Monday, December 28, 2009

God Rest ye, Merry Gentlemen. Actually, scrap the God bit.

My favourite illustration of secular, liberal, anything-you-want-is-valid Seattle has to be Christmas Eve 2004. Dave and I, along with friends, attended a fantastic nighttime carol service in the ecumenical cathedral up on Capitol Hill , where (carol lyrics aside) there was absolutely no mention of, you know, God. We had dinner first in one of our favourite places and then toddled up the hill for the singing.

At a minute to midnight, the choir struck up "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and those non-believers amongst the carolers filed out as the more-worshipful congregation filed in, everyone singing and wishing each other well. It was a brilliant phenomenon and one of those Only In America moments: celebrate Christmas in a cathedral without acknowledging the birth of Christ.

The carol service was full of ceremony and anticipation. There were no mutters of "damn tourist Christians" from the true-believers because they weren't there whilst we were belting out the carols; and then those of us who were primarily there for the singing were safely out of the way for the "proper" religious bits.

Spending this Christmas in Ireland, where you opt out of religion rather than opting in, it struck me again how cool that cathedral service had been. All the sense of community with nobody pretending.

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