Why an atheist celebrates Christmas.

Michele over at A Small Victory has a wonderful entry on why she, as an atheist, celebrates Christmas. I often get asked the same question and Michele’s answer is pretty much what I tell folks as well only she says it way more eloquently than I’ve managed so far.

So why does this atheist celebrate a holiday that is supposed to be about religion? It’s not the gifts, it’s not the gaudy decorations. It’s the spirit.

When I was a child, Christmas time meant so many things. Parties in school, snow on the ground, snooping around my parent’s bedroom for hidden presents. The air was filled with a sense of anticipation and joy that was not present most of the year. The calendar was marked down with X’s on the dates of December, and every new X meant that special day was coming.

Of course, I loved the presents. But I loved the atmosphere, too. My parents are very social people. During the holiday season, there would be friends and relatives dropping over to say hello, have a drink, maybe a bite to eat. The Christmas tree glowed and sparkled and the windows were covered with those plastic, colorful decorations depicting Santa and snowmen and angels.

Christmas is about traditions. For as long as I can remember, we would gather at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve – we still do – enjoying an Italian feast of fish and pasta, at least 40 of us crowded into the fully decorated basement. We exchanged presents and Santa came and the grownups were all happy and carefree and festive. We would go home late, get tucked into bed and then lay there for what seemed like hours, too excited to sleep. It was a great night to be a kid.

I don’t always agree with her political viewpoint, but I’ve found that we share a lot of other commonalities and this is one of them. Go read this entry if you want to understand why atheists like Michele and myself celebrate Christmas.

15 thoughts on “Why an atheist celebrates Christmas.

  1. Well, I look at it like this… you probably celebrate Christmas for some of the same reasons that pagans celebrated the Winter Solstice… the anticipation of things to come (more sunlight in the day).  Things were pretty boring in those days staying inside a lot (in the Nordic countries) while it is blistering cold outside.  Maybe they made each other gifts to celebrate and try to be less bored and depressed.  If I were an atheist I surely wouldn’t say that I celebrated Christmas.  I am not posting this to debate the existence of a god or not… that is an individual experience (or lack thereof) and does not warrant discussion.  Just say you are not celebrating Christmas… just celebrating life and the coming of spring.  You really need to chill out with the cursing and say what you really mean … you really have an anger management thing going here.  Best of luck to you, dude.

  2. Anger management thing? Me? Not really. Cut me some slack, man. Cursing is one of the few vices I have. I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, drink only rarely, but I do love to curse. I grew up in a house where the word “asshole” was a term of endearment. You think I curse a lot on my website? You should hear me in real life. This is nothing.

    As for being an atheist and saying I celebrate Christmas, I only use the word for folks who don’t understand what Yuletide is. Personally, I prefer to call it Yuletide and party the way the pagans did it. They have the best parties.

  3. Your reasons as to why you celebrate christmas are all valid…and for that very reason I hate it.

    Every 12 months christmas rolls around and its ‘good will and cheer to all men’….and then screw you all for the other 11 months of the year. Punters go around and do a night of charity work in the soup kitchen around christmas time and feel good about themselves for the rest of the year. There’s still 364 days when they could use some help…

    And why do you draw a difference between atheists and pagans. They’re the same thing…they’re both still in the dark about the one, true living God…He who made all things.

  4. Indeed it is true that some people only tend to be charitable around the Christmas season and then resort back to Scrooge-like behavior the rest of the year, but that’s common across all religious viewpoints and not just something that atheists or pagans engage in. I know a number of people of both these latter belief systems that are very charitable throughout the year.

    Pagans and atheists are the same thing? Only to a Christian. Still in the dark? Some of us were once believers in your mythology, but have moved on to better things.

  5. Why do I celebrate Christmas? Because I can. Christians don’t have a corner on the market on the celebration, as their early recruiters/missionaries “borrowed” the holiday from the Pagans (based on the Winter Solstice). This made it easier for Christians to convert Pagans, as the former Pagans could then celebrate the same holidays as before (traditions die hard, as is evidenced by religion itself). Half of the Christmas “traditions” of Christians have Pagan roots. So anyway, I celebrate Christmas because it is fun, festive, & can be celebrated in a way that is conducive to my intimate family. (One of our traditions is to discuss charity & social responsibility. We don’t spend Christmas doing charities, as we do that year long…every day, day in & day out. We use the Christmas season as a time to “recognize” each other for all of the contributions of service, etc. made during the year. The point that we are trying to achieve is an instilled message that we can indeed change the world a bit at a time.)

  6. Well heres how I see it. I am a Christian and I love Christmas. I think that whatever you believe in is great. Just because I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit doesn’t make me right. But I think that everyone should believe in SOMETHING! If you don’t, then its like you have no ideas or no open mind about life. Not everyone has to be a Christian or even a believer in God but as long as you have an IDEA about a higher power,whether it’s Budha or whatever, is what gives you a reason for being alive.

  7. Amanda, I don’t need a higher power to enjoy being alive.  I don’t believe in one any more than you believe that I’m Napoleon.  When you understand why you wouldn’t even give that idea a second thought, you’ll understand how I feel about “higher powers.”

  8. But I think that everyone should believe in SOMETHING! If you don’t, then its like you have no ideas or no open mind about life. Not everyone has to be a Christian or even a believer in God but as long as you have an IDEA about a higher power,whether it’s Budha or whatever, is what gives you a reason for being alive.

    I have plenty of ideas about higher powers, but I don’t believe such a thing exists. I’m not quite sure I follow why you think someone has to believe in something higher than themselves in order to have ideas or an open mind or even a reason to live. Your logic here is cloudy at best.

  9. Cloudy…and slightly backwards, in my opinion.  I would think that being open-minded would allow you to understand why some people, such as myself, prefer to live without any belief of a higher power.  I love to live this way, because that means that THIS LIFE that I am living…is MY LIFE.  I’m not just waiting out my time here until I get to go to some fancy world in the sky, where I’ll be happy forever.  The life that I’m living now is my only life, and that pushes me to take it for all it’s worth, to see and do everything possible while I’m still here, to do charitable work to help those who need the charity, not to gain brownie points with this higher power so I might have a better place in the “afterlife”.  Ok, maybe that was a hard blow, I’m sure that most charitable people are charitable because it is good to be so. So why is it so hard to understand why a person would want to live this life FOR this life. I have plenty of reason to be alive: to be a good daughter, sister, mother, friend, caretaker, co-worker, etc.  There’s no need to believe in a higher power to feel like I have a reason to be alive, my reason for being is just that, to be me and live the best life I can possibly live.  To help out my fellow humans.  To raise my daughter (and the one on the way) as best as possible, to teach them what it means to live.  To show them how fortunate we are to live the life we live, and to teach them to help those less fortunate than ourselves.  No religious undertones, just a happy, healthy life.  I don’t understand why that’s such a hard concept for so many to grasp.  Have a wonderful year!

  10. Jessica: The life that I’m living now is my only life, and that pushes me to take it for all it’s worth, to see and do everything possible while I’m still here

    If you want to, you don’t have to
    I like being a miserable git

    There’s only so much energy I have, only so much determination, and y’know it doesn’t need to matter anyway

    to do charitable work to help those who need the charity, not to gain brownie points with this higher power so I might have a better place in the “afterlife”

    You’re doing it for the right reasons, that’s all
    Not out of selfishness, and I would hope the selfish method is not rewarded anyway

  11. As a mathematician I couldn’t resist.

    I have plenty of ideas about higher powers, but I don’t believe such a thing exists

    Of course they do x^100, x^1,000,000 etc

    tongue wink

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