THE BLOG OF MARK SHIELDS

Celebrations (of an Atheist)

I normally don't celebrate Easter. I celebrate Christmas, but not in the religious sense. Easter has, in my childhood home, always been about the Chocolate. I know people will complain about missing the "true meaning of Easter", but to be honest I never have had the true form of Easter in my life as I was never brought up religious. The only time I ever was touched by religion was in the primary school which forced attendance at church and the singing of hymns during school assemblies.

As a child I didn't think anything of it – it was just the way the school was set up. The hymns were about stuff that I didn't understand and thought ridiculous at a young age – mostly the entirely lame songs put me off completely. The stories I was told were ridiculous and even then I didn't believe them. But as an adult I am kind of repulsed by the idea that I was fored to go and do these things by my education. I find it radical that children in Scotland were made to do this by the state operated school system. I understand being taught about religion, but there was no link of what we did at assemblies to what we were being taught during classes. Indeed, there was an "us and them" attitude to the whole thing, with many Hindu, Seihk, Jehovah's Witness and other religious children being allowed to sit out the Christian parts of the school assemblies.

Interestingly, it was only recently I was made aware of how odd the whole thing was, and also how strange it was that I'd not even noticed it before. I had been a strong atheist for most of my recent adult life, and yet I'd not fully understood that I'd been involved in a strange type of attempted indoctrination that only was broken by my parents – who are 50/50 in the Great Scottish Divide. My father – raised catholic, and my mother – raised protestant.  Their reluctance to send to a church on either side eventually allowed me to make my own mind up. I wonder if I had been sent to Sunday school in one of the sides of that, would I have came out the other side the same way? Or, like a friend of mine who raised catholic to the hilt, might I have came out even more disenchanted?

Easter and Christmas, however, despite being Christian holidays technically, are also as secular as you can get. Many religious people will claim that this is hypocritical, and also not allowed. Why should I be able to celebrate Christmas and ignore the message that it is built upon? Well, to that i'd say that Christmas is more than religion, and has been for decades. Indeed, I've never went to church outside of weddings and school enforced events. So yes, maybe the "true" meaning of Christmas and Easter are not applied to my celebration, but I see that as no reason to not at least partake in my version of it. Christmas is the time when in the UK the country shuts down, and it's one of the few times that it's accepted that people will be off – it's family and friends time, and i am grateful for that.

I don't believe in Christmas' or Easter's "meaning", or religious meaning – does that disallow me to celebrate it in my own way? I actually don't celebrate Easter at all, not understanding people's reactions (Connie's included) to working over the "long weekend". I actually can barely name all of the days – Good Friday, Classy Saturday, Egg Sunday... but I will enjoy some cut price easter eggs if i find them, as I like chocolate (especially the Mars chocolate). However, Christmas is the most important time of the year as it permits me to go home to Glasgow, go home to Canada, and see the family that otherwise I might not see.

It also highlighted a large gap in Connie and I's cultural exchange - she had the traditional Easter celebrations, whereas I didn't, and it upset me that I had no plans made. No I know, though.

Do many religious people find it annoying that I celebrate "your" holidays? I can imagine yes, and I guess they are allowed to be a bit annoyed by it.