Non-Christians: What is your relationship to Christmas?

Originally this question was going to be for Jews, but I suppose it can apply to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and any other non-Christians who grew up in a predominantly Christian culture. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re an atheist now, but what culture you grew up in. For instance, I’m an atheist, but I grew up in a Christian household, so this question doesn’t apply to me at all.

Actually, several questions.

-When you were a child, did you celebrate Christmas in any way?

-Did you believe in Santa, or were you told that he was a myth that other kids believe?

-As an adult, do you celebrate in any way?

-If you have kids, what do you tell them?

I was raised Jewish (Reform), and have been an atheist since I was 13.

When I was a child, we lived in an overwhelmingly Christian neighborhood, and my parents didn’t want us to feel left out. So we celebrated Hanukkah and also had a Christmas tree. We got presents for both.

I don’t remember ever believing in Santa, But my father did dress up as Santa one Christmas.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, for entirely non-religious reasons. Last year, for the first time, I put up a non-denominational tree. A really nice 7-foot artificial pine with 800 steady white lights and an additional 450 randomly blinking. I’ve been buying decorations for several years, when they become half-price, and was amazed how many it takes to fill a 7-foot tree. It is now up, in all its glory, for its second season. The kitties love it.

When I was a small child some attempt was made to celebrate Christmas but I only recall being disappointed. We were poor and there was a war distracting from everything. As an adult I have been fairly successful at ignoring Christmas. Neither the spouse nor myself have any children.

hilarious that the picture of your “non-denominational tree” is saved as a file titled “xmas_tree”. what is a non-denominational tree and how is it distinguished from a Catholic, Baptist or Methodist tree? Uses contraception, can read, has sex with the lights on?

Mostly, I just find it incredibly boring. I’d enjoy a normal weekday more.

I was also raised Jewish (Reform), and have been an atheist since I was 16

When I was a child, we lived in an overwhelmingly Christian neighborhood and we celebrated Hanukkah even though all of my friends celebrated Christmas. My friends were jealous of us celebrating for 8 days, and I was jealous because they got all of their presents at one time.

I don’t remember ever believing in Santa. At a very young age my parents told me he didn’t exist and I went ahead a spread that around and destroyed many innocent childhoods.

I have a very casual Christian wife so we put up a fake Christmas tree and celebrate Christmas with her family but we also celebrate Hanukkah with my family… very confusing. If I had my druthers we would celebrate neither.

It’s hard raising kids in a mixed family. I didn’t force religion on my daughter and she claims to be half and half… which really doesn’t make any sense. She celebrates Hanukkah with us and Christmas with her mom.

Jewish here. The holiday itself, I can take it or leave it. You put lights on your tree, I light candles, each to our own.

The Infinate Christgivingween Experience, I could do without. Not because of Christmas or Thanksgiving or Halloween themselves, just the endless commercial holiday season.

The godawful inflatable lawn displaysshould be banned for aggrivated assualt to good taste.

As for the Happy Christmas vesus Happy Holidays wars, I really don’t care. If you aknowledge a major public holiday that I don’t do, the sky won’t fall. If I were that sensitive I’d move to Israel.

I’m an Atheist.

When you were a child, did you celebrate Christmas in any way?
Yes. I was raised nominally Christian, bu it was never a religious holiday for us. It was purely cultural.
Did you believe in Santa, or were you told that he was a myth that other kids believe?
I have no memory of believing in Santa, but I’m sure I did when I was young enough.
As an adult, do you celebrate in any way?
Yes. I exchange presents with family and a handful of friends.
**If you have kids, what do you tell them? **
I don’t have kids, but if I do, I will continue to celebrate it the same way I was taught, even down to pretending Santa’s real and explaining the popular Christian origins of the holiday.

Once they’re older, I’ll also explain the pagan framework to the best of my understanding.

Christmas in my family doesn’t have much to do with religion. We have the tree, presents, turkey dinner and family gatherings, but there is no mention of Jesus, God, etc (at least not on any belief/emotional level). My mom does have a rather pretty nativity scene that she occasionally sets up under the tree, but that’s because it belonged to her grandmother and, as I said, it’s rather pretty. Enjoyed as art rather than a display of religious feeling.

Essentially, we celebrate secular Christmas! I love the lights and decorating my tree with my collection of Christmas Uglies (ugly ornaments no one else seems to want!)

I suppose I believed in Santa as a child, and enjoy the myth, and I’m not worried about any damaging effects a silly story could have on a child. They all figure it out eventually. My mom still gives us gifts “from Santa”. I’ll share the story with my children if/when I have any, and I’ll let them know the religious origins of Christmas, but it’s still going to be secular in my home. As my hypothetical future children grow up, if they wish to explore/choose a religion, I’ll accommodate them as much as I can, but I wouldn’t ever fake agreement.

