Why It’s Okay for Atheists to Celebrate Christmas

Dec 25, 2013

We asked you for heartwarming atheist Christmas stories, and you responded!

This one is by Dan Arel.


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.

Written By: Dan Arel
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4 comments on “Why It’s Okay for Atheists to Celebrate Christmas

  • 2
    Cynzylla says:

    Thank you Dan! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I enjoy many aspects of the Christmas holiday, and even decorate my Smart car with Rudolph antlers, Santa hats and garland because it’s fun. I’m an out-of-the-closet Atheist and not ashamed of combining childhood memories and traditions into my way too hectic adult life this time of year. Being an Atheist doesn’t mean you have to be a Grinch! Enjoy the holidays (or not) as you wish, not as you think you should.



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  • 4
    benoniboy says:

    Look at it this way: Christmas is a national secular holiday which some Christians associate with the birth of Jesus. For those in a dilemma about celebrating Christmas, keep in mind that Christmas as celebrated today (with white-bearded gentlemen in red outfits, presiding in shopping malls) is a fairly recent phenomenon. In fact centuries ago it was outlawed in parts of New England, because like Halloween it led to drunken and unruly bands of hooligans roaming the neighborhoods. Coinciding with the winter solstice, and pre-christian celebrations, it’s connection to the birth of Jesus is highly questionable.

    The real major Christian holiday associated with Jesus is Easter. If you want to feel guilty, the Easter Bunny and scavenger hunts for eggs deserve your attention more than Christmas.

    Read “The Battle for Christmas” by Stephen Nissenbaum – a fascinating history.



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