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Even atheists can enjoy Christmas

John Halligan, independent deputy for Waterford, is a declared atheist and does not believe in the Christmas message, but he thinks people should have fun.

For the latest Christmas celebration, he sent out cards with themes like aliens and spaceships.

A neat compromise -- assuming any need for compromise.

But is there any need?

Christmas is a great Christian festival, but the Christian churches no longer spurn atheists and agnostics.

Everybody is welcome to the magnificent church ceremonies, to the performances of Handel's 'Messiah', the organ music, the carols. And the story of Christmas is the most beautiful story ever told.

We may complain about the commercialisation. We may say we are in no mood to celebrate. All the same, we would miss those most consoling of images: the Virgin and Child, the shepherds, the wise men bearing gifts, the unashamed proclamation of love and joy.

In some countries, an extreme form of "political correctness" has come close to banning these things.

In the United States, it is common for observant Christians -- even fervent Christians -- to send cards carrying the message "Happy Holidays" and illustrated with bland pictures. Can it be possible that their unbelieving friends would be offended by the mere mention of Christmas?

Mr Halligan has a better idea, and one that must please the children. For adults, though, he might as well take the traditional path.