An Atheist’s Christmas: What I Celebrate on Christmas
I have seen hundreds of tweets that ask why atheists celebrate Christmas. There seems to be a general confusion by some Christians as to why we would celebrate this holiday. The most common response by atheists that I see is some version of a response that states Christmas was not always a Christian holiday. The following two pictures are often posted as responses.
Even if the messages in them are true, these reasons for celebration ring hollow to me personally. I most certainly do not want to speak for all atheist, but I do want to shed some light on why my wife and I (both atheists) celebrate Christmas.
To us, Christmas is a tradition. We were both raised Catholic and the vast majority of our families are still very devout Catholics. Our childhoods were happy times for both of us. Christmas is a time when our families come together and share in these traditions. While the vast majority of our friends and family celebrate those traditions while celebrating Jesus, we simply omit the latter.
It is important to us to spend time with friends and families during the holiday season. We have much to be thankful for in those spheres. We get together, we laugh, we exchange gifts—not to honor the birth of Jesus, but to honor the love and friendship that we share with these people. This is a worthwhile thing to do. Expressing gratitude, love, and friendship because these people deserve it is quite noble, at least in my opinion. We do not need the religious side of the holiday to share in that part of the experience.
We also decorate our house with a tree, stockings, and lights. This seems insane to some Christians I have encountered. I am not sure why that is. Does one need to be a Christian to enjoy the beauty of the Christmas season? I would argue not. I love the way our house looks this time of year. It is fun, it smells great (with a real tree), and is really beautiful with lights and other Christmas decorations. One need not be a Christian to appreciate these things.
I also very much enjoy some Christmas music. Does one need to be Christian to appreciate the beauty of Handel’s Messiah or of the Irish Tenors singing their version of Christmas classics? Again, I would argue no. In fact, I don’t see this being much different than listening to most other music…often the subjects of songs are fictional, yet we all still enjoy them. This, at least to me is no different. While I may reject the message of some of the more religious carols (and to honest, they are my least favorite), I appreciate and recognize great singing and music when I hear it.
I would be foolish to not recognize that Christmas, at least in the U.S., is a Christian holiday. However, it has become much more than as well. It is, in a sense part of the fabric of our society. As a former Catholic it is part of the tradition that I grew up with. I walk around downtown and enjoy the lighted trees, wreaths, lampposts, and menorahs. Are these things primarily religious symbols? Yes. But they are part of our larger culture at this point in time as well. That is something that I want to celebrate. If the meaning of Christmas is about love, then I want to share that. To Christians, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and perhaps about all of the things I mentioned above. To me, I can omit the Jesus part and very much enjoy the other things that Christmas stands for and has become to so many people.
If you are an atheist do you celebrate Christmas? If so, I invite you share your reasons why in the comment section.
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