An old-fashioned Atheist Christmas

I’m curious as to how the atheists here observe the holiday season. Do you participate in all the decorating, gift giving, etc., but avoid the religious parts? Or do you (or atheists you know) avoid the whole thing like adherents of other religions do?

I can imagine many of you simply go with the flow while visiting you Christian relatives, but what’s the actual atheist take on Christmas and how do you portray it to your kids?

I was brought up without religion. I don’t like to say that I was brought up an atheist, because religion just never featured. Nobody told me about there being no God, I just never had a need for one. (Yeah, that sounds corny, but hey, it’s true.)

(Edit: as I ended up as a musician, I’m thoroughly jaded by the whole thing already. Bloody fecking Christmas Concerts. Rant over, for now.)
There’s always a tree, we give presents. We go through all of the family-based rituals. Jesus doesn’t get a look-in.

And the OP’s assertion that ‘adherents of other religions avoid the whole thing’ is just not true. Christmas is a cultural occasion which has spread well beyond its religious meaning, and in western countries, there’s plenty of Muslim, Hindu and Everything Else families joining in on the same level that I do.

Put it this way: I don’t think anybody has a problem with me enjoying seeing fireworks on Diwali.

I’m an atheist who celebrates Chistmas, and I don’t have a problem with the religious aspects of it. I’m not going to midnight mass, or anything, but I’ll sing a few bars of “Hark, the herald angels sing,” when the mood strikes me.

Wife and I are both atheists, raised in Christian households, no kids. It’s the holiday season, everyone’s off from work, so we kinda sorta observe it (more in a Thanksgiving way). All our family is on the other side of the country, so we might send cards. At the very least, phone calls wishing Happy Holidays.

The only tradition we’re steadfast about is to get an ornament each season, although that’s more about providing a physical gift to mark and celebrate another year together. And my wife likes the blinkenlights and pretty baubles, especially with the snow, so she’ll decorate.

I give gifts and most of my favorite Christmas music are the religious carols 'cause the secular music really, really sucks for the most part. “O Holy Night” kicks ass, though.

Christmas is only as religious as you want to make it and I consider it pretty secular myself.

I give presents, I get presents, I get invited to parties, I get time off.
What’s not to like?

I’m a Jew and I celebrate Christmas. It has become more of an American* holiday than a Christian one, if you ask me. I mean, honestly ask yourself: what are the first ten things you think of when you think “Christmas”? [ol][li]Presents[]Shopping[]Santa[]Christmas trees[]Carols[]Winter[]Family[]Egg nog[]Rudolph[]Stockings[]Candy canes[]Sales at department stores[]Greeting cards[]“A Christmas Story” on network TV[]Yule logs[]People in Denmark setting their shoes outside their front doors[]I could go on and on…[/ol][/li]I doubt that “Jesus” would even make the Family Feud board.

*Replace with whatever country you’re thinking of that turns the holiday into a family get-together excuse and a consumer-fest.

I don’t believe in ghosts and goblins, yet I still celebrate and enjoy Halloween. Same thing here; I don’t believe in Santa or elves or the miraculous star of Bethlehem or anything like that, but I still celebrate it - at least the secular part of it, which far outweighs any religious component. I can’t remember the last time my atheism caused any cognitive dissonance on Christmas, but it must have been when I was a kid in Catholic school or something.

ETA my answer to the heart of the question, at least with regard to my atheism as it relates to those around me on Christmas: I haven’t been to church with my (Lutheran; formerly Catholic) parents for Christmas in years, and my (agnostic) sister hasn’t either. No conflict resulted, really - my parents just do it by themselves. That doesn’t matter much now anyway, as I live thousands of miles away from my family and tend to skip going home for big holidays because of the nonsense of holiday travel (and Chicago weather).

It depends on where we land for Christmas Eve/Christmas. If we go to my parents’ it usually includes midnight services, although I don’t take Communion. I don’t mind going; I enjoy Christmas carols (I like Easter music, too), and they usually include about 45 minutes of singing before the service starts. And now that my workplace lets us wear jeans every day, I kind of enjoy dressing up every now and then.

If my parents come to town, Mr. Kat and I have our gift exchange with them on Christmas Eve, then they go stay at my brother’s so they can be there for the kiddie greed-fest early the morning, and then we go over for lunch and exchange gifts with Bro’s family. THat sounded snarkier than I meant - hell, I still wake up at 5AM on Christmas rarin’ to rip into the loot!

Mr. Kat’s parents live halfway across the country, and his whole family has a really bad effect on him, so we avoid visitng them whenever possible.

