As a confirmed Christmas-loving atheist, my holiday memories are necessarily tinged with irony and a soupçon of sentimental yearning. I’ve now been a nonbeliever far longer than I believed, but I want to cling, as best I can, to the feelings the holiday used to engender—when I felt justified in believing things I simply could not justify.

Christmas is a decidedly low-key affair for me these days. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was that we needed to walk the dogs—and I looked forward to coffee after that was done. The quotidian nature of the day was in stark contrast to Christmases past, when I’d risk an ACL tear skittering down the stairs to see if this was the year Santa brought me what I really wanted: Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, Operation, the Elf Cadaver Operation Expansion Pack, and world peace—or, barring that, marginally less yelling in the kitchen.

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