Why do atheists need to celebrate Christmas?

I celebrate no religious festivals since my childhood. I don’t celebrate because I am an atheist. I can’t find a reason to celebrate Eid, Puja, Christmas, Hanukkah etc. Do I need to celebrate something? Not really. But if I feel like celebrating a special Day, there are plenty of Days out there. Human Rights Day. Women’s Day, Children’s Day, International Labour Day, World Poetry Day, World Health Day, Darwin Day etc. A humane holiday is universal.

I get surprised when ex-Christian atheists instead of celebrating a day off work, celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a Christian holiday, a religious event — it is for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Atheists don’t believe in God the father, Jesus the son or the holy spirit. Atheists are not Christians, they do not need to participate in Christian holiday.

Many atheists even celebrate the pagan festival of winter solstice. Why do they need to celebrate a Pagan festival? It is true that many rituals of modern Christmas celebrations are pagan. But this is not a good reason to celebrate Christmas or Solstice. Atheists are neither pagan nor Christian. They don’t uphold ancient pagan superstitions, so why do so with those which happen to be popular at Christmas time? There’s nothing about ancient paganism which is any more rational than modern Christianity.

Richard Dawkins, famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, says, ‘I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody. I might sing Christmas carols – once I was privileged to be invited to Kings College, Cambridge, for their Christmas carols and loved it. I actually love most of the genuine Christmas carols. I can’t bear Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and you might think from that that I was religious, that I can’t bear the ones that make no mention of religion. But I just think they are dreadful tunes and even more dreadful words. I like the traditional Christmas carols. We are not kill joys, we are not scrooges. We give each other presents and when my daughter was a bit younger we would have a tree. We don’t now. We go to my sister’s house for Christmas lunch which is a lovely big family occasion. Everybody thoroughly enjoys it. No church of course.’

Some atheists say, Christmas has become so secularized that it prevents many atheists from abandoning Christmas. A new study says that people who do not believe in God go to church regularly for the sake of their children. I do not feel comfortable with the atheists who give funny and flimsy reasons to celebrate religious festivals. Many atheists badly need festivals! It would be better if they become humanists. Humanists get many opportunities to celebrate numerous festivals. If they believe in human rights or women’s rights, they can celebrate International Human Rights Day or Women’s Day. They can celebrate Labour Day, Children’s Day, Animal Rights Day, if they believe in labour rights, children rights and animal rights. If they are against slavery, they can celebrate Anti Slavery Day.

I do not celebrate religious festivals, I do not miss anything. I can celebrate a happy feast any day. I can celebrate a family get-together any day of the year. You can do the same if you want. You can give gifts to the children you love on Children’s Day. You can light up your home and neighbourhood on December 10 to celebrate Human Rights Day or on December 15 to celebrate Bill of Rights Day or on December 16 to celebrate Boston Tea Party Anniversary or Beethoven’s birthday or Victory Day of Bangladesh. Do we really need Krishna, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad or any charlatan’s birthday to have our family re-union, to exchange gifts, to eat good food, or to light up our homes? The answer is simple, no.


  1. says

    It all depends on your definition of “celebrate”. Do I like decorating the christmas tree with my kids? Do I like haveing two days with my family and family-in-law? Dressing up? Eating special food? Going to christmas fairs? Playing christmas songs? You bet I do! If this means I “celebrate” Christmas, so be it.

    • alessialane says

      I wholeheartedly agree. We love “celebrating” Christmas for the very same reasons. And we are even “those” horrible atheists that pretend Santa is coming! Oh the humanity! We are even out at Easter going on egg hunts and following jelly bean trails!

      I am always befuddled by the holier-than-thou atheists dictating how to be “athier” that others and how be an atheist the “right way”. I’d respectfully like to tell them to stuff it.

      So everyone out there, enjoy your celebrations however you like. Hug and kiss and love each other and don’t worry about now winning first place in the “I’m the most atheist atheist” contest. There isn’t one. Just enjoy life.

      Merry Chrismahanukwanzikkah!

  2. Gordon says

    Christmas is not a christian holiday. It has not been for a long time. It’s a secular holiday. I’m not going to force anyone to celebrate it, but I’m sick of seeing it ceded to christians as if nobody else had a right to it.

    • Vee says

      Excuse me but it is a Christian holiday the name Christ is in the title. It is holy day or holiday. Yes it has become over comercialized. So it is a Christian holiday just as other religions have their holidays. Does everybody acknowledge the reason for the season?, no they do not . ..alot of people just like the shopping and the gifts and decorations. But to this Christian it is Holy Day. As it should be

      • Lisa Robinson says

        christmas actually started out as a pagan holiday. No one knows for sure when Christ was born I do know it wasn’t December 25th

  3. arno says

    I think there are three parts to the answer. First, something that makes Christmas special as compared to other (even more meaningful) occasions for celebration is the existance of established rituals. There is special food, special decorations, special music – and these things have been part of my christmas for all my life. Even if I decided to invent or find some ritual for Anti-Slavery Day, it would feel new and contrived to me.

