Christmas can be a confusing time for new atheists, and by new atheists I do not mean the label applied to those of us who are considered "militant" or outspoken, but I mean actual new, coming out of the closet atheists.
We seem to have two Christmases in America - and probably around the world. First, we have a cultural celebration that is mostly focused around family, tradition and a boatload of consumerism selling us that thing you cannot live without - for double the price.
Second you have the religious holiday, from the "keep Christ in Christmas" crew that seems to hold onto a tradition that Christmas is strictly a religious celebration of their chosen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Year after year, these Christmas militants parade around screaming about a war on Christmas, but it always seems to be a war they are fighting alone against groups who ask state and federal events to be more inclusive of all the holidays celebrated around this time.
This faux "War on Christmas" and the misguided view of some believers about what the term "Happy Holidays" means seems to pose an interesting problem for atheists who are coming to terms with leaving their religion behind and the many traditions that may come with it. To continue celebrating Christmas may seem odd or even flat out wrong. Along with these feelings, they may be told there is an atheist war on Christmas and that you are not supposed to celebrate it. This is often seen online, especially when people are able to be vocal keyboard warriors on places like Twitter and Facebook.
So I say this to all those new atheists around the world: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or happy whatever you decide is right for you. Christmas time is what you make it. If you wish to celebrate the holiday, just as most atheists I know do, you should do so unashamed. You may meet some atheists who refuse to celebrate it and even some who make a stink about those non-believers who do, but the great thing about being a free-thinking atheist is that you don't have to do anything simply because someone else tells you to.
In my house, we love Christmas; we set up a tree, we watch Christmas movies, and my son loves Christmas songs about Frosty the Snowman, Reindeer and Jingle Bells. Christmas in my household is about family and making our son the happiest we can. Though the consumerism aspect of the holiday may have gotten out of hand, I don't know many parents who do not get a large amount of joy out of watching their kids open up gifts early on Christmas morning, bringing back those memories of our own childhoods, or in some cases, giving your children the Christmas memories you may never have had.
Our celebration of family may be called Christmas, and this may upset believers and non-believers alike for his or her own specific reasons, but to us this is cultural and we are building a family tradition of our own. We are not waging any war on the holiday because we are not dictating how any family celebrates and we expect the same amount of respect back.
To those atheists enjoying Christmas, or creating his or her very own traditions, you are not alone. No one can judge you for what you decide is best and do not be brought down because someone thinks you are celebrating a holiday "wrong". I guess if there is any war on Christmas, maybe it is a war being waged by "traditionalists" (for lack of a better term) who wish to keep out those who do not partake in their version of the holiday. Though even then, if anyone should be upset about how Christmas is celebrated, it should probably be the Pagans.
Dan Arel is a writer and speaker. He contributes Op-Ed and news commentary stories around the Internet on social justice issues, religion and politics. He can be followed on Twitter at @danarel or you can view more of his writing and see his speaking schedule on his own website www.danarel.com.