Category Archives: Holidays

Another year, another needless finger to the Christians

I think skepacabra pretty much said it all.

The latest round of atheist billboards don’t impress me any more than they did last year. Not because I care about offending anyone, but because I find it pointless to go out of the way to give Christians the finger rather than promoting a positive message about atheism. These ads don’t tell anyone what atheists are about, but they do give a solid impression that atheists are obsessed with Christianity in particular – for some reason.

Or did I just not catch the Hanukkah sign that makes fun of the Jewish? ‘Cause we all KNOW that oil lamp thing is a Myth, right?

Next year, could we maybe try to make a name for ourselves for fostering a sense of community and charity rather than going out of our way to use expensive billboard space to remind everyone that Christianity exists?

There’s a time and a place for more aggressive tactics, but a promotional billboard is not either. And if not promotional, what is the billboard for? It’s not supportive either. It seems like some atheist orgs need to think harder about what message they are trying to get across and choose their forums more wisely.

We’ll see you next Christmas… sigh.

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Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the people who farmed the food I ate today.

I am thankful that I get to eat turkey at least once a year to celebrate the end of the harvest, which where I live (lots of farming here) is a big hairy deal. And it’s delicious.

I am thankful to my husband who helped me peel all of the root veggies for the feast.

I am thankful for the sharing of recipes and the existence of summer savory.

I am thankful for all of my family, friends, and coworkers.

I am thankful that the skeptical community does what it does to try to help people every single day.

I’m also an atheist, which apparently perplexes some people on Thanksgiving. I don’t need a diety, I have lots to be thankful for right here.

What’s wrong with having an imagination?

It’s Halloween. I frikin’ love this holiday. Candy, parties, famous lore-related costumes, inappropriately topical costumes (and the resulting fallout), pumpkin carving, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror special, going to a tiny Vogue Theatre to see Rocky Horror Picture Show, and all that other awesome crap. It’s a day specifically for fun (or if you’re fundamentally religious, evil hedonism and satan-worship…or something).

I often get asked why I like this holiday so much – about as often as I get asked why I like cheesy horror movies and awesome shows like Supernatural. Because it’s fun, you downers! If it’s not your taste, super. But I don’t really get a lot out of the other major holidays – mostly because of their glaring Christian-ness – so I find Halloween a good chance to let loose and have some fun. I realize I’m a skeptic and an atheist, but I freely enjoy the paranormal, or even the religious, in a fictional context. So, let me have this! :) A skeptical girl’s gotta have her fun sometime. It’s when those things are presented as real with no (or very poor) evidence that I don’t appreciate that stuff so much.

I have nothing but fond memories of Halloween – except the grocery store’s insistence on taking down the Halloween candy 2 weeks early to put up the more expensive Christmas candy. Bastards. But then again, Quality Street……

Chocolate digression. I’m back.

Anyway, I did a week long special of Halloween myths last year and here they are if you’d like to read them. Just remember that even though they’re annoying myths, it’s ok to have fun with the supernatural…as long as we’re all clear that so far it’s make believe (prove me wrong, Ghost Hunters) and we don’t drink and drive.

I had to slip that in there – this year let’s not drink and drive so hard that I don’t even have to be preachy next year at all.

St. Patrick’s Day

I have been doing a series about holidays this year, but this time I’m too lazy and Some Canadian Skeptic already beat me to it. So go read it.

Groundhog Day

Just in case there are still a few of you out there who actually believe that a groundhog’s shadow determines the weather, I’m about to crush your world. Sorry?

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated in the US and Canada on 2 February every year to commemorate the lengthening or abbreviation of winter weather as determined by a groundhog seeing (or not seeing, respectively) its own shadow.

Sounds scientific doesn’t it? Amazingly, it’s not at all.

I know. Try to hold back your tears.

The deal is, if an arbitrarily chosen rodent sees it’s shadow and retreats to its burrow, winter weather will last for, specifically, 6 extra weeks. Alas, it’s the Earth’s axis position in relation to the sun as we orbit that determines the seasons – in addition to other factors such as pollution, the solar sunspot cycle, etc – regardless of rodent shadows. Ooh I gave it away in the first few paragraphs. I gotta stop doing that. Oh well, there’s more good stuff below.

