"So are we gonna swap presents this year, Cope, or ain't we?"
"Why now, Red? We've never done it before."
"Yeah, wull, I was athinking maybe we've done tightened up our inner-buddy relationship a considerable bit over the last year or two. What with all them enuncication lessons and grammar coaching and speech therapathics, we done spent a gob of time together, ain't we? Sos that got me athinking, since we're all close and snuggly now, maybe we ought to take a fresh looky-see at our traditional patterns when it comes to birthdays and Christmas and such. Sos you can probably see where that got me, athinking-wise, when it comes to whether we're gonna swap presents or ain't we."
"Our 'traditional patterns?' Red, I don't believe I ever realized we had any 'traditional patterns,' you and me. I would have said our entire relationship amounted to you coming over here whenever you have something to bitch about and me bitching back."
"Cope, if'n you do something the same way over and over, it's what they call a 'pattern,' ain't that right? It's like when my wife crochets them dangly Christmas tree doo-dads what're shaped like Glenn Beck's head. She can't do that without a pattern, you know. If'n she didn't follow the pattern on each one, them things would start looking like clumps of bacon fat on a string or something. And it's the same way with how you and me relates to one another, don't you see? If'n I come over here and don't bitch, then you wouldn't know what to make of it, and you'd probably get all discomboobylated and start twitching and flopping around like that robot feller in that scary alien movie, remember that? But I make sure ever'thing works out the same way as it's supposed to by getting into a big whoopee-do with you whenever I show up. See? That's the tradition what we done have between us, resulting from the pattern what is doing the same thing over an over. That ain't too hard to follow, is it?"
"I think so, Red. It's all sort of like Christmas, huh? We keep doing it over and over ... same crud, different year ... because we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves if we didn't."
"You're sorta forgetting something, ain't ya', Cope? Like, the reason for what the season is? Like, that little baby what grows up to be the End Times commandant-in-chief over the Rapture Marines what will whomp Satan's keister in the War of Armaggideon, and what was born on that old holy night what's coming up here in just 10 more shopping days? Ain't you forgetting that?"
"Bud, you've known me long enough to know I don't believe in that stuff."
"Wull I knows you say you're an atheist, but even you gotta believe in the baby Jesus, don't ya'? What about them wise Maggy fellers what were bearin' that frankenstein and mirth? What do you suppose they were showing up for if'n there weren't no baby Jesus when they got there? Why do you suppose ol' Joseph stuck around if'n he weren't purdy dang sure Mary's conceptioning was one of them immaculate sorts? Why do you suppose all them donkeys and ducks and goats were gathered around that manger if'n there weren't someone in it?"
"You heard me! Ducks!"
"Calm down, pal. It's just that this is the first I've ever heard about ducks being in the Nativity."
"Wull gull durnit, I don't know about ever' Nativity, but there's ducks in the Nativity what's set up out front of the church I goes to. Seems like last year when they were putting it all back in the storage shed, somebody dropped the plastic lamb and broke her little head off. Sos this year, they threw in some mallard decoys to balance it out. There's a big ol' Canadian honker, too, carved totally out of styrofoam."
"Red, let's not argue. If you want to believe that stuff, fine. Just don't waste my time and yours trying to convince me there's much of anything to Christmas beyond the commercial bullshit and phony sentiments."
"Phony sentiments? Cope, you done gone too far! My gull durned sentiments ain't phony! My sentiments are as real as the Frosty balloon what's set up in my yard. He makes my kids so dang happy, they cain't hardly wait 'til I pump up the Red-Nosed Reindeer to go next to him. Them are real, Cope! Rudolph, Frosty, Santa, Snoopy! They might not be real in the way we think of real things being, but they all come together this time of year to make kids happy and dump some joy around and ..."
"OK, OK, Red, I apologize. I didn't mean to say your sentiments are phony. I know how sincere your sentiments are, and I sure as heck didn't mean to dis Frosty and Rudolph. And believe me, I love a good joy dump as much as the next guy. Maybe more. But you don't have to buy into the whole religious package to want some joy to the world and a little peace on Earth."
"Hypocrite! You don't want nothing to do with what makes Christmas so holy and rejoicy and such. But then you wanna a share in all the goodies what comes with it. Pick your side, Cope! You cain't not believe in the sweet cake o' Jesus, then eat it, too!"
(Join Red and me next week as we crack the tough nut of how an atheist can reject the holy rejoiciness of Xmas and still want a piece of all that jolly cheer.)