    Second, for most people I know, religious and non-religious alike, Christmas essentially is Family Day. Whether or not they like the holiday typically depends primarily on the question whether or not they feel like celebrating their own family connections.

    Third, (linked to the first argument), most other people around us celebrate Christmas too, and they do so in a similar way. This adds a sense of community, which again would be hard to recover for another holiday.

  4. says

    Well, I celebrate christmas because I like it. Yep, I enjoy baking cookies, putting up fairy lights, decorating the tree, having gifts, enjoying good food and pleasant company.
    I celebrate easter because I like dying eggs and going on an egg hunt and so on.
    And why not celebrate solstice? Here in the northern hemisphere days are short and cold in winter and solstice marks the day when it finally gets better again.
    Those celebrations weren’t invented by christians, they can’t have them. And I love Rudoph the red nose reindeer.

    • says

      More or less this. Because I like it, my familly all gets time off, though I’ve always though of it as getting ones spirits up when the temperature is about to drop for 2 months.

      Most of the music we listen to is secular, and our traditional movies (home alone, christmas story) have very little religious message to them. Our plastic tree lacks angels or stars. There is no prayer at dinner just paper hats and good food. For all intents and purposes there is very little religious in it all.

  5. says

    One of my favorite festivals in Japan was the Tanabata in the summer. I’d dress up in my hoppi coat, join my dad in carrying the CPOA float in the parade, drink beer, smoke a cigar and walk up and down the festival visiting the different booths and vendors.

    I don’t really believe that two stars fell in love and could only spend those short days together. Does that mean I shouldn’t have enjoyed the festival?

    Just because I don’t believe a child was born a little over 2000 years ago to save us all from sin, should I refuse my parents invitation to dinner that night?

  6. Riptide says

    There are many reasons that otherwise-rational people become unhinged when you mention a disdain for Christmas, or ‘cede’ it to Christians (as though the rabid materialism that has replaced the Nativity is somehow more secular, rather than replacing Jesus with the Almighty Dollar). Sure, some people have an established family tradition in which they spend the holiday with their parents and/or children and don’t bring religion into it at all.

    And yes, the Puritans who helped to steal America from the North American aborigines (‘founded’ is such a petty euphemism) did think that celebrating Christmas in a festive way was Pagan and, ultimately, Satanic.

    Neither of those means that Christmas is a secular holiday. In fact, this ‘secularization’ of Christmas is just another way that the Christian majority has colonized American culture, and it’s another way in which Christians claim supremacy every single year. Getting a tree and exchanging gifts is another way of legitimizing Christian privilege and respecting Christian tradition.

    So, sure, participate in Christmas if you need a special day to get over Seasonal Affective Disorder. Buy slave-labored goods from China to show how much you love your friends and relatives. Get a tree and put a star (or even an angel, if you insist) on top. But don’t condescend to me and say that the entire holiday is secular, and that I’m the one being irrational for refusing to participate.

  7. Dunc says

    Because it’s cold and dark in the middle of winter and any excuse for a party is good enough for me. Plus we already get the time off work.

    Interestingly, here in Scotland, the celebration of Christmas is relatively recent, and a result of the declining influence of the Church. Within living memory, Christmas was not a public holiday, and was not generally celebrated, because our Presbyterian church regarded it as idolatrous.

    Also, people, being sociable, generally like to participate in the culture which surrounds them. Shocking, I know…

    • harrysanborn says


      Almost all the symbols for Christmas aren’t Christian. They celebrate the continuation of life and the return of longer days (trees, lights, etc). I absolutely put up a tree and lights. I am a Santa denier, my kids won’t be raised to believe in Santa, but I think having regular festivities is perfectly fine. Egg nog, and spiced cider for all.

  8. Lofty says

    I no longer “celebrate” christmas since the day I told my brother that since all of our kids have grown up, and xmas is mainly for kids, I couldn’t see the point of continuing the family get together. My mother has always been an atheist and though we had all the xmas trappings as children, it wasn’t religious. It was a time for presents and good will, a time of traditional decorations and a tree full of candles. Nowadays I get up on xmas morning, share an intimate moment with my wife, and read a good book or three. I can still enjoy a day off from the frantic world.

  9. unbound says

    I really don’t think your reasoning on this subject is very solid Taslima.

    At no point do I celebrate Jesus’ birth by participating in Christmas. What aspects of Christmas are actually related to Christianity anymore outside of the name? How is putting up secular decorations (nothing religious on my property) supporting Christmas?