The most famous of these celebrations, depicted in the aptly named Groundhog Day movie, takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. [Note: It is not recommended that you act like a huge asshole in hopes that you can live 2 Feb over and over again until you get it right. My spidey sense tells me that violates the laws of the universe. So you’ll just end up pissing off a lot of people. Just a heads up.] Like most North American holidays, it’s a secular bastardization of a religious holiday. As opposed to a religious bastardization of a pagan holiday that was later bastardized into a secular holiday. That holiday is called Candlemas and celebrates something boring about Jesus.

The first day of spring falls around 6 weeks after Groundhog Day. So if Groundy McGroundhog saw his shadow there would be 6 more weeks of winter (which there would be anyway) and if he didn’t there would be 6 less weeks of winter through some kind of nonsense logic that the opposite action of the groundhog should necessarily mean the opposite result of the weather – a kind of unfunny folk humor that we’ve turned into a nonsense holiday.

Punxsutawney Phil, for example (there are many “famous” Groundhog Day groundhogs, but seeing as I already brought up Punxsutawney…), has made predictions as recently as 2008. The accuracy rate of Groundhog Day predictions is pegged at about 37% (i.e., chance) over around the last 100 years, although towns where this is a big tourist attraction obviously inflate that number to a ridiculous 75-90%. Wait. Something seems a little off about this. What could it be?

Oh I know. The average lifespan of a groundhog is 4-5 years. So although the people of Punxsutawney would love you to believe there’s one Phil and he’s like 100 years old, no dice. Or they have a magic groundhog. Possibly from space. We should examine it… Anyway, there’s probably been like 20 Phil’s instead of one really, really old one.

So groundhogs make terrible barometers. What exactly is the point of this holiday? If not accuracy or purpose, than what? Fun? What is fun about believing in something that’s blatantly wrong? Let’s go through this step by step.

1. Do groundhogs have magic powers? No.
2. Can a groundhog (or any other animal) have an impact on or “predict” the weather simply by observing its shadow or not? No.
3. Can the groundhog, upon observance (or not) of his shadow, communicate his interpretations clearly to the gaping humans? No.
4. Can his reaction to his shadow be objectively interpreted? No.
5. Even if we can believe that there was once a groundhog with magic powers and his behaviour was interpretable to 100% accuracy, is it likely that multiple groundhogs in multiple cities across North America for 100 years have the same power to “predict” the weather? No (see #1).
6. Is believing in nonsense generally a good idea for any reason? No.

So if you live in one of those towns and it’s an excuse for community gatherings and parties. Fine, whatever. But please don’t tell your kids nonsense about how a groundhog predicts the weather (like adults did when I was a kid) and have them believe in nonsense for no good reason. Unless you’re doing some sort of weird test to “improve their critical thinking skills”, which is stupid because why not just teach them to think critically rather than play cruel mind games with them?

Now, enough holiday skepticism. I’m off to plan my day off work! What? We don’t do that for this one? Ok, fine. Off to open some traditional Groundhog Day presents! We don’t do that either? Well, balls! Fine then, off for some traditional – um, sorry? So there are no Groundhog Day traditions other than the rodent thing and whatever they do in places like Punkybrewster, Pennsylvania? This holiday is fucking useless.

Hey, remember that time I didn’t celebrate Christmas and the world didn’t end?

Another year another Christmas “season”. For the past 2 months, I have been enduring an absurd amount of Christmasness without the oft-promised “cheer” that is supposed to accompany the holiday. Of course if I’m not cheerful about Christmas there must be something wrong with me, right? I must be a joyless stick-in-the-mud with no sense of fun. Or maybe I’m just skeptical of the intentions of most people when it comes to religious holidays.

Christmas is a holiday like no other. It is more than a holiday; it’s more than a season; it’s a near-forced labour camp of shopping, candy, music…and for a lot of people no so much with the alleged “cheer” we’re all promised by those lame Christmas songs. Why should I be cheerful about the fact that I’m poor, that cutting down trees for decoration is wasteful, and that Christmas music sucks? So my lack of cheer makes me even more depressed because of all those people who go on that it’s not really a religious holiday and I should just enjoy being forced to spend my student loan money on stupid gifts that people don’t even like. Santa!

But let’s forget about all that. It’s Easter season. Sure the holiday isn’t for a few months, but it’s the season. Let’s all get ready with our candy and decorations. Break out the Easter music. Let’s Easter!