Raised Reform Jewish, but my parents were both raised Orthodox and had lived in Israel… so our flavor of reform was a lot less… umm… Americanized? they were more like proto-reconstructionists, philosophically. They go to conservative synagogue now. I’m basically non-practicing.

No, unless you count “cultural exchange activities” like going to a friends house for tree trimming, and then having them over to our house for dreidl. Never in our own home.
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The latter, and despite strict instructions NOT to tell other kids Santa is mythical, I did burst the bubble for a friend. Apparently at the age of 5 Santa struck me as an extremely stupid idea no one could possibly believe sincerely. (I thought everyone sort of played along to maintain “the spirit” of the holidays, but didn’t believe for real)

Not directly. I do give gifts as it is customary this time of year and attend parties if I’m invited. I do directly celebrate Chanukah.

Don’t have kids, but would tell them the same as told to me if I did.

Raised Jewish (Reform side of Conservative) atheist since I was 18 or so, but still enjoy being culturally Jewish.

When I was very little, before 5, I got presents. We had no tree - they appeared before the door to the basement. After that my parents stopped with the presents and we did Hanukkah, but at a pretty low level.

I don’t remember if I believed in Santa or not. I think I probably accepted him when very young, and when I figured it out it was no big deal.

Before I got married I didn’t celebrate at all. My wife was a nominal Christian, and her family had very specific and mostly non-religious Christmas traditions (her father is an atheist also.) I had no trouble buying into them. She used to go to church on Christmas eve with her mother and the kids for the music, while her father and I moved the presents around. When the kids got older they stayed home with me. However, even today, when they are both well over 20, they don’t want to see the presents under the tree until Christmas morning. They give me their wrapped presents to put out.

About five years ago my now son-in-law got kicked out of his house Christmas eve, so we quickly got him a lot of presents. He likes our Christmas far more than the way his family did it, so he is an eager convert. Before his father died he didn’t even go home (across town) on Christmas, now he does to keep his mother company, for a while anyway.

-When you were a child, did you celebrate Christmas in any way?

No, not really. Well, we sometimes got a present or something but that was it.

-Did you believe in Santa, or were you told that he was a myth that other kids believe?

It was a myth that the other kids believed, and my parents would mention stuff about not giving it away for the others. For me, Santa was a character in TV specials or movies, not a real person. Though I vaguely remember a guy in a Santa suit at my fourth birthday for no real reason, and me freaking out horribly. Heh.

-As an adult, do you celebrate in any way?

Actually, sort of. The thing is even though my family is Muslim, my great grandmother was English, so back when she was alive (before my time), she’d have huge Christmas parties that my mom and grandfather remember fondly. So for the last couple of years we’ve gotten together on Christmas and had Xmas dinner. With Christmas pudding.

-If you have kids, what do you tell them?

N/A–no kids!

ETA: My brother and I did watch a LOT of Christmas specials, and we still do. I live for that Rudolph TV special thread that we revive every year, for example. It’s a huge nostalgia thing.

Reform Jew

-When you were a child, did you celebrate Christmas in any way?

No. Wasn’t our holiday, and we had no more interest in celebrating it than Bastille Day.

-Did you believe in Santa, or were you told that he was a myth that other kids believe?

I was told that he was a myth that other kids believed, and not to spoil it for them. Being an obedient child, I never did.

-As an adult, do you celebrate in any way?

No.

**-If you have kids, what do you tell them? **

I don’t have kids, but if I ever do, I’ll raise them celebrating Jewish holidays, with a tolerance for and understanding of other people’s beliefs and celebrations.

Too late to edit, but when I say we got a present it was more like my parents sort of thinking, well it’s the holidays and other kids are getting gifts, so it was kind of a concession to that…

Funny you should mention it.

I was raised Reform Jewish, and we never celebrated Christmas as a family, though I would certainly participate if my (mostly quite nominally) Christian friends invited me to do Christmas stuff. Stepmother #1 was also a Reform Jew, and she and her kids did Christmas in a BIG way, which I thought was really weird.

Anyway, as a hardcore choir geek, my favorite thing about the holiday has always been the choral (and other vocal) music. In fact to this day I am the one who organizes Christmas caroling every year for my bunch of childhood friends and choir buddies. Now some of them have started to bring their kids. We walk around the neighborhood and knock on doors of houses that look like they are in the spirit, have decorations up, etc. Usually people are happy to see us, offer us cookies, etc.