    By that same logic, putting up Halloween decorations 2 months prior is indicating that I’m supporting Pagans as well…or, since the term Halloween is Christian origin, am I somehow supporting Christianity too? How about Thanksgiving (religious harvest festival in origin)?

    Even more so than Christmas, there is no element of Halloween or Thanksgiving that is remotely Christian anymore. Christmas is largely that way as well. To be advocating being a scrooge is a sign, IMHO, of giving up rather than fighting to keep what is currently far more secular than religious.

    In the future, Easter will become completely secular too. But that is another story…

  10. quanticsakura says

    The human being likes ritual. Rituals give meaning, make special moments. Rituals that are shared help building the community. The ritual of celebrating the WInter Solstice (wich is an astronomical event, so just by saying Solstice it doesn’t refer to the Celtic Pagan religion) is one of the oldest, more spread-around rituals os the Human Race. It was celebrated by almost all the people of the North Hemisphere, with the same elements (light, family, gifts…), through different cultures and religions, and that is beautiful.
    Yes, the Christians “stole” it, because as they started taking over the world they found that people simply refused to stop celebrating that holiday in those terms, but to say they own it is ridiculous. They didn’t create the tradition of decorating trees, or of eating with the family, or of placing beautiful lights or singings songs or giving gifts. The only really christian parts of the holiday are its name, the nativity and the midnight mass, and I don’t see any atheists celebrating with those particular traditions.
    So, I celebrate “christmas” in spite of christianity, not because of it. And I have a feeling that, long after the christian religion is gone and forgotten, the future humans will still celebrate this holiday with the same basic ideas – love, family, hope, light. THOSE make the true meaning of “christmas”.

  11. says

    Christmas has been largely secularized. There is, indeed, the religious aspects of the holiday married together with the day itself, but this can be completely ignored.

    Christmas will then not be a holiday celebrating the birth of some deity, but instead a day to gather together with friends and families at the end of a long year, to share gifts and to celebrate togetherness and cheer.

    I don’t celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday (which was probably in Spring, anyway) but I celebrate being able to be with my family.

  12. jasmyn says

    I love Xmas. I get three months to go out and shop with no questions asked. I enjoy shopping, but I enjoy shopping for other people more. I’m that friend that goes overboard for any gift giving occasion. Then, I get to actually give people their very carefully selected gifts. I love the feeling of giving a loved one a gift that they really like.
    I also like seeing all the silly tacky decorations. I don’t decorate my house, but I appreciate when other people do. The decorations are so cheesy and I’m a sucker for cheesy things.

  13. carollynn says

    I don’t think anyone here cares whether or how *you* celebrate anything.

    I hope you work – or volunteer – on any mandated holiday that does not meet your standards to give someone who wants the day with their family a chance to have it.

    I’d be all in favor of making the fourth Friday and/or Monday in December a federal (or world wide) holiday and calling it a generic “Year End” or something. But until that happens, I’m happy to have a break and an excuse to party and celebrate with family and friends no matter what name it is called or what day it is on.

  14. says

    Actually your title is all wrong as well, the question should be “Why do atheists want to celebrate christmas” as obviously no one needs to celebrate anything.

    • says

      To be fair, I neither “want” nor “need” to celebrate xmas.

      I do not decorate my house. I do not go caroling.

      I give gifts because gifts are given to me, just as I give gifts on the birthdays of my friends and family just as they give me gifts on mine.

      I accept invitations to dinners, and I’m always happy for an excuse to host a dinner party.

      • says

        Well sure. There are obviously atheists that don’t really celebrate christmas but there are a bunch who do and it would probably be more useful to discuss why they do celebrate it rather then trying to make a point about why they don’t have to. Just like it might be more useful to discuss why ex muslim atheists might choose to celebrate Eid then make an argument about why they need not celebrate it.

  15. David Olsen says

    I don’t need to celebrate anything. Not Christmas and not my birthday. But seriously, the only thing people like about such things are being together with family, giftgiving, and togetherness. And it helps to have some cheer in the dead of winter (north hemisphere-bias).

    It’s a secular holiday actually opposed by the Bible. It was forbidden by the puritans, all the mythos and stuff come from pagans, Christians constantly whine that there’s no Jesus in Christmas. Just because some Christians hijacked a nice pagan festival doesn’t mean they own it. Yuletide is still fun, family and giftgiving. None of which is utter nonsense. If your religion is full of crap, expect me to call you on it. If you have something worthwhile, expect me to steal it. Christmas is a good time to hang out with family. So yes, I’m happy to celebrate it. Just because some Christians at some point trying to convert pagans said that Yule was something to do with Jesus when demonstratively that’s wrong, so be it.

    Put up a manger on public land and expect a lawsuit or a demand to put up mocking-your-religion stuff in the same space. Put up a Santa and a tree, expect me to smile. We’ve largely expelled everything religious out of the holiday. In fact, making it a federal holiday pretty much required that that happen.

