Christmas Without Religion

Many people I know celebrate Christmas without religion. However, I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to Christianity to celebrate a holiday meant to honor a man without actually honoring the man.

Most of you know how I feel about Christmas, or as I prefer to say “Capitalmas”. I don’t celebrate because I’m not Christian. However, I find many people who “aren’t religious” who still “celebrate”. That is, they take the worst part of the day — the greed — and participate in the consumerism of it all. Oh, you can say “I’m only doing handmade gifts this year” but the outcome is still the same: you’re participating in a religion you don’t believe in. Why? Cultural conformity is the only answer I can come up with.

Let me I ask you this question: Why don’t you participate in Hanukkah? Or Ramadan? You don’t have to be religious to celebrate those religious holidays. There’s Vesak, and Rama Navami birthdays of two important religious men. Why not giving gifts to others on their birthdays with the disclaimer that you “aren’t religious”? Is it because those religions are so far removed from the “American” identity that you feel to co-opt those religions is morally, ethically, and religiously wrong? If that’s the case, why is it ok to co-opt and exploit Christmas for those who “aren’t religious”?


This post is a lot more in your face than I wanted it to be. Sorry for that. Really, I do not mean to put you on the defensive. Rather, I’m really curious why it’s ok to not be religious and still celebrate Christmas but not any of the other major religions and their holidays. And yes, I deliberately left my own religion out of the discussion because it’s not a major world religion.

This entry was posted in American Holidays, Other Faiths, Pet Peeves. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Christmas Without Religion

  1. emphelan says:

    I celebrate many different holidays. I am not Christian, my husband is not, but are oldest son, my mother and step father and all my brothers are. We celebrate because it is a family event. We celebrate family under our Christmas tree. Not greed!

  2. farm mom says:

    I live about 15 miles from my parents and 20 miles from my MIL. My parents are in poor health and my MIL just survived breast cancer. They love the holidays, they love having the big dinner and family around (and sometimes for my MIL it’s the only time of the year she does have all her 5 kids and their family around her). This is important to them, it’s their tradition, and so we participate. The comercialism makes me extremely uncomfortable and I feel forced to particate by my own guilt and the need not to disappoint them and force my ways on them. I’ve just tried to come to terms with the fact that this is about them, not me. This holiday, this tradition is theres, not mine, and what kind of person would I be if I just deliberately hurt them just to prove what? My point? That I could? I’m not that person. I don’t need to be right that badly. As to why I don’t celebrate other religious holidays is because they are not part of my own familial tradtions, just as I’m sure many muslim, jewish, buddist families don’t celebrate christian holidays in their family whether or not the next generation participates fully in their parents religion.

    I have to agree, this post did come off as harsh, and, I dare say, “holier than thou.”

  3. Howling Hill says:

    Phelan: what other holidays do you celebrate?

    Farm mom: This is important to them, it’s their tradition, and so we participate. The comercialism makes me extremely uncomfortable and I feel forced to particate by my own guilt and the need not to disappoint them and force my ways on them.

    Would your in-laws participate in any of your religious events? If not, why is it ok to riddle yourself with guilt to please them but not the other way around?

    Also, aren’t they forcing their ways on you? Why is that ok?

    Yea, you’re totally right about the harsh and “holier than thou.” It’s not how I wanted to come off but softer words just aren’t in me today.

  4. Kathie says:

    The interesting thing about Christmas and its historical implications is that it doesn’t have to be about Christ.

    In fact, most historians and bible scholars alike agree that December 25th is not the date Jesus’ birth. The celebration of Christmas, albeit in a different form, can also be traced back to Nordic pagan traditions. I’ve seen many defintions lately that include Christmas as a “cultural” celebration much like Thanksgiving or President’s Day or 4th of July, etc… I believe if the majority of the US Population was of Muslim ancestory, folks would “celebrate” Rammadan just like the “celebrate” Christmas – its more cultural than religious.

    I think like all things, its up to each person, each family, to decide how to define it for themselves and celebrate it (or not) according to those definitions. I don’t think that celebrating joy is a bad thing and I agree that the population at large does view it as marketing ploy but not everyone does. I believe tradition to be a good thing (each family creating their own) and see nothing wrong with using culturally accepted (and days free from work) days as jumping off points for those traditions.

    For the record – I celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas even though I don’t for a second believe December 25th was Christ’s birthday but its the day we’ve decided to celebrate and I’m ok with that.

