I'm on Eastern time. I woke up the first time at 0330 but got back to sleep. Then at 0530 I finally got up, sneaking past the kids' room. How bizarre is this? I'm an atheist. So's my wife. In fact, I was raised an atheist. But the Christmas tradition is so strong that I subconciously wig out. We have a tree and presents and we'll go to friends' house for a dinner gathering, but is it really Christmas?

Some of my atheist buddies call it Xmas and deride any associated religious tradition. In 1991, as a member of the early Extropians mailing list, I adopted calling it Newtonmas (Isaac Newton was born Christmas day) because it was clever and rebelious, Newton symbolizes science while Jesus, well, doesn't.

But really...it's just Christmas.

I doubt it will ever be anything else. I asked my wife yesterday, "Why do we celebrate this?" And she looked at me like I was stupid and said simply "because it's fun."

Is this fun? It's exciting, I guess. That's why I'm always up early on 25 December. But fun? The past two weeks of hectic shopping? Realizing, as a check for $1000 (I hope she's not eating dog food!) arrives from my 84-year old grandmother, that I totally forgot about her? Finding time to wrap stuff when the right combination of people are not present? Waiting in line at the post office because the modern family is spread across 3000 miles of North America? Keeping the toddler and the five cats from unwrapping the presents through a system of constant vigilance and luck? And all of this while the toddler acquires a nasty cold that transmutes into a double ear infection and passes to my wife and then to me, weakening me for the flu?

But hey, at least we're not travelling this year!

Merry Christmas...er...happy holidays, noders!