It's time again for the year's most anticipated cultural event -- the Godless Atheist Christmas Card Competition! This revered custom began in ancient times when I was struck by the extreme measures many of our friends took to evade the implication of a religious element to the season. Now, once a year, The Not At All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family meets in solemn conclave to determine which single card -- for There Can Only Be One -- will be the Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year.
And what a year it was! After solemn argument and dignified hand-waving, the NAANBRPofF was able to narrow the field down to eight cards (pictured above), any one of which was more than worthy of the honor.
Sorted by category, they were:
Active Hostility Toward the Faithful (middle row, right)
A pissed-off penguin with the message "Will Someone Tell the Little Drummer Boy to Knock It Off?" Because nothing says Christmas like complaining about Christmas songs. Added points for the penguin, a creature of the Antarctic, whose association with the season seems to be that it lives as far as it's possible to be from the North Pole where, reputedly, Santa Claus has his workshop.
God Is Missing and Nothing Is In His Place (bottom row, middle)
A tasteful white nutcracker soldier. The association of the nutcracker with Christmas consists entirely of a ballet, set during the Christmas season, in which a young girl comes within an ace of being forcibly married to a rat. The message conveyed by the absolute lack of religious sentiment is breathtakingly amplified by the fact that on the inside of the card is a niche labeled "Money or Gift Card" which is empty. What better way of conveying the anti-Christmas message?
Beauty Arises Only From Nature -- Not From Spirituality (middle row, middle)
This was a controversial card because it comes from an artist friend and features one of his own paintings. My reading of this is that he was giving something particularly personal and meaningful. But the Not at All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family hooted me down. The painting, they said, though beautiful was set in Autumn. The absolute irrelevance even as to season makes it a finalist. But, I said, surely there's something about finding God in Nature --? Shut up, they informed me.
We Have Failed in Our Self-Image (bottom, right)
An image by the immortal Edward Gorey, showing a flapper, obviously pixilated, dancing solo with a streamer of tinsel while friends and/or family look at her with pity and disgust. The bleakness of this sad woman aspiring to be something she cannot is heartbreaking. Nothing could more perfectly summarize the suicidal depression that is the antithesis of the true spirit of Christmas.
Total Non Sequitur (bottom row, left)
This image by the immortal Jason Van Hollander was the cover of F&SF earlier this year for Marc Laidlaw's "The Ghost Penny Post." The argument could be made, I suppose, that an artist getting promptly paid for his work -- as I'm sure F&SF would -- is a Christmas miracle. But nobody made it. So here the card is.
Christmas Is a Product -- All We Value is Things (middle row, left)
A rocket, balloons, a robot Santa -- the bright mishmosh of imagery had this card among the finalists even before it was opened to reveal the robot Santa scowling protectively over a pile of presents. Materialism! cried the Not at All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family. I tried pointing out that this was a corporate card from a publishing house and that they should be excused for resorting to humor in an attempt to avoid offending people. But Blasphemy! they cried and Where's your goddamn Christmas spirit? and all I could do was bow to their superior passion.
Science Is the Only Reality (top row, right)
This beautiful hand-made card from a friend who would not like her name being dragged into this discussion was a personal favorite. It wasn't the wood-print messages evading mentioning the holidays within, the quite lovely marbled paper, or the hand-stitching that won my heart. It was the image: a reproduction of Albert Hoffman's sketch of the structural formula for lysergic acid diethylamide along with a jaunty greetings to a friend and his autograph. And don't give me that 'I saw God' stuff either! I declaimed. But the rest of the panel seemed to think the hand-crafted quality of the card edged it into seasonality. Go figure.
All of these cards were magnificent in their Godlessness and Atheism. But there can only be one winner and that winner was...
Inappropriate Message (top row, left)
Everybody agreed that John and Judith Clute's card, featuring a work of art by Judith Clute herself was both powerful and virtuous. It showed a woman's face with the word WARE hiding her mouth and serving as a gag. The message of women being silenced and turned into product is, alas, perpetually timely, and appropriate to every time and season of the year. Except Christmas. Which is about something else entirely.
You can find Judith Clute's website here.
And I must apologize...
This should have been written and posted on Monday. I regret most sincerely that it was not. I've been writing long and hard this week and it sucked up not only all my time but, more importantly, my mind.
I'll resume my regular thrice-weekly schedule tomorrow.