  5. morgannadimone says:

    FYI- Your religion IS considered a major world religion according to the census takers in my town! (Centreville, VA)
    My parents are christian, and they do celebrate christmas.
    My SO and I are naturalist, and we celebrate winter.
    Together, we all throw an annual holiday gathering every year before christmas-for people of ALL religious walks of life.
    People celebrate what they want to……sometimes it’s just a family thing, why does it have to be a religious, or non-religious statement? Hell knows my family has never made me feel ANY “holiday guilt” over anything…..

  6. emphelan says:

    I kind of jumped because this feels like a personal attack because of what is going on on our forum. I was raised with Christmas, most of us were. It has become one of the few traditions that our country has, one that it doesn’t matter what religion you are. It is sad that we can’t see it as religious and a community tradition, like we have for so many years. I think this whole PC thing has gotten way out of control. I grew up next to a Jewish family that had a Christmas tree. No one gave them grief about that.

    As for what I celebrate. I do not talk about what I am so that I do not isolate my readers in any way. I talk about religions as they affect me in my daily life. As a child I was given free range, and have been just about everything there is in my attempt to find where I belong. Some holidays and traditions were so heart felt and wonderful that I have kept them up in my life. Halloween is an important day to me. We do several things, not just the costumes and trick or treating like I post on my blog. But it is important and I do not get huffy because it has become a “new” tradition. I do jump when people want to take this “new” tradition and throw it away because they have deemed it evil.I wish for my children to see and feel the same things I did as a child, the magic that is invovled with these hoildays.

    Almost all major Christian/pagan holidays have become more than what they once were. Traditions. If you feel the need to criticize those that take a Christian holiday and make it their own, you might want to do the same to Christians that took the pagan holidays and made them there own.

  7. Burdock says:

    As you know, I do agree with your outlook, but I also agree that it is easy to go along with family traditions. I’m not close to any of my family anymore so it’s easy to totally block out Christmas, but if I was surrounded by my family forcing Christmas down my throat I would be difficult to not accept gifts even though I told them not to buy me anything. Traditions and family are hard to break from. I believe many feel it’s easier to go with the flow that stick up for their values.

  8. Allie says:

    I used to celebrate Hanukkah with my neighbors as a kid, and loved it. It was quiet and contemplative in their house. I’ve never liked Christmas, and wouldn’t celebrate it at all were it not for the expectations of extended family. I have to admit that it even brings some resentment into the picture. I am all for making up our own way to celebrate. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who gets to make that decision.

  9. Noelle says:

    Since Christmas is a holiday cobbled together from aspects of dozens of cultures and time periods, I’m willing to say that everyone can celebrate it in whatever way makes them happy. And why that holiday rather than any other? Because a majority of Americans are Christian, so we all get the day off of work. Sure, I guess I could celebrate Ramadan, but I would feel weird asking my entire family to take a personal day for a holiday none of us celebrate, especially since they’re 75% practicing Christians.

    Also, I’m not that against the Capitalism of it all, and part of that is because everyone in my immediate family works in the book business. Holiday buying is our bread and butter, as is the case for a huge number of Americans. Yeah, I would love for our economy to plug away without relying on holiday buying, but until some radical shift happens, a lot of people rely on those holiday sales. And we’re going to see the impact of that this year as those sales falter.

    Really, it’s okay to conform a little bit now and then to tradition, and if you don’t want to, that’s fine. If you ask every person in a room how they prefer to spend the holiday, you’ll get a completely different answer from every person. Personally, I love Christmas, almost everything about it, especially the part where people come together and do things that only happen once a year, be it seeing family, making presents, or wearing gaudy sweaters. I just find it fun, and I’ll even take a minute to listen to the Bible story, even if I don’t believe in it literally.

  10. Howling Hill says:

    My goodness, I should post about this more often! I came back and found eight comments waiting for me, six of them on this post alone!

    Each of you have valid points.

  11. peppylady says:

    I’m adding anther one. I thought this was a great topic and I used it part of my post for today.

    This is a great topic to think out side of the box. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

    Coffee is on.

