At the risk of getting in trouble from the department of state, I am going to get the following thing off my chest (and yes I know I have not posted in over a month, sue me, I am too pissed off right now to care).
Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on Advent.
It is, as you can see, a Christian religious celebration.
I am, though not a practicing Jew, certainly not a Christian. In fact, though I respect my Christian friends' beliefs, I think Christmas on the whole and everything having to do with it is fucking bullshit, and that the worship of a fake dead guy who magically came back to life and was born NOT near Dec. 25 and it has something to do with flat-screen TVs and cookies and Bill O'Reilley is the worst time of the year and reminds me about everything that is wrong and bad about humanity. Plus, alcoholic fruit punch is retarded.
Speaking of alcoholic fruit punch, Austrians FUCKING LOVE CHRISTMAS. It is the Austrianiest time of the year. Everybody looooves to go to the Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt and feast on chocolate covered apples (all right, I love chocolate covered apples) and get drunk on Punsch and be merry. And that is fine. Really, it is. I myself have been seen at a Christkindlmarkt around town or two (and not just because they are ubiquitous). See? Look:
However, when I was implored to participate in my workplace's (I work at a cultural studies research institute) advent calendar, I politely declined, explaining that I do not celebrate Christmas. "But it's not Christmas, it's advent," they explained, as if that were any better. As Dr. Wikipedia has already made abundantly clear, Advent is even Christ-ier than Christmas. So again, I politely declined. What an "advent calendar" is, for the rest of you heathens, is a thingy wherein for the weeks before Christmas a treat, picture, saying or other thingy is "revealed" for every day. They are perfectly fine and I do not object to advent calendars in general. I just didn't want to particpate in one, because on principle I find the obligation to participate in holidays, especially Christian religious ones, to be bullshit.
So, the lady in charge of the advent calendar at my work seemed OK with my explanation that I do not celebrate Christmas…or so I thought, until the entry for Dec 23 was "revealed." It says the German equivalent of "today there is no entry–not because we got sloppy or forgot, but because SOMEONE SAW FIT NOT TO PARTICIPATE for SOME REASON OR OTHER."
Since everyone at our very small workplace knows that I am the only non-Christmas-celebrant and my few friends here even know I declined to participate, this makes me upset. I have been singled out for not participating in a Christian ritual at my secular workplace.
For fear of being kicked out of Austria for being culturally insitive: this is bullshit.
Advent is a religious festival. Also sprach Dr. Wikipedia.
And now, by not agreeing to participate, I am facing weirdly public recriminations. I realize they don't have an ACLU in Austria and that it's "no big deal" that I was bullied for not participating…but is this not a little messed up? Shouldn't AUSTRIA, of all countries (besides Germany) even try to understand that forcing non-Christians to do Christian stuff is messed up? And that saying that "advent is not religious, it's cultural" is actually a display of amazing religious and cultural insensitivity?
I understand that this was probably just a misunderstanding. My workplace adventmaster saw it as an insult to her fun activity and a rebuff of Austrian culture; I saw it as 1938 all over again. Neither of us is right. What should I do? And don't fucking tell me that advent is not religious, it's cultural, becasue what it really is is a culturally absorbed religious festival accepted as "cultural" rather than religious because Austria is an officially Catholic country that also has freedom of religion (allegedly). Again, what should I do? What I will do is hope it all blows over and simultaneously hope I don't get my grant taken away for "trashing" Austrians on the internets.