I mean it’s not like Easter is a religious holiday what with the Easter bunny, so it’s not like non-Christians are allowed to be mad if I shove Easter down their goddamn throats for 2 months. I mean, there’s the Easter Bunny! Totally not religious. Who cares if Jesus happens to have died and was allegedly resurrected during that time and that’s why it’s a holiday at all. Now we have the secular, placating Easter Bunny to make it okay for me to celebrate a Christian holiday. Because what’s better than celebrating a deity’s birth than solemnly celebrating his death with a giant bunny that lays eggs.

No matter how much you disguise something in gift wrap, these holidays amount to one of two things:
1) A religious holiday.
2) A religious holiday in the disguise of an empty excuse to eat candy.

Santa and the Easter Bunny are just two childish versions of “shit I can’t see that people tell me to believe in” for ages 0-8. They are a fun bribe to make celebrating Christian holidays okay for the rest of us. And, while they may be fun on the surface, the point remains that they are fundamentally religious. Easter gets the shaft on the “season” business but I chalk that down to people being too tired and poor after Christmas and the fact that ultimately it’s kind of a depressing holiday…that naturally lends itself to being secularly represented by a giant bunny. ?

I say we just forget the damn labels and smoke screens. Let’s have approximately one holiday every 2 months or so and people can do whatever melts their butter. If they are religious, then they can celebrate their religiousness. If they are not, they can enjoy the day off without having to put up with Easter Bunnies, Santas, and whatever other mythical creature to replace Jesus. Eat candy if you want to, it’s your day off to celebrate how you like and not shoe-horned into some “secularized” version of a religious something else.

But that will never happen. Because there’s too much money to be made from bullshit “holidays”. I mean, take Valentine’s Day. That’s not even a frigging holiday and look how much money we spend on it.

But fuck. Am I in a glass house here throwing stones? I spend money every month on Warcraft. I buy video games and movies on a regular basis. Who the hell am I to tell people what is right or not to do and what they should spend their money on? But I just can’t get away from that wrong feeling I get whenever one of those “no, seriously, it’s secular somehow so it’s ok” holidays rolls around. A part of me thinks it’s not ok. I have fun in my own way, not in the “approved secularized standard version” and I think other people, particularly those who get super stressed out at Christmas, should do the same. Just go with the flow. It’s a day off. Forget all the made up rituals that ruin it and just enjoy a day off!

And please, please do not come up with idea for Easter music in all that free time. Or I will find you. And it will not be pretty.

Holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing, for people to celebrate whatever traditions they would like (for example, a gingerbread deathmatch). I say we take back the holidays! Who’s with me?

War on the holidays

I have a somewhat amusing anecdote to share. Mojo was speaking to a coworker one day who noted that Tim Horton’s had made the change from their regular brown cup to their usual December seasonal cups. Moderate hilarity ensued.

For you American readers, Tim Horton’s is a popular coffee shop in Canada. Well, popular isn’t the word. Here in Atlantic Canada it pretty much has the monopoly on bad coffee and stale donuts – that’s right, I went there. Anyway, below are pictures of the regular brown cup (left) and the seasonal cup (right).

So where were we? Ah yes, Mojo sees a coworker with this cup. Paraphrasing for gist purposes…

Coworker: “Look. Tim Horton’s has their Christmas cups out.”

Mojo (facetiously): “Are you sure their not ‘holiday’ cups?”

[They look at the cup and there are two happy snowmen sharing some coffee. Not a single mention of Christmas.]

Coworker: “Gah, you’re right. Stupid holiday cups.”

What strikes me as funny during this conversation, is that the person interpreted the cup as a Christmas cup in the first place and was happy with it. It wasn’t until someone poked fun at the War on Christmas that he even noticed that it was a “holiday” cup. So it’s not like average people are independently picking up “holiday” things and immediately feeling unbridled rage to the likes of Papa Bear O’Reilly because it doesn’t have “Christmas” all over it.

Why? Context! It’s Christmas, so he called it a Christmas cup. So what is the problem with “holiday” items? Apparently nothing.

My sample size of 1 is, of course, limited. But if the War on Christmas folks (i.e., the Papa Bear types) hadn’t started this “you should be pissed about this tiny insignificant cup” attitude, would he even have cared when Mojo pointed out that it was a “holiday” cup?