    I don’t need to celebrate it, but family and presents… sold. — My entire family is atheists, it’s still a fun holiday. Sometimes religious people go to Church on Christmas but that seems like a horrible waste of a really fun holiday, and not anything associated with the type I celebrate.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    The Roman Saturnalia festivities used to be a pagan holiday. Then it became a Christian holiday. Now it is a holiday dedicated to Mammon. Big deal, I like to give presents to my nephews and nieces.

  17. says

    Marriage was a religious event for a long time and for even longer, women were the property in a transaction between a father and husband, when marriage took place. Halloween was a pagan event. Just because something has a history or origin that is questionable, doesn’t mean it can’t become something else altogether.

    No one is obliging you to celebrate any event nor marry, if you don’t feel it works for you, but that’s the great thing about jettisoning dogma. You can keep any celebrations, traditions and teachings that still hold value for you and omit what doesn’t.

  18. rainydayjess says

    We celebrate the holidays as our culture celebrates them. Living in the US, we celebrate Christmas and Halloween and Easter and Thanksgiving. When my son is studying a particular part of the world or culture, we celebrate their holidays. There is no need to believe in dragons or six-armed deities or one particular Arab called Jesus or ghosts or egg hiding bunnies or that the pilgrims had a lovely happy dinner with some Native Americans to celebrate these holidays. It’s all part of the myth fabric of our culture and I am fine with having holidays that center around those myths.

  19. erikdavis says

    Wow you can be joyless sometimes. Look, for most of my life I had no connection to Christmas. I was raised jewish, so when I became an atheist nothing really changed for me on that magic day. But when I started dating my wife, I’d spend Christmas with her family, and came to enjoy that time. When we moved in together, she wanted a tree, which I initially resisted only because it felt weird as a jew, not as an atheist. But I conceded for her and now it’s just part of what we do as a family. To be honest, it’s my favorite time of year now — kids home, no work, and no one’s counting how much brandy I put back. Atheism doesn’t have to be austere, nor even a defining characteristic of one’s personality. Indeed, I find it much healthier to behave (and think) as apatheist than an atheist most of the time. Not believing in god does not mandate one to care whether others do.

  20. says

    I live in a Canadian prairie city, and it gets very cold and dark here in December. Celebrating the winter solstice with the knowledge that the days are only going to get longer for the next six months makes sense to me…

  21. Scr... Archivist says

    Consider this: The word “mass” (in the religious sense) derives from a Latin word for “dismissal”, “cessation”, etc. So maybe “Christmas” means “Christ’s dismissal”, making it the ultimate atheist holiday. Kick him out and bring in Santa (or Newton, or the Doctor, or whomever you want).

    While you’re at it, you can also violate several Biblical rules against Asherah trees (or poles, for you Festivus fans).

  22. Kevin K says

    It’s definitely cultural. My nonbelieving brother puts up a tree and has a quite extensive collection of miniatures from the movie A Christmas Story. The one about Ralphie and the Red Rider BB gun. Nary a mention of Jesus anywhere.

    Our favorite “holiday” music is the South Park Christmas Album. With the Most Offensive Christmas Song Ever.

    We have a meal, we eat cookies (my brother goes nuts baking cookies), we laugh a lot, we exchange gifts (fewer now that the kids are all married off). It’s fun, relaxing, family.

    If there is a mention of Jesus anywhere, it’s to laugh at the concept.

    Heck, we’re getting a paid day off from work to not celebrate someone else’s deity. Who wouldn’t like that?

    If the entire Christian populace woke up tomorrow and decided that the whole Jesus story was just so much piffle, the vast majority of them would still would celebrate “Christmas”.

    And I’d join right in with them.

  23. Russ Ingram says

    “I do not feel comfortable with the atheists who celebrate religious festivals for different flimsy reasons.”

    Yikes! I guess there is some kind of atheist dogma that dictates how we must behave. The simple belief that there is no god does not suffice for the “pure” to be comfortable.

  24. choletiscornia says

    Growing up atheist we celebrated Christmas because my parents’ roots were in Christianity. I never thought it was a problem. I became a born-again as an adult and celebrated thankfully. When I became an ex-christian (after years of Bible study), I could not enjoy it anymore. I know what it stands for, a myth, with a vile and disgusting deity. I also understand how Christians worship Jesus, and myth or not, it is their celebration. I hate christmas now because I realize how we’ve been manipulated by this event. First, by the religious, and second by merchants. When someone asks me what I am going to buy for my family – an expectation – I cringe at our thoughtless gullibility. Who says I have to buy something? I think atheists celebrate because it’s a habit. I am with you, taslima, let’s celebrate healthy, positive events.

  25. leftwingfox says

    Traditions have a tendency live on after the original meaning is dead and buried through cultural inertia. Christianity suffused pagan traditions with Christian meaning, and secularists are just as free to drop that spirituality in favour of the parts that matter.

