It’s that happy time of year again when everyone crowds the malls and folks here in Southern California hang little lights all over their homes and spray fake frost on their windows so they can pretend it’s not a balmy 70 degrees outside. Forests spring up overnight in empty lots and are almost as quickly denuded so people can plant a tree in their living rooms for a couple of weeks. Many overly-sweet fruit cakes are mailed to unsuspecting relatives who dutifully express their thanks and secretly store the inedible, undecaying things until next year …when they can inflict them on someone else. The latest remake of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (this year I think it features Waldo of Where’s Waldo? fame) bores everyone over the age of 8 and, oh yeah, some people even go to church.
Contrary to popular belief, atheists don’t all hate Christmas. Some of us even like Christmas music which is often very moving and beautiful. Greta Christina, an atheist blogger whose work I admire, even put out a list of the 10 Best Christmas Songs for Atheists. While they don’t include anything overtly religious, they’re all recognizable favorites like Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls and White Christmas. She skipped the parodies, which is too bad. I, for one was looking forward to hearing things from The Very Scary Solstice songbook by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (since I don’t have Greta’s good manners or good taste, I make no such omission in my lists).
Songs with Christmas themes that are written by atheists run the gamut from the jejune (look it up. It’ll improve your vocabulary) to the clever and funny. In the latter category is White Wine in the Sun by Australian comedian, actor and singer, Tim Minchen. You can watch him sing it in the video included with this article. There are even some that are hauntingly beautiful and moving, like Vienna Teng’s The Atheist Christmas Carol.
Some other authors of atheist Christmas songs have a lot of musical experience too. Dan Barker, the co-president (along with Annie Laurie Gaylor) of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, was an evangelical minister and a well-known Christian musician before he became an atheist. According to his bio on FFRF’s website, he still receives royalties from his popular children’s Christian musicals, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1977), and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” (1978). Of course these days you could say he’s changed his tune. Here’s a little song of his called “Solstice Tribute.” It’s sung to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
O, shining star of solstice time,
Your radiant hours are few.
You turn and strike the New Year’s chime.
We owe our lives to you.
These darkest days of winter,
We miss your warming rays;
But every year this hemisphere
Returns to brighter days.
Since olden days the human race
Has feared your warmth would die.
The evergreen is ever seen
As hope we will survive.
O, ancient drums, stop beating,
And superstitions fall !
It’s time for Reason’s Greetings,
For peace, goodwill to all.
(Copyright 1987, by Dan Barker)
It’s not really difficult to write new lyrics for existing Christmas songs (though making them good lyrics can be). I enjoy the holidays for the jolt they give to my creative impulses. I like writing humorous song lyrics. I have no skill at all at writing the music but that’s not a problem when I can borrow the tune from someone else. All I need is a good, recognizable melody and an inspiration -like the one an ex-girlfriend provided for this verse:
My bonnie lies over the ocean,
My bonnie lies over the sea.
My bonnie lies to everybody,
And makes no exception for me!
Christmas songs provide a wealth of familiar tunes and sometimes all that’s needed is a little “tweaking” of the original lyrics, like:
Jack Frost roasting on an open fire,
Chestnuts stuffed into his nose…
Deck the spouse with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la!
‘Tis one way to get your jollies
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Here’s another site where you can find other atheist efforts at Christmas songs. I don’t know about you, but this year, when all that relentless, piped-in Christmas cheer assaults my ears at the mall, I’d rather smile and sing along soto voce with lyrics like these than just frown and say, “Bah, humbug!”
If you enjoy my articles, you can click on “subscribe” at the top of the page and you’ll receive notice when new ones are published.