can imagine though, that if someone lives mostly in the city, surrounded by artificial lights and asphalt and stays mostly indoors, some of the wonder, peacefulness and beauty of the winter season is lost and therefore the idea of celebrating the solstice seems strange or pointless.

    I, for one, love it. Happy Winter, Northerners! We’ve finally got some snow in VT! Hooray.

    My favorite cheesy holiday music is the 1979 John Denver/Muppets Christmas album. “Alfie the Christmas Tree” poem being a particular favorite.

  7. I like celebrating the Solstice, but it gets muddled because the neo-Pagans have their winter solstice celebrations too. If I tell someone that I’m celebrating the solstice ( a purely natural and identifiable event ) people think I’m a Wiccan.

    1. I don’t think that’s true per se! I tell people that I simply celebrate the change of seasons and they seem to get it. Plus which who cares what they think?

  8. im sick of xmas, and sick of people discussing the celebration or not. I don’t care if you’re a bible-thumping evangelical a-hole or a Dawkinsian new atheist! ugh! I’d rather just stuff my face with way too much food at every solstice and equinox to recognize the importance of the seasonal balance/imbalance of the photoperiod and just be done with it. maybe not even go that far. it’s no more important than the phases of the moon for us in this modern life, but it’s nice to be aware of it and its effects, albeit lesser than in the past, on our lives. now, excuse me, i have to get back to not giving a crap.

  9. Why not celebrate the Solstice? That after all is what the midwinter feast was about before Jesus came along and gatecrashed the party. And as others have mentioned, it is actually real.

    1. IMO we atheists should do all we can to “claim” as many holidays as possible, de-religioning them as much as possible in the process. It is pretty easy with Christmas. Easter is not that hard, either. Our neighborhood now has an egg hunt for kids in the spring but it is no longer called the “Easter Egg Hunt” having been rechristened the “Spring Egg Hunt”.

      I’m not sure what to do about Ashura, though. It is hard to de-religion self-flagellation.

      1. IMO we atheists should do all we can to “claim” as many holidays as possible

        Eh, I’ve never seen the sense in being bound to “special” days on the calendar to celebrate. How about we don’t saddle ourselves with arbitrary expectations of what we should do? It always amazes me how much pull tradition has, even to anti-traditionalists.

  10. Hey now… Except for that last game (when he was busy), God helped Tim Tebow win his football games. Without God, the Broncos would be like 2 and 12. Pray to God and Lord Jebus that the Broncos win against Buffalo this Sunday.

  11. What’s wrong with Solstice? Most ancients were not necessarily part of a Wiccan group but were doing a ritual to bring good luck for health and prosperity for the coming season. True it is a superstition but it ticks off the evangelicals if you already have something to celebrate.

    Ps I have met many pushy Christians at holiday gatherings but that video sort of made the hosts look like they took the higher road…..

  12. To each his/her own. My family enjoys celebrating the natural cycles of life, so we have a nice winter solstice dinner each year. One doesn’t have to buy in to the woo associated with hard-core paganism to find meaning in pagan rituals that affirm our connection to this earth of ours. So, Happy Solstice everyone! Sol is on his way back north and I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

  13. As a farmer, I can assure you that I DO celebrate the solstice. The coming of the longer days, and warmer weather, and more daylight hours are well worth celebration.

    Especially since we had 17″ of snow last night.

  14. Sorry to comment yet again but Peter’s recent post made a good point. Understanding the ancient ways would be good for Americans. Most of us cannot even tell east from west without a damned gps unit or highway sign. Much less grow our own food or understand anything about natural cycles. Maybe Americans would understand science better if we encountered it in our daily lives, as physicist Lisa Randall points out. Christian extremists have a stake in keeping Americans ignorant. Self-sufficiency would help education and also the environment. Maybe even politics as well.

    1. Maybe. But I’m skeptical. It reminds me of hearing about how using calculators instead of slide rules would be a problem. I don’t see it any more than the acceptance of typewriters and then computers has destroyed the population’s ability to compose sentences.

      Handwriting legibility has generally gotten worse, but who cares much about that?

