… which is what most people who read my blog think. Turns out I’m wise, and I’m not alone…


From PZ Myers’ Holiday Season Sermonette:

We’re going to have to start calling ourselves the Three Wise Atheists of of Scienceblogs: as Revere reveals in his Sunday Sermonette, he, Greg, and I don’t seem to have much difficulty with this Christmas stuff, and contrary to the Fox propaganda channel, most atheists [enjoy] cheerful holidays with our families and friends, just like Christians, only without the boring superstitious part.

PZ goes on with additional salient points, and I’m sure the comments on his post will explore every aspect of this sentiment. (I’m sure some of PZ’s comments have engendered more discussion than certain verses in The Bible but with far less time than several thousands of years available for review and discussion.)

Anyway, I wanted to add a little bit, now that I am finished with Phase II of the Holiday Activities.

Phase I (of four) involved Hanukkah Dinner and planning for Phases II and III. Some of the planning is pretty automatic, like which household will host the big shindig (that responsibility rotates, as I’ve described before). But this year, there was a new element. “The Kids” (hey, I’m a kid in this case, but my 12 year old daughter is not … I think she may be a “child” but I’m not sure) … anyway, The Kids are going to “gift exchange” …. Meaning that a Matriarch semi randomly (but Matriarchs never do anything randomly, and we all understand that) assigned gift exchange partners, and we are not supposed to reveal who is giving the gift to whom. But this means one bigger, more expensive and cooler gift, less mucking around, more efficiency overall and so on. I can’t say who I got or what I got him or her, but it’s cool. I want one.

Negotiations also begin among various families as to who will do what when, although most of that is settled by tradition. The new guy in the family, Joel, is a nice guy and all, but his family is strange. They do their Main-Family celebration in the PM rather than the AM like they are supposed to. If all the Main Families do their stuff on December 25th before noon, then everyone can go to Family Two gatherings. But his family does not do that and I suspect it is because they have connections to Phoenix, Arizona, but I’m not sure.

Phase II is, of course, shopping. I got Amanda’s gift several days ago because the opportunity (of using a time-stamped coupon) presented itself. But all of the other shopping was started yesterday mid day and ended about two hours ago. Boy, was Target ever crowded!!!!

Phase III starts tomorrow with the visit to our local sub-tribe’s Matriarch for primary personal exchange of gifts (that’s when I get to give never-mind-who the really cool thing, and I get to find out who has me. I suspect it is my sister in-law. The gift will be related to cooking. Just guessing … I’ll let you know how close I am.) Then we travel in various vehicles to this year’s Hosting Matriarch’s home. This is the second time I will be at Christmas at this home since I met Amanda. This means that we have been together through One Cycle of the Matriarchs, so it is kind of like an anniversary for us.

Each Matriarch does it differently, but there will be a semi-pot luck dinner. Each Matriarch’s home has enough large tables, chairs and china to host a sit down with people distributed in tables in various rooms throughout the house. Maybe sixty people, I dunno, never counted. The food will be excellent. There might, just might, be lutafisk. I’m hoping.

(Someone will have to sneak away and dress as Santa. I hope it is not me. But whoever it is has a surprise for one of the guests. A bit of revenge. Can’t say what it is about, but it will be a hoot.)

Then there will be the Bronx Swap, which I have described before.

Since there are three of us contributing to the Swap, my philosophy, which I have successfully convinced my family to adopt, is this: You bring to the swap stuff you want for yourself. This makes sense because this strategy contributes to the overall gestalt of the swap being in tune with oneself, so one is less likely to go home with a lame gift. We’ll see.

Then we drop Daughter Julia off at her mom’s house so that she can experience The Visit from Santa there. Julia of course knows that Santa does not exist. Her main dilemma these days is that some of her friends at school still do believe in Santa. What do you do about that? To you just tell them? Do you just keep your mouth shut? We’ll see how that goes.

Then, in the PM, we pick up Julia again to visit Other Mother, with some of the siblings, and I believe we are having Lobster. My favorite! Yea!

There will be yet another gift exchange at that time.

Phase IV begins the day after Christmas and continues for up to a week. There is a certain way that gifts are given in this family. First, you try to get the perfect gift. But you know that may not always work, especially in matters of clothing. You never really know how something is going to fit or look, right? So you always, always attach a gift receipt. I am not fully trained up on this protocol, but each type of item has a place the gift receipt goes … attached by tape to a particular tag, or under a lid, or put in a pocket, etc. etc. Amanda gets out the special Christmas Wallet to hold all these documents, we sort out what needs to be returned (because it does not fit, etc.) and then, over a couple day’s time, head out to the stores and do the exchanging. I suspect most of you are familiar with this process, but it is something I never engaged in before. Hey, it turns out you can sometimes take, like, a shirt that was purchased for 40.00 but is one size off and exchange it for two almost identical shirts of the correct size that are on sale for 20.00. It turns out there is a Free Lunch after all!

This phase, Phase IV, is a little bit stressful and difficult, but fortunately Amanda knows what to do and handles everything.

Between Gift Cards from the person who can’t think of a thing to get you, and exchanges, there are then a bunch of gift cards, some with quite a few bucks on them. Thus, Phase V, Spending Out the Gift Cards, begins. This is like Interphase of a cell. It can go on for the longest of all the other phases. I think we may have spent the last of last Christmas’s gift cards in mid November.

And the only remotely religious moment is when somebody says grace before the meal. And the agnostics bow their heads half-way…

(That, and the occasional snot-faced store clerk who wishes us a Merry Christmas….)