    It’s the shared experience, memories, and traditions of food, family and friends that makes this time of the year so important to me. It’s also one of the few times where I can take a couple straight weeks off work to catch up with those friends and family.

    • nathanaelnerode says

      Thinking about it, I guess it really is a northern-latitudes thing. We need a holiday celebrating light and warmth at the coldest and darkest time of the year.

      I suppose people on the southern tip of Argentina, or even in Tasmania or southern New Zealand, might need a similar holiday in June, their midwinter.

  26. Tenebras says

    So you say you can celebrate a family get-together any day of the year. What difference does it make, then, if that get-together happens on the 25th of December as opposed to any other date? Since when did atheism dare to dictate what I’m allowed to do on my government-given days off? And what part of the usual “Christmas” celebration actually involves religion, especially if the celebrators are not Christian?

    I’ll stuff my face and hang up pretty strings of lights if I damn well feel like it, tyvm.

  27. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Atheists are neither pagan nor Christian. They don’t uphold ancient pagan superstitions, so why do so with those which happen to be popular at Christmas time?

    You have something against lights, the smell of evergreen trees, eggnog, and getting together with family? And giving gifts to children?

    It’s atavistic. If you had grown up in the northern latitudes, when in December you go to school in the dark, see the sun rise after your first class, and race home to get half an hour to play before it’s too dark, you would see it the way I do: it’s a festival to celebrate light and warmth.

    And it’s an affirmation that the long nights will end and summer will come … eventually.

  28. sweetcaroline997 says

    Perhaps not all atheists are against celebrating religious holidays the way you are. Perhaps many of them do it for their children, or to spend quality time with the family. Perhaps some of them don’t look at it from a religious perspective, but as a season to do good.
    It’s very upsetting to see how so many atheists have developed a hostile attitude about religions. I don’t think ppl realize that God does not have a religion, God is love. My apologies if you find this highly offensive.

    • says

      I’m with you for the first part. For the second part, as an atheist I disagree with you about the existance of any god, and I also decline your opinion about god being love. The only “evidence” we have for god is the holy scriptures, and neither the god of the Bible, nor the god of the Quran is even remotely “love”. As Richard Dawkins put it, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” The same can be said about the god of the Quran. So no, I don’t find your words highly offensive, but I do find them highly misled.

  29. donake says

    Here’ how to get more ateists to celebrate Christmas:
    Please Google: ake’s pains how to get atheists to celebrate Christmas

  30. Sercee says

    This is pretty much covered by everyone else already, but as yet another athiest who celebrates Christmas:

    I grew up with Christmas tradition like certain recipes, decorating the tree, putting up lights, exchanging gifts, and generally appreciating the company of my loved ones and neighbors during a really dark, really cold (Edmonton, Canada. Today it’s -20C) time of year. None of these things have a religious bent to it. The ones that did (nativity scene, candle lit church service) I stopped doing years ago.

    Historically, if you didn’t get along with your community you had a significantly lower chance of survival during this season. Being connected to them is good, and coming together on the longest night of the year to keep eachother warm was good. Now, with all our technology and luxuries it’s much easier to survive without talking to anyone, but it’s awful helpful when your neighbor snowblows your walks for you so do nice things back like a return favor or gift of cider.

    At home, my family knows full well that there’s no Christ in my Christmas so they don’t put it there. I only call it that because I always have, and it’s a silly thing to be divisive with your family over a word when you’re still there enjoying the holiday. Those traditions that I have so many warm memories of I’ll continue because they’re fun, pretty, inclusive, and symbolic of the turning of a season which very directly affects me.

    It’s good to celebrate all the other secular days you mentioned, but being an athiest doesn’t in any way mean you aren’t allowed to celebrate fun things on days that other people consider religious simply because they’re considered religious.

  31. latsot says

    We can celebrate any day or any occasion but as a practical matter we can’t necessarily get family and friends together to celebrate with us. It takes a *reason* to make such a special effort. I don’t think it matters in the slightest whether the ‘reason’ is arbitrary. I consider Christmas to be an arbitrary reason, but a convenient one.

    I celebrate Christmas in the sense of enjoying a little decadence and largesse mostly because everyone else is doing it too. That makes it more enjoyable. It isn’t *giving* presents that’s the important thing, for example. That really can and should be done any time as the mood takes you. But *exchanging* presents is a different thing altogether. Not better, but different. And enjoyable in a different way.

    I don’t care in the slightest about the religious origins – Christian or Pagan – of Christmas. I love the vicarious glee I experience with my nieces and nephews and even I feel some responsibility as a son, a nephew, a son-in-law and so on.

  32. says

    Christmas is not a christian date. They stole it from ancient cults which celebrated solstice. It is an important astronomical moment and a deep symbol of humanity trying to understand nature.

