Do you celebrate Christmas?

Yes, I do. We put up a tree and decorate it, exchange gifts, and even sing Christmas carols – yes, even the religious ones!

We celebrate a secular Christmas, however. While we love the traditions of the holiday, we recognize that these are things that people have created over the years to help them endure a dark and cold period of time – and that’s the true meaning of Christmas for our family.

As for the songs – they’re pretty, and we don’t have to believe every word of them to appreciate them, any more than we do with any other music. I can enjoy “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as much as I enjoy “Frosty the Snowman.” Likewise, a well-done nativity scene can be almost as beautiful to me as reading “A Christmas Carol” or watching “Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas” – I don’t believe the story, but I can appreciate the strength that it gives people.

There are a lot of myths about the origins and traditions of Christmas that people still take as fact. Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, converted into a Christian one in later years, and many of the symbols we associate with Christmas are VERY pagan – including the beloved Christmas tree. (In fact, many believers aren’t aware that the Bible very explicitly forbids putting a tree in your house and decorating it – see Jeremiah 10: 1-5).

So in reality, I’m not celebrating a secular version of a Christian holiday – I’m celebrating a secular version of a Pagan holiday, with a Christian label pasted over it. (See Christmas Myth-Making, How the Religious Right Stole Christmas, and this list of deities born on December 25th for more info.)

My oldest daughter H., who has become more and more open about her atheism in recent years, was told by someone at her school that she wasn’t allowed to celebrate Christmas because she didn’t believe in Jesus or the Christian god.  I’ve been thinking that the best response to that would be to celebrate ALL of the winter holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Saturnalia, Humanlight, and any others that we can find, just to show everyone that we can celebrate whatever holidays we choose, thank you very much.

As for the War On Christmas ™: I say “Merry Christmas” to the people who I know for certain celebrate it, and “Happy Holidays” to those who I’m not sure about. I recognize and respect that different people celebrate the season in different ways. Anyone who is offended by this is really beneath my concern.

Happy holidays to all, and to those who celebrate it, a very merry Christmas!


3 Responses to “Do you celebrate Christmas?”

  1. January 1, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Hello! Myself, I am pagan so I celebrate winter solstice. But I have one more holiday that you can add to your list to celebrate! It’s called A’Yamiha (not entirely sure of the spelling), or the festival of lights. This is a Ba’hai Holy day and it falls on the last day (or two) of Feburary and the first few of march. All the Ba’hais I know celebrate it exactly as they would Christmas, right down to stockings, though santa doesn’t fill them! Happy New Year!

  2. 3 Sam
    June 6, 2010 at 6:07 am

    The way I see it, Christmas is about Santa, presents, and decorations. And Easter is about chocolate. (I’d probably add the Easter Bunny, except that I’m Australian and rabbits are a pest here.) Meanwhile, Christians add some Jesus so they can feel good about celebrating them.

    Funny how Christmas has a Christian name and a pagan date, and Easter has a Christian date and a pagan name.

    My favourite example of non-Christian Christmas is the fact that most Japanese people celebrate Christmas, even though only a single-digit percentage of them are Christian.

    Since all that most Japanese know about Christians (apart from the fact that they got Christmas from them) is that their most important story is about a man with magical powers being crucified and reanimated, this occasionally results in hilariously offensive misunderstandings, like a Christmas decoration depicting the crucifixion of Santa.

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I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.


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