Christmas and Secularism.

True story. When my father was still alive, we used to go to this Ram’s Horn in nearby Dearborn, MI. In case you don’t know, Dearborn (which is a suburb of Detroit, on the southern border) has the highest concentration of people of Arab descent in the country, maybe even world.

Anyways, I did like the menu items that were basically middle eastern. Yeah, the restaurant was definitely frequented by people of the Muslim faith. No problem with that. They even were open all night during the month of Ramadan, because Muslims are only allowed to eat at night then.

Anyways, around Christmastime, they used to put up pine and holly decorations up. Yes, I realize non-Muslims might have ate there too. But it still got me to thinking.

Has Christmas turned into a largely secular holiday? I know many religions still observe it. I was raised a Catholic. How could I not know that.

But still, just by and large, has it become a secular holiday, possibly even more pagan (forgive me for using that word–but I use it to make a point) than Christian?


Wikipedia Dearborn area population, arab americans

There are probably a couple of things at work here.

First - for those of us out here that are Pagan it’s not a bad word. Not sure why you thought that would cause offense but good on you for being considerate of others.

Second - money. Non-Christian business owners who have a sizable number of Christian customers will often cater to them in the interests of, depending on your viewpoint, accommodating their customers or exploiting them for profit. This is especially true of items that are not overtly religious, such as “pine and holly” as opposed to, say, a nativity scene. Even in Dearborn, any Middle Eastern restaurant is going to have a sizable number, if not a majority, of Christian customers. If “pine and holly” do not conflict with a Muslim owner’s religion and can help draw in Christian customers said owner is probably going to put up those decorations. Islam has no problem with making a profit.

Third - yes, Christmas, in the sense of a winter holiday, has a secular aspect. A lot of cultures have a winter festival, often incorporating lights, because this time of year (in the northern hemisphere) it’s just so damn dark all the time. That’s why this Neo-Pagan half-Jewish person has a silver and blue tinsel garland and poinsettia window clings up on the front window of her apartment. I also happily wish a “Merry Christmas” to any customer at the store where I work who is either clearly Christian or who says the same to me. (Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, and unknowns still usually get “have a good day” or “Happy New Year” or “happy holiday” or something along those lines)

There are some Christians who, to me, seem deeply offended that there are people either celebrating other holidays around this time or just enjoying the pretty lights and shiny tinsel without being a member of a Jesus-worshiping sect, but there’s not much I can do about them. They seem to be very unhappy people. I’d much rather hang around with Christians who are happy to let other people be who they are, and/or invite me over for a Christmas dinner and a present exchange without requiring those present to pass religious tests.

It is further the case that Jesus is recognized as a prophet in Islam. There is nothing wrong religiously with going along the Christian celebration from this point of view (if you are not substituting for God). It is not like going along with a pagan god celebration.

It is also the case that in the Levant which most of the Michigan muslims are from with its large number of the christians, it is perfectly common for the Muslims living near the Christians to assist in their celebrations in some way. So there is a completely levantine tradition there too.

In Japan, Christmas is celebrated as a secular festival, with its own weird traditions.

Of course it’s a secular holiday, in addition to being a religious holiday. That’s why almost every business, plus the government, is closed. As far as religious holidays go, it’s really supposed to be way back behind Easter – Christmas celebrations were banned by the Puritans. In my non-Christian viewpoint, I’d say Christmas is now taken more seriously as a religious holiday by some Christians than Easter. Here in the US, we don’t even get a day off for Good Friday or Easter Monday.

Given the number of Christmas sales and non-religious movies, it seems to be obviously a secular holiday on top of a religious holiday.

No one knows where and when Jesus was born, but we can be pretty sure that snow and fir trees were not involved. The pagan roots of Western Christmas traditions go back a long way.
Your story doesn’t surprise me at all. There is a very large non-Christian population where I live, and a lot of them are in the stores in December and have Christmas decorations in their places of business. It isn’t that uncommon for a Hindu and a Jew to wish each other Merry Christmas.
Secular today - kind of.

Just note that a lot of Arab-Americans are in fact Christian, including in Michigan.

Are there any truly religious holidays in the USA? Even Easter is secular imo, although it’s a bit more religious than Christmas. Easter is about presents, dinner and Easter eggs.

Easter is not 100% a religious holiday but Christmas and Easter are in clearly different categories IMO as to degree of secularization. Easter is the No. 1 Christian religious holiday but a relatively minor secular holiday by comparison to Christmas, the No. 2 Christian religious holiday but a huge deal as a secular holiday. They are not really comparable IMO.

And with other religions there are non-secular holidays. For example Hanukkah is a highly secularized holiday where it’s commonly recognized at all, ie. in areas with a lot of Jewish people, like my native NY. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur though have next to no secular profile even though important holidays in NY (lots of people off from work). They are pretty much strictly religious holidays.

That’s easier to maintain if your religion isn’t the main one of the dominant traditional culture. ‘No religious holidays’ seems to take ‘religious’ as meaning ‘Christian’. Which is a common shorthand in discussions of ‘religious’ in the US but of course isn’t literally the case.

If you travel to where there are no or few Christians, you won’t even be able to tell it’s Christmas. No Christmas market, no decorations, no public holiday, nothing-- just ordinary joes going about their daily grind. This suggests that Christmas is strongly associated with Christianity.

More than half of the population of the UK has no religion, but we still love Christmas.

of course, they are heavily from the Sham in general I understand. By a chance the New York Times has an article on the christmas celebrations in Beirut and you can read about the attitude of even the Hezbullah and Santa…

The American Santa is quite popular I can say as it has a non-religious sentiment about it that is just fun. from the article note even a woman from a village had experience with the Santa idea

besides the puritanical Salafistes who hate everything fun, music, purely Islamic holidays like the maoulids, people do not see it as a problem. The Salafistes of course will never be happy until no one is doing anything but chanting the approved version of their prayers 24/7 and wearing only their approved puritan clothes.

(the puritans of the two religions, they have a lot in common)

I’m not certain anyone disputes that.

i take it you have never been to Japan

That was mentioned earlier. And yet, Christmas remains not a public holiday in Japan, any more than in Qatar, Mongolia, Israel, etc. Interestingly, January 1 is a big holiday in Japan.

did the OP ask it were a public hiliday?

In fact, I believe the Arabs of Dearborn are still mostly Christians–though the Muslim population is growing.

You actually see a lot of Christmas decorations in Israel right now, except they;re not actually Christmas decorations - they’re Novy God decorations put up by Russian immigrants. And yes, they do bug some religious Jews a lot, but Novy God is huge in the Russian community, and the Russians insist that they have absolutely no religious meaning. In a way, it’s becoming a lot like all the iconography on St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. It doesn’t mean anything besides “Let’s celebrate being Irish/Russian” and “Let’s get drunk”.

A lot of retailers–possibly most of them, excluding grocery stores–make half the money they will make all year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, because of Christmas. This is why Christmas is a legal holiday in the States, and it’s the only religious holiday with that distinction. (Easter, a bigger deal to the Church, always falls on a Sunday so there’s no point in making it a legal holiday.) It is likewise a legal holiday here in South Korea, where only a quarter of the population observes it religiously, but all the kids expect a present nonetheless. Yes, the secular aspect of Christmas is a force to be respected.