A couple of years ago, we were just about to finish up our caroling rounds, and on the way back to our apartment we decided to hit one more house. It was decorated with all sorts of lights, but the crowning glory was a huge tree covered in lights on the front porch.

So as is our custom, our merry band launched into some hearty rendition of a rather secular carol (I think it was “Good King Wenceslas”) and rang the doorbell. The man of the house came to the door and stood there, brow furrowed, until we finished the song. We asked if he had any requests, and his response was that he wasn’t a Christian, so he would prefer that we not bother (and to which our response that a number of us weren’t Christians, either we just like singing together). And then he launched into a rant about why the hell people assumed he was a Christian because of the tree on his porch, because after all, the Christians had co-opted the Yule log from the Druids.

Although I am nominally Jewish, my parents were totally secular and I have no memory of ever believing in any god. I thought it was fiction and was kind of surprised to find there were people who actually believed (I still am). While we never had a tree (and I still have never had a tree) we got presents on Christmas. My wife (who has no more religious belief than me) insisted on giving the kids 8 days of Chanukah gifts. But we don’t do anything special on Christmas day. I understand that there is some tradition among some Jews of going to a Chinese restaurant that day.

My daughter, who works for a publsher, gets a lot of Brownie points by working the week between Christmas and New Years (as well as Dec. 24 and Jan. 2). The periodicals she works on still have to be published on schedule and everyone else in the office is trying to get time off. My wife and I will take the train to visit her and her brother who lives close by on Christmas day because the train is empty that day.

Conservative Jew here.

My parents NEVER celebrated Christmas. I was told Santa was a myth but not to tell the goyim children.

These days, my family celebrates Christmas by seeing a movie together and then going to an all you can eat Chinese restaurant.

In the beginning Catholic, then Episcopalian

personally, I don’t remember ever really believing in Santa, but we were never told it was a myth until we learned it for ourselves.

I look at it as a time to be with family and friends. Before I got married I avoided all the crap like trees and decorations and actively encouraged no gift giving. I would rather spend time with the ones I care about and not worry about whether I got or received the right gift. My wife likes all that stuff so I do it for her, but I avoid all the religious crap and celebrate it as family time. I still pretty much avoid most of what I hate about the holidays while enjoying the good aspects.

I don’t have kids and won’t. My wife has been there and done that so when we married I became an instant grandfather. I still celebrate mostly the way I alway have, but if ever asked, I will give my point of view and explain my reasoning.

Yes, every year. My father is Jewish and my mother was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, though I think they’d both consider themselves either atheist or agnostic. My sister and I were raised celebrating the Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashonah, Passover, Chanukkah) as well as Christmas. We’d get chocolate bunnies for Easter. But we never attended any kind of Temple/Church/Hebrew School/Sunday School so the religious aspect of both faiths was completely non-existent.
We’d have a Christmas tree & a menorah next to each other. I loved it! My Grandma would give us presents for Chanukkah and then my parents would give us presents for Christmas.

I don’t remember if I believed when I was a very young child or not. I know that at one point I knew I did not, because I remember finding the presents in my parent’s closet, but I can’t remember if I ever seriously did beforehand or not. I doubt it.

Yes, I go home to see my family and we put up the tree and exchange presents and all that, exactly the same as we would when I was a kid.

Don’t have kids, don’t have any plans for kids, but I would raise them the same way my parents raised me.

Yes, it does make sense. I’m another half-and-half here and I’ve been told all my live it doesn’t make sense but I’m telling you it DOES. Virtually every half-and-half I know would agree with that sentiment.

It’s because many, many people treat religion as something as innate as race, or like a slightly different form of ethnicity. On a certain level of logic it’s nonsensical but emotionally it’s a different story.

Although, really, my mother was much more atheist than Catholic, and dad was never much into Judaism. They exposed us to both because they felt we needed to know something about the cultures of both sides of the family, and as part of educating us about the social we lived in. Some years were more Christmas and some more Hannukah and eventually it was just an excuse to get together and exchange some gifts that could happen any time between December 1 and January 1.

The Santa myth was, as a recall, not something kept very sacred in our household. From an early age I knew “Santa” was mom and dad and the rest of the family. Say, 5 or 6.

As an adult I might decorate with a winter/evergreen theme but I haven’t bothered in years (I have pets that would gleefully eat most such things). I usually have Christmas with just my husband (he’s Christian, so he does want to mark the holiday. In return, he helps me mark the Solstice/Yule) and we usually have a holiday dinner with friends sometime around that time. Couldn’t afford to give gifts last year, can’t afford it this year. I’m bringing homebaked bread and muffins to Christmas dinner instead.