Cici: Mommy, what's Christmas?
Mom: It's a holiday that used to be popular, but only a few people still celebrate it. Why do you ask, Cici?
Cici: A boy in my class really likes me and he gave me this card that says 'Marry Christmas' on it. Is he asking me to marry him on Christmas?
Mom: Look carefully. The card says Merry Christmas, not Marry Christmas. He's not asking you to marry him. He just hopes you'll be cheerful, especially on Christmas Day December 25th.
Cici: Gee, I'm almost always cheerful. I really don't know why I'll need cheering up on the 25th. So why do they call it Christmas and why should I need cheering up that day?
Mom: Well, if you celebrate Christmas, the day itself is supposed to cheer you up. It's called Christmas because 'christ' is the word people called Christians use to mean savior and Christmas is supposed to be the birthday of a man named Jesus. Jesus supposedly was the Christ who saved everyone's souls. Jesus's birthday is supposed to be a reason to be cheerful.
Cici: How did Jesus save everyone's soles? Did he create the first shoe modules for the iSynth?
Mom: No, Cici. Souls aren't shoe soles: s-o-l-e-s. A soul, s-o-u-l, was supposed to be something inside you that isn't made of anything, but makes you who you are. Christians say that after they die their souls continue to live in a place called heaven. In heaven, the Christian souls get to be with Jesus, his daddy, and another person called the Holy Spirit. The three of them are supposedly one and the same and together are the one 'God' who created the universe and watches over us.
Cici: What? How can a daddy, his son, and some spirit be one and the same? How can people not be made of anything?
Mom: Well, it doesn't make much sense to me either.
Cici: What about Jesus's mommy? Wasn't she supposed to be this god, also?
Mom: No, the Christians never considered their god to be a woman. But some Christians believe she was supposed to be special in other ways.
Cici: Special? How?
Mom: Mary supposedly gave birth to Jesus without ever having sex with her fiancé.
Cici: Did she use the iSynth to make her baby?
Mom: No they didn't have any iSynths back when Jesus supposedly lived. That was over 2000 years ago. The story is the baby Jesus came into her belly through some kind of Holy Spirit magic.
Cici: I guess it wasn't hard to fool people 2000 years ago. How else was Mary supposed to be special?
Mom: The story goes that all people except for Jesus's mother Mary are born in sin because Eve, the first woman who ever lived, ate an apple from a tree that the God-character told her not to eat from.
Cici: Was it an Apple iSynth?
Mom: No, don't be silly. It was a fruit apple that came from a tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Cici: Why would this God not want Eve to know about good and evil?
Mom: Christians say God works in mysterious ways.
Cici: Was Eve really the first woman to ever live?
Mom: We've known for more than a century that as long as there have been people, their numbers were never less than a couple of thousand. So there could not have been just one first woman.
Cici: I bet there wasn't just one first animal either. Do Christians think animals have souls that go to heaven with people-souls?
Mom: No. And that made it much easier to believe that it wasn't such a bad thing to raise and kill animals to get food, clothes, and shoes from animal parts.
Cici: But that's mean! And why would anyone want to kill animals for food, clothes, and shoes when you can make delicious meat and beautiful clothes with the iSynth?
Mom: Cici, I thought you already knew that really good iSynths and iSynth reagents didn't become available until after you were born. And we didn't have enough power to run iSynths until the DEITY Grid System was activated.
Cici: What does DEITY stand for again?
Mom: Dark energy intercosmic tachyon yoke. You remember I told you that when we installed our Mr. DEITY-brand system portal.
Cici: Oh yeah. Who's this man on the Christmas card that looks like a happy old Charles Darwin?
Mom: He's Santa Claus. He's a fun, fantasy Christmas character who supposedly runs a toy factory at the North Pole. Santa Claus is sort of like a god since he knows who's been naughty and who's been nice all year. Only the nice children get the toys, just like only the right kind of Christians have their souls welcomed in heaven. Every December 24th, Santa Claus delivers all the toys in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer.
Cici: Wow! Santa must have needed a huge power supply! He must have had a really special portal to the DEITY Grid System!
Mom: I'm afraid there are power limits even to the DEITY Grid System. Okay, enough about Christmas. Are you ready to go to the Winter Solstice Celebration?
Cici: Will there be Solstice Songs and lights and trees and snowmen like last year?
Mom: Yes, just like last year.
Cici: Yay! I love Winter Solstice! Let's go!
William M. London is a professor of public health at California State University, Los Angeles.