    It’s been a while since most people couldn’t care less about religion when they eat and drink with their families. It is not necessary to explain anything to religious people. Let us just hijack the date and make it ours.

  33. carla carvalho says

    I´m an atheist and i enjoy christmas. Not for the religious reasons but because it brings me a lot of memories and allows me to go back to my childhood. that´s pretty much the reason. I really don´t like when atheists make atheism a new kind of religion and everyone has to follow in order to be a accepted. Live life, enjoy as many moments you can. That´s my religion.

  34. says

    I am quite shocked after reading all the comments. Almost all atheists celebrate Christmas. I feel like a nut. Probably we are all nuts who do not believe in god and do not celebrate god related festivals like Christmas, Eid, Puja etc. Religion has invaded societies. Not only Christmas, all religious festivals are more about social gathering, food, clothings, shoes, sweets, music, lights, gifts. Religion looks like more a social thing than a personal or religious thing. But actually religion is a religious thing from top to bottom. I believe in freedom. Atheists love to join religious festivals, they have the right to do so. I think it is better not to forget the origins of the festivals. Not many ancient festivals that we celebrate today are free from superstitions or religions. I have suggested atheists celebrate some healthy, humanistic, rational and reflective alternatives. But it seems most atheists prefer Christmas to all other alternatives.

    • Crunchy Renee says

      Oh, I like all those days you suggested. But I can’t get everyone to get off work and coordinated to have a party on those dates. Xmas, and other state holidays (USA) are convenient because everyones ready to party, mostly off work and willing to make the effort to travel or whatever. My family is so spread out we usually do holidays on off days anyway, so we can afford the travel off peak 🙂

      I will steal any holiday that looks fun, strip the religion out of it, and have a great time. Same with Xmas.

    • says

      Almost all atheists celebrate Christmas

      Those from traditionally christian countries probably do, yeah. Why are you so shocked to find out? Remember that in most of the Western world save the US, secularisation is rampant, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up our nice traditions.

      Religion invaded society long ago.

      I’m pretty sure there never has been a society without religion, when defining society as anything more than the traditional hunter-gatherer clan.

      I suggested some healthy, humanistic, rational and reflective alternatives for celebrations. But it seems most atheists prefer Christmas to all other alternatives.

      There nothing wrong with commemorating more secular alternatives to christmas, but neither is it wrong to continue a tradition, even if it has its roots in religion (whichever religion, as christmas has pagan roots). We’re atheists, we can celebrate anything we like!

    • nathanaelnerode says

      “Not only Christmas, all religious festivals are more about social gathering, food, clothings, shoes, sweets, music, light, gifts.”
      Always, dating back to ancient Egypt and Sumeria.

      “I think it is better not to forget the origins of the festivals.”
      Well, yeah! But the religious people are lying about the origins! The festivals, as far as we can tell, predate religion. Arguably, religions were built up around the festivals. It’s hard to tell for sure from the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian evidence (because religion *already existed*), but the festivals, which were organized around major economic events such as harvest and planting, appear to have come first.

      I actually have a long-standing grudge against religion for co-opting ancient economic and astronomical festivals, and pretending that it owns them. The “reason for the season” has nothing to do with Christian mythology, but the Christian nationalists want to convince people that it does. Don’t let them. The same apparently happens with Diwali. It’s time to secularize these festivals *aggressively*. They are about the seasons and the sky and the weather and nature and those are things it’s worth keeping people connected with.

      To be clear, I personally celebrate the Solstice on its actual astronomical date, rather than “Christmas”.

    • says

      To me many of the holidays you mentioned human rights day, international labour etc don’t seem like holidays to celebrate to me so much as days to reflect upon how far we’ve come and how much work we still have to go. Also its just easier to organize everyone together around the national holidays, especially as we keep moving farther apart.

  35. mnb0 says

    I celebrate religious holidays whenever I feel like. If I don’t feel like I don’t celebrate. Religion is not going to decide what I should celebrate or not either way (positive or negative).

  36. CoffeeZen says

    I was raised in a traditional episcopalian family. I was an alter girl from the age of 6 til 18 & started questioning my faith at 12 before becoming vocal about it at 16. However, I never once not wanted to be on that alter as I was proud to carry on the family tradition. It never occurred to me until after both my children were baptized (I was then 22) that I even had a choice to no longer be a Christian. Or that I didn’t have to introduce Santa into my childrens’ lives. I really thought that was what I was supposed to do, so my husband & I followed along as we were brought up.

