The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
Ah, Christmas, that sacred holiday, the celebration of Christ’s birth. Which is actually supposed to be in October or something: if you read the Bible, it says Jesus was born in the “harvest season”. Christmas is only in December because a dead Roman guy combined it with pagan midwinter celebrations. But what if you don’t believe in Christ, God, or any of that stuff? Not a problem! You can still have a great day without involving religion in the slightest.
Growing up, I never had a religious Christmas, which confuses some people. The fact is, I didn’t know Christmas was supposed to be religious until I was ten years old. For me and my family, Christmas is a day to celebrate family, friends, and significant others. It’s sort of like Thanksgiving with presents: I’m thankful that you all are in my life, and here is a token of my appreciation. If you don’t want a religious holiday, that’s one way to do it: make it about living people who matter to you, not a two-thousand-year-dead stranger. It doesn’t even have to clash with your God-fearing relatives’ version of Christmas, as long as they don’t specifically bring up Jesus.
But what if you do have a super-Christian family? What if your parents force you to go to Christmas Mass? My personal suggestion is to face your fears, stand up to them and say, “Mom, Dad, I’m not really into the whole God thing, and I’d rather not go to church this Christmas.” Then again, I’ve always been a pretty direct person. If you don’t want to risk alienating your relatives, just sit through it. You don’t have to do anything. Just occupy your mind with other thoughts and stand up and sit down when everyone else does. No one is likely to notice if you aren’t singing along to the hymns or whatever else they do in church. This is also a great way to keep them from spoiling the holiday with constant refrains of “I can’t believe you don’t believe in God!”
What if you’re spiritual but not religious, or if you follow a religion other than Christianity, but your relatives still celebrate Christmas? Again, you can just make it a day to celebrate your family. Or, you can have your own December holiday. I have Jewish friends who say that Hanukah wouldn’t be such a big deal if the Christians weren’t all celebrating around the same time. I have a friend who worships Cthulhu; he celebrates the winter solstice. Kwanza, Midwinter’s Eve, my birthday… there’s lots of things to celebrate in December 🙂
I guess what I’m getting at is, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have the love of your family and the integrity of your beliefs. There will inevitably be some people who find you despicable for not revering Christ. But in the words of Doctor Seuss, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” The ones who love you will always forgive you for what they perceive as a transgression.
Happy Holidays, one and all.