      1. Your points are well taken, GB James. Although take a look at Frontline’s show Digital Nation, where a Harvard professor says she can no longer assign books over 200 pages. Scary.

        My reference was more to self sufficiency. Do Americans know how to grow their own food, make clothing, how to survive in a crisis? People would wake up to environmental and science issues much faster. For example, we started a compost pile last year and I was alarmed to realize we were throwing away nearly half the fruits and vegetables we bought.

        1. That’s an impossible goal, assuming we think living like our great grandparents would be a good thing. With seven billion or so of us scrambling around this little rock, there is no such thing as self sufficiency. At least as far as food goes. I question even the idea of self sufficiency in a species as social as ours. When were we ever self sufficient?

          It seems to me that the only people learn to survive crisis is to experience crisis. Which makes the training regime exactly the problem you’re trying to prevent.

          Not that I’m arguing for laziness. I think that Professors at Harvard (or anywhere else) should assign lengthy books when the material in the books warrants the assignment. Isn’t the failure to do so the fault of the professor more than the students?

          1. GBJames,

            You had me there for a minute about he professor, but then I remembered that it really depends. Do universities, like high schools, fire teachers if too many students flunk their classes? In that case, it is the fault of both the school and the lazy students.

            Unless what she meant by “can’t” was that it is ” difficult” to do so.

            I didn’t not mean 100 percent self-sufficiency, I also did not mean for every human on the planet, and I certainly did not mean, give up technology. I just meant relative self- sufficiency, as much as possible.

            In fact with our declining resources, dying forests and depleted farmland soil, it is more realistic that People grow food on their own lawns than that flooded or that drought-ridden lands will continue to produce affordable soil. Especially if Americans choose to compost their unwanted fruits and veggies for soil instead of throwing them in the garbage.

        2. Any crisis so bad the average American needs to grow food and make clothes isn’t one that’s survivable.

          Humanity will never again be a hunter-gatherer species. Anything nasty enough to knock us back that far — and, believe me, there are plenty of things that could do the trick, with resource exhaustion at the top of the list — will take us all the way to extinction.

          And the reason for that is simple. We already have the means for our own extinction, and have since before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Do you really think the militaries of the Great Powers will fail to use all those sniny Bombs if things get desperate enough?

          Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic. There’s no question but that we’ve got some very rough times ahead as we continue to deplete our petroleum reserves. However, on the other hand, if we can make the transition to solar, we’ll have energy wealth beyond our current imagination. And solar today is not much more than about twice the cost of petroleum, with the price of solar dropping like a stone and the price of petroleum doing nothing but rise. Add in the way that we’re transitioning our transportation fleet from pure petroleum to hybrids to plugin hybrids to pure electric — and that transportation accounts for most of the petroleum usage — and there’s reason for hope.

          But we’ve got plenty of opportunity to fuck it all up ourselves (or run into snags despite our best intentions), and we’ve only got one chance to get it right.



          1. I so agree with you about petroleum reserves. We need to tread carefully.

            I did not really mean a crisis where people have to grow their own food”. Although if I did, that could simply mean that it is cheaper to grow our own rather than buy the inflated prices.

            I also did not mean being hunter-gatherers again. However, if you were lost in a New England forest for a number of days during summer, you would be able to feed and shelter yourself quite well if you knew what
            you were doing.

            I sure hope you are right about solar. I would love our home to have that backup system considering the storms we had this year. If any of that was global warming, the rest of the country has no idea what they’re in for.

            I am deeply worried about a ny times report (backed up by evidence, if I remember right, I should double check) that the world has almost no healthy forests left. Trees filter the air, water and soil for free. No economic recovery can replace that.

  15. Well Down Under we’re celebrating the summer solstice with Xmas trees, tinsel, Xmas pudding and lobster and salad. It’s all a bit confused but fun anyway. There will certainly be no praying. Merry solstice to all.

  16. Meh. For the Best christmas holiday song EVER, click through to Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”, you will not regret doing so.

  17. Another clever guy who thinks astronomy is pointless, eh? You need to grab brother Blackford and go north more.

    1. Astronomy is one of the most important sciences! if we don’t study astronomy then how are we going to know where to go after we f*ck up this planet and go to another to f*ck up that one?!?!

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