    By the time I found the courage to tell the family that I was an Anti-Thiest, both of my children had already had a few Christmases under their belts. Also, my husband, who found himself question his religion by this time, had every happy memory if his grandfather -whom raised him- from around this holiday season. So he and I made a decision: we would raise our children in an atheist home, teaching them with rational knowledge about all religion and to celebrate the Holiday Season as a time of giving, being with the ones we love and being thankful for everything we have. And yes, Thanksgiving, Winter Solecist, Christmas & New Years are the words we use to symbolize each of the dates that day may follow on. These are our traditions, amended from the generations before ours, as I expect will happen within the generations after ours.

    (Some insite from my now 12 year old daughter & 10 year old son:
    My oldest is & has been since she was 3 an atheist. Has always been angers with me that I had her baptized as she feels that should have been her decision. She asked me at the age of 6 if Santa was real & specified that she wanted the truth. When I told her no, she said she figured so since neither were Gods, but that we weren’t aloud to tell her brother.
    My son still, at age 10, believes in Santa thanks to his sister & being homeschooled. He does not believe in a God, but doesn’t really talk about it. He says there isn’t a point in discussing it if it’s not real, that there are better things to do with his thoughts.)

  37. nathanaelnerode says

    Many of the ancient pagan holidays are astronomical, and I have enough respect for astronomy to want to celebrate the Solstices and Equinoxes. You don’t have to actually believe in the sympathetic magic of lighting fires to bring the sun back in order to want to light fires and turn on lights in the winter.

    People really like rituals and parties. Astronomical events are among the best events to base rituals on (because of their repeated and predictable nature). So we should all have Solstice parties!

    I am ticked off that Christians stole it and renamed it Christmas, though.

  38. h. hanson says

    I do Christmas so as not to make my mother sad. I would prefer going to her house for dinner and not exchanging gifts but she prefers gifts and so we go along with it. I also have an elderly lady over Christmas Eve. When these people are no longer in my like I probably won’t bother anymore. Personally, I would like to be put into a coma for the month of December as the crappy music is making me want to scream. But for now I don’t want to see anyone sad and alone at the holidays so I go through the motions for them.

  39. matty1 says

    I see no good reason to assume that being miserable and po-faced should be the default and fun and seeing friends and family something that needs a special excuse. Take the chances you get to do the things you want to do for your own reasons and if calendar convenience means those chances come at the same time as a religious festival so what?

  40. says

    Because it’s a day off with family. Jesus and Santy don’t really need to be real to make use of that.

    I mean, I hate my family except my girlfriend, who’s across an ocean from me, so I don’t really care much about Christmas, but I recognize the utility here.

  41. says

    Who made you the official atheist holiday police?

    Yes, I could celebrate International Children’s Day or Official Boxer Shorts Rebellion Day, but those holidays do not have their own cultural history and ritual, as Christmas does. Those other holidays do not evoke fond memories of family and friends and fun, as Crimbo (and in my family, Hanukkah, too – we double-dip) does.

    Crimbo/Festivus/Yule/Solstice/whatever you call it is a good excuse to relax for a few weeks, enjoy friends and family, share gifts and celebrate another year together. This happens to fall during the darkest point of the year, literally, and it’s bloody cold out there, too!. So some lights and decorations and shiny things are also heartwarming.

    Just because I do not believe in any god is no reason to throw the fun part of the cultural holiday out of our lives, too.

    No latkes or Crimbo cookies for you, Taslima!

  42. Simon says

    Although I believe in a Creator, I do find Christmas a very uneasy time – far too commercialised for my liking.

    Other festivals such as Diwali don’t receive half the attention that Christmas and Easter do, commercially, and for a supposedly secular nation in the UK we sure make a fuss over the big two traditional Christian festivals.

    Jesus Christ (an actual historical figure) was actually not born in December – he would have been born six months after the Jewish Passover, so around September or October depending on the season cycle. I do wonder if making the Christ Mass in September/October a purely religious festival and then separating it from the ‘end of the year knees up’ is the way to go.

    That way, those Christians and believers who oppose the commercialisation of the modern Christmas would have their own religious festival and would not be obliged to join in events from December 24th-January 1st.

    If people want to go nuts, get drunk, spend a fortune etc. at this time of year then fine – but do not do it because of Jesus etc. as that is a false reason. The same applies to those who go to Midnight Mass and that is the only time of the year they set foot inside a church. That is disrespectful, in my opinion – if you are part of ‘the club’ then you should attend regularly (I’m sure that the aethiests in residence would get miffed if one of their own was only a part-time aethiest and spent part of the week in church praying!)

    Point taken with the Christmas music!

    http://www.experienceproject.com/question-answer/If-You-Dont-Celebrate-Xmas-Should-You-Refuse-Or-Accept-Gifts-People-Will-Get-Offended-Either-Way/585059 makes for interesting reading.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Jolly December!