  12. Glenn & I choose not to participate in a non-religous Christmas with each other, however, I’m completely with Farm Mom on this one. I respect and honor that many of my loved ones have religious traditions different than my own. I will not make gestures of contempt towards the things that they feel strongly about. At my grandfather’s funeral I sang the hymns and took communion in an effort to ease my parents’ suffering. At Christmas I send them (garden) gifts to remind them that even though I am not there I am thinking of them during a time that is an important “family time” to them.

    You ask: “Would your in-laws participate in any of your religious events? If not, why is it ok to riddle yourself with guilt to please them but not the other way around?”

    Because we choose to be above such pettiness and have a real desire to make the people we love happy regardless of their actions… (Although I can say that both my parents and in-laws participated without complaint in a very Pagan handfasting.)

    As a whole though, I love your term “Capitalmas.” That’s all it is to most….

  13. farm mom says:

    I have no religious events. And if I did, I probably would not ask them to participate with me as I believe religion should be a personal experience. It’s okay because it is. They’re my family, they’re my elders. And in the end it is my choice. Do I want to participate and make them happy or spend the day smugly sitting alone, with a deeply hurt family? I make my choice, and I can live with it.

    And I understand, I haven’t been feeling well the past few days and my words have been snippier (even a word?!) than I intend them to be too.

  14. Beth says:

    I don’t think the thought for myself as a Christian (I can’t speak for others) is that Santa and trees, are Christmas. In fact I see the religious holiday and the secular holiday being almost 2 diffrent holidays celebrated simultainiously.

    In our house we have the religious holday, we celebrate by disscusing Jesus’s birth with our boys, having a Birthday cake for Jesus (started by my oldest), church programs, and saying we celebrate God’s giving us his son by giving gifts to others.

    The rest of the traditions built up around Christmas we participate in are more, in our minds, a holiday that is about giving and finding the best in people. In our house we really play down the reciving and greed side. Yes my kids are thrilled when Santa comes, but Santa is usually on a tight budget and they’ve always been grateful with what he brings. If they’re not they’ll find themselves with coal ;-)

    When we purchase or make a gift it’s with alot of thought as to what the other person truely wants or could use. My kids learn to give by saving money through the year to buy a toy for a charity. The cookies we make we give away, etc.

    Because of this I don’t choose to celebrate Christmas as “Capitalmas” (and yes I love the term too,as that is what MANY people do celebrate), and I don’t think it’s disrespectful for people to have a secular Christmas because I truely belive the traditions surounding it are at their heart about family, and the joy of giving rather then recieving. What is the harm in celebrating what is in my opinion a good moral stance of selflessness, regardless of a persons religion.

    I truely think it’s How it’s celebrated that would lead to offensivness, I know many “Christian’s” who’s celebrations I could find more offensive, then when my non-Christian friends celebrate, because to me they are honoring greed while they say it’s about Jesus. One took a second job giving her less family time and alot more stress so they could buy bigger/better toys. That I find Offensive :-)

    Very good discussion post!

    Oh and I’m not my inlaws, but I love when I have the chance to experience other religions and cultures by attending holiday celebrations.

    I’m not forced into celebrating a diffrent religious holiday, but I do out of respect for my IL’s go to their church when we visit, which while still “Christian” is as far from my version of Christian as possible, and many times I walk out with clenched teeth. LOL.

  15. Taylor says:

    We have always celebrated Christmas in my house, but no one in my family is Christian. That said, we don’t participate in any Christian traditions with it: no church, no prayers. We celebrate with the ancient pagan tradation of lighting a tree to celebrate mid-winter and we give out gifts (I guess that is partially Christian) and we celebrate with a big meal because our family is all together.

    However, I also light a Menorah because I think they are beautiful, so I guess I do celebrate other religious traditions.

    I guess it can be argued that Christmas is hardly even Christian anymore- it’s more secular these days than ever before. And if we all have work off and everyone can travel, then why not have everyone together to celebrate our family?

  16. Chan says:

    Hello again. I don’t follow any religion but do, however, celebrate most traditional US holidays with family and friends because they are fun and we enjoy getting together.

    My take on traditional US holidays is simple; I choose not to incorporate religion into any of it and that works for me. It does not have to work for others. Christmas is the day Santa comes and fills my stocking. Easter is the day the bunny comes and we get to do fun stuffs like dye eggs.

    For me, it’s about tradition, not the religion. You may call it cultural conformity, but I call it being an American celebrating American holidays. Different strokes for different folks. :)

  17. Howling Hill says:

    Thank you everyone for commenting. All of you made really good points!

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