Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Do You Celebrate Christmas If You're Not Religious?

I'm not a religious person.

Neither am I anti- religion.  In fact, I borrow from a variety of beliefs all the time, as it suits me.

But anything that smells like group-think makes me crazy.  And the thought of adopting one set of beliefs for the rest of my life - without the option of changing my mind - makes me even crazier.

So I float.

Try explaining the floating theory to a deeply religious person.

Seriously, if you ever get bored.

More than once, I've been asked why I celebrate Christmas if I'm not a Christian.  I find this question curious and somewhat arrogant.  Perhaps that's because it is always asked by Christians, in a tone that says, 'either join our ranks or stop crashing our party, you poseur hypocrite.'

Actually, I will answer that question, religious person, if you will explain your glee over Halloween. Why do you create a pretend cemetery in your yard (complete with bones protruding from the ground), and paint a fake bullet hole on your 5-year-old's forehead before going out and bugging the living hell out of your neighbors?

Oh, I see.  That's all in fun.

Do Not get me started on Halloween.

The truth is, I'm not sure what Christmas means to me.  At 51 years old, I still haven't figured this out.  

Sure, I have childhood memories - lovely memories - but, as an adult, I'm a bit lost when it comes to Christmas.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Thanksgiving makes sense.

Christmas?  Not so much. 

Of course, I can understand celebrating the baby Jesus, but when you add cranky shoppers, Santa Claus (the ongoing lie of which has always been a WTF issue for me) over-the-top decorations and Salvation Army bell ringers, it gets a little weird. 

Throw in the family party where everyone gets drunk and fights, or the family party where everyone fights, and just wishes they were drunk, and you have one Merry-ass Christmas.

Nevertheless, every year I try to reinvent Christmas, hoping I will Finally Get It Right.  And every year, as it gets closer, I feel anxious and overwhelmed.  Somehow, I manage to stumble through it, and occasionally, I even enjoy myself. 

While it's true that, as a  'floater,' I may not have the validation of religion to back me, I will continue to celebrate my own, clumsy version of Christmas every year.  Why?

Simply because I can.

Picture from


  1. I celebrate primarily the pagan aspect of this season; I too am a 'floater' - I take what I like from various philosophies and faiths.

  2. Honestly, a true Christian should never ever ask you this question. What I find annoying in this hyped Christianity is the lack of keeping up with what that faith's true meaning is. Basically what every faith's true meaning is and I'm not going to go into that now. :)
    I live in a country where there's no real Halloween (although we are seeing that trend emerging) and no Thanksgiving.
    I was raised as a Catholic and I still retain belief in the higher power just not exactly the one I was taught about. :)
    Christmas is basically for me the holiday where I'm thankful for everything and want to spend some time with my family and friends and exchange gifts. I love giving people gifts and also receiving them so I don't have a single problem with that part.
    I'm all for going with what you feel fits with your world view.

  3. Well, actually Christmas stems from the pagans - it was Midwinterfest, meant to make light, fecundity and fertility return after the dark winter. Christians took it over - smart move, real smart move as nowadays they seem fit to claim the feast altogether. So the next babbling Christian you see - tell him he is actually dancing around Wodans Holy Tree (the actual Christmas Tree...), after which a wild wild orgy will follow

  4. This is the time of year when my family becomes unbearable, trying to recapture some imaginary magic xmas from long ago.
    They demand my presence when they couldn't care less the rest of the year. When it comes to gifts, it's about quantity and nothing else.
    For these reasons, and several more I will not subject you and your poor readers to, I do not like to "celebrate" Xmas.

    Like you, I try to "reinvent" the holiday and as it approaches,experience toxic levels of anxiety. But thanks to my husband and his no- expectations family, I also experience occasional enjoyment.

    Whatever anyone does to celebrate, if it's wine at the altar or whisky in your cup, it's just a good time to celebrate the fact you've made it through another year.

  5. Great post!!! Neither am I religious. But, I do celebrate Christmas. Why? Because it a celebration of Jesus, of his birth. And he was a real person. And very generous!

    Why do I celebrate if I am not religious? I haven't been asked this question yet. Luckily.

    I like Christmas, but dislike this whole fake celebration with buying, shopping and spending a lot of money.


  6. I'm in the pagan winter festival school - I think of Christmas as a sort of a wake for the year. Lots of glitter to encourage the universe to keep turning and bring us back our sun, and lot of gluttony and lazing around to keep our strength up until it does.

    I'd like to see most of the gift-giving go away, though. It's fun to open a little surprise like an ornament or gaudy piece of costume jewelry or a cheap paperback or a tiny pack of chocolates, but I'd rather it stopped there.

  7. My parents.....give me presents.

    I also have the glory of lavishing presents upon other people.

    I mostly like how happy everyone gets. Even if it is fake. I live in a small Appalachian town, and the park gets new decorations every year.

    It's an excuse to cook, too, which I like.

  8. Hi Bloody Frida, there are a lot of us floaters out here. Every belief has some merit, it would be nice if we could all see that and stop defending our borders, as it were.

  9. Ines, I completely agree with you - we should all do what feels right at every time of year, and every holiday, especially Christmas.

  10. Bradamante - welcome and thanks for the comment! I will indeed remember your pagan lesson the next time I am confronted with annoying questions.

  11. JoanElaine, thanks for your comment. You point out one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of Christmas; fulfilling the unrealistic expectations of others (and sometimes, oneself).

    I'm not very interested in pretending - in any area of my life. Christmas seems to demand this, which is part of what feels exhausting.

    Thank goodness you can be yourself and truly enjoy your husband's family! Good luck reinventing for another year.

  12. Hi Sandy - glad you liked the post! I'm with you - no fake celebrations. Just let it be whatever it is...for all of us.

  13. ChickenFreak, hello! I agree that gift giving, in small, meaningful ways, can be enjoyable. But mass expectations around shopping and gifts just take the spark out of the whole thing. I'm all about the gluttony and laziness, though.

  14. Hi Joan - it sounds like Christmas truly suits you in many ways. Enjoy the holiday and indulge in some great cooking...and eating!

  15. I dislike Christmas for so many reasons, like ChickenFreak, it's a yearly wake for me.
    I dislike that it is filled with unrealistic expectations and its the only time that many act like they care about those without coats or food. It's very artificial and tiresome. My fam always read Lawrence Felinghetti's "Christ Climbed Down" on Christmas Eve. That's my Christmas tradition :)

  16. EauMG - hello! You have piqued my interest in 'Christ Climbed Down.' It comforts me to know that others struggle with Christmas as well. Thanks a lot for your comment!

  17. I loved your post about something called "Round Robins" here in which your "friends" tell you that their children are all going to win Nobel prizes and they are the pillars of their communities ,we throw them away .
    Anyhow I think you should stand up to evangelising Christians . I am a Quaker but can't stand having religion preached at me by anyone . We once received a Christmas card that was white with the word "Christ" in huge letters on it . As I opened it I snarled and said "what the hell has that got to do with Christmas " . My family laugh about this every time a card arrives . I avoid the sender who could get Christ into a conversation about socks. I am with the it started as a mid-winter festival to celebrate the return of the light and a really good chance to eat and sit feet up watching such awful T.V you can nap a lot( obviously in ancient times take out the T.V bit). At least us Brits have "Boxing Day" so it's a two day holiday .In fact I insist my husband takes one week of his annual leave at this time ,what better time to lay in .So don't stress yourself try saying with a straight face " because Santa always brings me such lovely things " .



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