  43. TB says

    Cute how everyone tried to rationalize or justify their celebration of Christmas just for sentimental reasons. You celebrate Christmas because it’s been rammed down your throat your entire life any you don’t know any other way to exist. That’s the real reason why. Everyone mentioned family and all the material trappings associated with the holiday as an excuse. Just because I feel like it isn’t a good enough reason. Though it was originally a Pagan holiday, there are still many people around the world who take this holiday seriously and respect it as a religious holiday. If you feel some sort of empty void in your life where you need a holiday equivalent to Christmas to make you feel better, you can always create a new holiday to replace it. The winter is certainly long enough that there is room for such a holiday.

    • says

      Actually, “I like it” and sentimental reasons ARE perfectly fine justifications for doing anything unless there is demonstrable, unavoidable harm.

      And you can’t make up your own holidays, it doesn’t work that way. If no one is celebrating with you, it’s not a holiday.

      • kate says

        So everybody wants to have their cake and eat it, if you are commited to been an atheist does that mean that Christmas is a day to fullfill your wishes of materialism and a community, and mocking the believers.

        • kate says

          At least I know when I celebrate christmas and a person from another religion offers me a greeting during my holiday, I feel they are been truthful and meaningful and not just presenting a facade, and arguments to denegrate my beliefs. They themselves may spend the day with there family and celebrate their respectable holidays when they can even if they don’t fall on public holidays and I in turn I will greet them and offer respect for their beliefs.

  44. says

    Quite frankly and excuse my rudeness but I am really incredulous here, I think atheists who celebrate christmas are the worst kind of sheep. You sneer at religious people all year then go out and celebrate christmas and bust your bank account with food, presents and trees because you have been so deeply conditioned by society that you need to do this and your children will be traumatised if you don’t give the avaricious little fiends piles of presents on that day.
    My family know better than to send me and my husband and son presents and cards on Xmas and don’t expect anything back. We have no tree or anything, it’s just like any other day of the year to me. I usually spend it doing DIY if my neighbours are not home.
    My son does not expect piles of expensive presents and as a result is a nice mannered child who cares more about others than himself. He doesn’t miss what he has never had.
    Why the hell do I want to receive a nasty piece of cardboard from somebody who hasn’t spoken to me for 6 years or bothered to pick up the phone.
    We’re not complete scrooges, when it’s a family birthday we really push the boat out and make that family member feel very special and loved.
    Christmas = only for sheep.

  45. No you says

    I no longer see Christmas as A religious holiday, I see it as A family/consumer holiday. And in short I can celebrate what ever holiday I want, be it Christmas or Hanukkah

  46. shaf says

    Once upon a time there wasn’t any religion, and there wasn’t much to celebrate. Then people started to make up stories which turned into religion. So the masses at last had something to celebrate. The genuine atheist were scratching their heads and felt left out. Yes there is human rights day, anti slavery day to celebrate but its not quite the same thing. The solution for the atheist is simply invent another religion with plenty of science and spiritualty around it. A fusion of both is the future. After all, we are human beings that do not have all the answers of the universe and beyond 🙂

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  48. Peau Arreau says

    As you like to celebrate all those “day” – labour, world health(what a masquarade…health, when millions of people are dying every day because of lack od medicine), etc. other people are celebrating Christmas..so simple is that!

  49. Brea Jergins says

    Many Christians don’t celebrate Christmas, as it originated from religions pre-dating Christianity. The bible also makes no mention of the date of Christ’s birth, or that it should be celebrated- or indeed, that any kind of winter festival should be celebrated. It’s actually against the bible to celebrate a holiday that God has not approved of. For this reason, many Christians and I agree that Christmas is not technically a Christian holiday.

    I’m an Atheist. I love Christmas, for no other reason than that It’s very enjoyable–the lights, the music, the drinking, the food, etc. Even if Christmas were a very non-secular Christian holiday, I think Christianity is awesome in many ways, and it’s part of the culture I live in and was raised in. There are good values and fun stories associated with Christianity. For this reason I would have no problem supporting a religious Christmas. I don’t actually think Christians are very different than I am. We may have differences of opinion in what happens beyond death and how the earth and all living things were created, but we believe a lot of the same things as well. Being good to others. Living simply. Placing little value in wealth. Sitting in quiet contemplation/meditation. What they call God is really very similar to what I would call, “inner knowing” or, “consciousness”. My current family and all my ancestors were Christians, and most of the people living in my country are Christian. It’s the religion of my people, and has a place in my heart.

    The good messages about Christmas are still there– peace and love to all people. To give is better than to receive. But in my opinion Christmas has improved over the last few decades, because it has become secular enough that everyone can celebrate it. To me that is the definition of a true Christian and Humanist holiday.

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  52. says

    I agree with you.
    I feel that, as an atheist, I am kind of alone if I say that I don’t celebrate christmas, so I’m happy that I found your post. Celebrating human rights day seems like a really amazing thing for me, because this is something, I actually believe in.
    Since I am not adult still, I will celebrate my last christmas this year.


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