This story from Minneapolis was posted at Yahoo News via the Associated Press:
MINNEAPOLIS – Angie O’Neill recently moved into a new apartment complex for seniors and she’s trying to make new friends. But Christmas is a tough time of year for an atheist.
“All the planned activities at this time of year revolve around the church,” said O’Neill, a retiree and an atheist for decades.
O’Neill sought an escape this week, joining a group of her fellow nonbelievers for a weekly “Atheist Happy Hour” at a suburban Mexican restaurant. The group, Atheists for Human Rights, is active year-round but takes it up a notch this time of year with a Winter Solstice party, a charity drive and good attendance for the weekly gathering at Ol’ Mexico.
For one thing, it’s a chance to share coping techniques during this most religious time of year. They range from the simple, like warning about certain stores that blare religious Christmas songs, to tougher tasks like how to avoid certain topics with certain family members. These atheists describe adjusting some customs to make them their own, like Nancy Ruhland, a pharmacist who sends out Christmas cards to friends and loved ones — but makes sure to find ones without a Christian message or subtext.
Even as they chafe at the omnipresence of Christmas, many of the atheists here are quick to stress their belief in the pagan roots of a yearly celebration near the winter solstice. Before Christianity and other organized religions, many cultures would mark the point where days started getting longer again with a “festival of light” that included parties, gift exchanges, even placing trees in homes. Some of those rituals were religious, but usually in a polytheistic way.
“What we’re celebrating this year is the promise of the sun returning. That’s S-U-N, not S-O-N,” said Bill Weir, a retired marketing executive from Plymouth.
“Then the Christians stole it,” added Marie Alena Castle of Minneapolis, the 82-year-old founder of Atheists for Human Rights and an atheist activist for two decades.
While I have not been a fan of joining any support groups for atheists, or atheist “churches” or any of that kind of stuff, on the other hand it is a good sign that atheists are coming together instead of keeping to themselves and silently enduring these holidays that have been hijacked by Christian Mythology.