My Musical Advent Calendar"Atheist Christmas" /
Instead of a glitter-spangled scene with doors for every day of December, how about a daily treat from my iTunes holiday playlist?
As someone who does believe in the Christmas story, I get annoyed when self-professed atheists sneer at Christmas just because of its rampant commercialization and tack-i-fication. So I was wary of this "holiday" song by Robert Crenshaw, the title track of his 2012 EP. But that in-your-face is really a bait-and-switch. . .
The point is, even if you don't officially "believe" in Jesus, there is much about this holiday to love, and this song lovingly resurrects all of that. "The holidays are complicated," he acknowledges right off the bat, noting that the winter solstice -- the original pagan holiday -- "doesn't have Santa Claus." Yet right there in the liner notes we see a circa 1960 snapshot of the Crenshaw boys with a department store Santa (an event Robert's brother Marshall too has referenced in his song "Live and Learn" from Jaggedland.) I get a warm feeling just thinking about the Crenshaw family Christmas.
Because Christmas can fill some holes in the soul. In the second verse, Robert elaborates: "This year I really needed Christmas / We put up lights and got a tree / We got presents for family and friends / Some dogs and cats got some treats." It sounds so simple, but take it away, and what are you left with?
It's being with family that matters, of course, but also honoring traditions. (Love the line in verse three, "We loved the Christmas songs, many written by Jews.") Yearning for tried-and-true comforts himself, he gives us a charmingly retro arrangement, with all the cheesy details we fall for this time of year -- a wintry flute, snowflake spangles of percussion, caroling harmonies from the back-up singers.
In the chorus, he surrenders happily to the whole shebang: "So I'm having an atheist Christmas / I know it's crazy, but so? Ho Ho Ho. / And I hope you find yourself in a moment of pure bliss / Under the mistletoe / With beautiful lights and snow." There it is, wrapped up in shiny paper and tied with a bow. Even if you don't believe in Christ, here's something heart-warming you can believe in. It's so, so, SO much better than nothing.