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Atheists & Christmas: What do Atheists do During Christmas Holidays?

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What is Christmas?:

The festival of Christmas gets its name from the term Christ's Mass, or a mass performed in honor of Christ. It is at this time that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This, however, is not all there is to the modern Christmas holiday - most people, including most Christians, are unaware of the origins of the various elements of contemporary Christmas celebrations. Christmas is less Christian than many realize. Read More...

Christmas: Religious or Secular?:

Americans look forward to getting a day off on December 25, a day traditionally (and erroneously) celebrated as the birth day of Jesus Christ. What's wrong with that? Nothing, except possibly the fact that it is a holiday which is legally recognized/mandated by our government. If Christmas really is religious, it shouldn't be given special status by the state. If Christmas is secular, that will upset Christians. Read More...

What are Holidays and Rituals?:

Holidays can serve to form a connection to your own past by evoking memories of past celebration. Holidays can form and reinforce connections with the friends and family with whom you celebrate. But are holidays exclusively for religion and theism? Some think so, arguing that atheists have no business participating in any holidays. Read More...

Revealing Atheism On Holidays:

The question of where, when, how, and even if a person should reveal their atheism is always an issue, but the holiday season makes the question more acute. It is not unusual for people pick this time of year to reveal their atheism. Hiding it, whether out of fear or apathy, ceases for many to be compatible with either honesty or self-respect. Is this something you should consider doing? Read More...

Atheists, Families, and Holiday Traditions:

Perhaps the biggest loss in not attending religious ceremonies at a church and not participating in religion-themed rituals is the loss of joint family activities and the diminishing of a family tradition. What should you do - should you go to church with your family or should you insist on staying home while everyone else goes out? Perhaps you should consider creating new traditions with your family. Read More...

Atheists and Saying Grace:

A common religious tradition is to say some sort of thanks to a god for the food which people eat. As with participation in holiday services at churches, people who might otherwise never bother saying grace the rest of the year suddenly feel the urge to do so during the holidays in front of the rest of the family. This might occur either when you are visiting relatives in their homes, or even when they are visiting you in yours. What do you do? Read More...

Atheism & Celebrating Holidays:

Should you participate in acknowledging, much less celebrating, any aspect of a religious holiday? If a holiday has no other aspects to it but religion and religious ritual, there are few reasons or opportunities for atheists to participate - but should you try anyway? Would you be contradicting your atheism to celebrate Christmas in any fashion? Read More...

Alternative Holidays for Atheists?:

A question which faces many atheists is whether or not they should avoid prevalent religious holidays and instead adopt their own holidays. Most popular seems to be the celebration of Winter Solstice. The reworking of an ancient pagan holiday is thought more appropriate for atheists than Christmas, which is a Christian reworking of an ancient pagan holiday. Do you think atheists should create their own holidays, or would that simply be pointless? Read More...

Atheists Finding Meaning in Holidays:

The way in which an atheist might best approach the question of religious holidays and the creation of new atheist holidays is to ask: What might this mean to me? Are you going to let Christians "win" by allowing them to decide what holidays like Christmas mean to everyone else, or are you willing to stand up and decide what it means for yourself? If meaning is something you create, then everything is really up to you. Read More...

An Atheist at Christmas: Dealing with the Holiday Season:

Some might wonder what I do at Christmas, how I approach holidays, and what I think about all the issues discussed above. These are fair questions which I will address briefly.

First, I don't find much meaning in Christmas and don't invest much interest in it. When I was young I certainly believed in Santa Claus and made a big deal out of Christmas, but that has faded considerably with time. It is said that when it comes to something like this, you get out of it what you put into, but it's been a long time since I've gotten much of anything out of any holidays. Many in my family do, however, so I participate in the holiday to the extent that it helps them and that I can tolerate. Otherwise, I'd ignore it entirely. No trees, no lights, no cards, no gifts, nothing. I wouldn't even take the day off.

The same is basically true of other holidays and the holiday season generally. I recognize the importance and power of holidays for social groups so I recommend that people not ignore or give them up lightly, but I can't make any personal or emotional connection to them myself so I simply can't follow my own advice. I also don't see much value in recycling ancient pagan holidays as if this were preferable to recycling other holidays. If having a holiday is important, one is as good as another.

That's not to say that I feel the same way about traditions and rituals, though. I believe that if you can't find meaning in the usual traditions and rituals, and especially religious or holiday traditions, then make your own traditions where you can. Even small ones have value and while they may not seem like much at first, you'll come to appreciate them eventually. Traditions and rituals serve important roles in binding us together socially, psychologically, and emotionally. They may not be "rational," but we humans aren't perfectly rational either.

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