We usually put up a tree, and Mr. Kat designs a card featuring the dogs in cartoony form. This year our cartoon selves may make an appearance, too. Usually we use some form of “Happy Holidays” rather than referring to Christmas specifically, but I think this year the slogan will be something like, “Have a (dog) hairy Christmas and a yappy new year.” It just depends on what strikes us as funny each year, and I wanted to work in the new year because I have a hilarious photo of our not-so-bright beast in a tiara that I want to see as a cartoon!

So mostly the secular aspects of it.

(One of the advertisements was, “One Christian, 30 atheists and a hail of bullets.” That’s the Christmas spirit!)

I basically ignore the religious aspects of Christmas. I was raised in a Methodist family that wasn’t real religious. None of my friends are religious. We give each other gifts but it’s more like it’s an excuse to give each other gifts to show appreciation of our friendship that something to do with Jesus.

I don’t have kids but for my friends with kids it’s more about getting together with family than religious. My best Christmases ever were with the extended family of some close friends - we would eat a big supper, the kids would open some presents and then we’d stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning drinking beer and playing poker.


Christmas is religious? :eek:

As Randy Seltzer notes, avoiding religiosity is much less an issue in modern day than actually trying to incorporate it into our Christmas celebrations.

when in the states, I grudgingly go along with the Christmas stuff. I exchange gifts with my wife and visit other people’s houses etc. My wife likes to decorate so I kind of go along with that. Sometimes we have a tree, if not, my wife breaks out this table top thing. I’m in the minority in saying that Christmas certainly is a Christian holiday (and one endorsed by the federal government to boot).

We do the whole thing, but we don’t go to church. We have Christmas dinner at my in-laws’ and they’re quite religious, so there is a prayer. I bow my head out of respect for them.

I’m an atheist and I love Christmas. We exchange gifts, Santa comes for my kids (complete with stockings, cookies left out, and a visit with the man himself). We’ll have our tree up in the next couple weeks, I’ve already baked my first batch of cookies, and I have the Yankee Candle Sparkling Pine tart in my tart warmer. My whole extended family will get together and do a big gift exchange game. We all send cards to each other. I think the only person who mentions anything vaguely related to Jesus is my brother (LDS) and my aunt (evangelical Christian) who both send religious cards. Otherwise, we can make it all the way to Easter in pure secularism.

I’m with Czarcasm.

Tree, lights, presents, family gatherings with big dinners (usually turkey), our annual Raclette party, playing in the snow, having fun. My parents have a nativity scene that they put out, but there are a few characters in there that I’m pretty sure aren’t in the original story! My family (except my sister) isn’t really religious, and whatever they happen to believe, they keep to themselves. My sister would want us to go to some sort of mass, but we don’t, and while it’s not what she would want, she doesn’t really get that upset by it. She meets her friends there (when she bothers to go, as it isn’t close-by), then comes back home, and respects our choice to not participate.

My in-laws used to go to church, but that wasn’t even a yearly tradition (we had a bad habit of having dinner first and forgetting to designate a driver…!) Health reasons, laziness, and the aforementioned lack of drivers have taken over and no one really thinks twice about it.

Speaking for myself (and my family, I guess), being atheist or agnostic during “national” holidays isn’t something we really think about. We take the elements of holidays that we enjoy, and leave the rest to people who want them. We don’t have kids (yet) but if/when we do, we will raise them to love and respect everyone, and they can make their own choices about the religion/stories/faith/whatever that they feel they need for the world to make sense to them. I find that easier than trying to convince anyone that any one point of view is “right”.

(On preview, that sounds a little snarky, and I don’t mean it to be. I’m not really sure how to express what I mean, though… :()

We do Christmas like a lot of people. We give presents and get presents, and drive a couple hundred miles to spend the day with family - none of whom are religious - and it’s always very nice. It’s like GorillaMan described it…religion just doesn’t figure into it.

I’m not offended by what people do or don’t. I don’t hate god or those who believe, or rail against christianity or the celebration of religious rituals. They are merely things that occupy no space in my life. I’d like to have a tree with all the trimmings, but we have four cats, and you can see where that’d go right away. So it’s not outwardly very Christmassy at our house, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate it like many, many other folks.

Getting Stuff Day has a religious component?

I’m an atheist and I teach at a Christian school (no pressure - I even gave a sermon once :eek: ).
Last Xmas I dined with the School Chaplain. He’s a thoroughly decent chap, so I respected the meal blessing etc.

I would have a problem with fanatical fundamentalists at any time.

It’s funny you should say that about midnight mass, though, 'cos in my experience that’s when the church is packed to the rafters with people you don’t see the rest of the year. Seriously, my old village church generally struggled to get thirty people in most Sundays, but at 11:30pm December 24th it was standing room only. We’re hoping for something similar at the place I live now, this year. :slight_smile: