Should we just de-brand Christmas as Yule?

I argued in this thread, as I’ve being doing for years IRL, that Christmas is already a secular holiday that I (an atheist) will pass down to my kids (hopefully atheists, but who knows). I believe that treating Christmas as a secular holiday is more honest than rebranding every office Christmas party as a “holiday party,” which I believe is simply a way for Christians to maintain Christmas as a religious holiday while still giving the appearance of being inclusive.

This idea doesn’t seem to get much traction anywhere, even in the halls of the dope. How would y’all feel about taking baby Jesus out of it altogether and going back to calling it Yule? Could we have Yule parties without being accused of excluding people? It seems like an idea doomed to failure but I’m curious what others think. It’s certainlynot a new idea but it hasn’t seemed to get any widespread press.

You want to push the “Yule” name with people who are only familiar with “Christmas”? I’m not against it, but what would be the precise point?

Otherwise, this seems to be what I’ve been doing for years.

Is this the “War on Christmas” I’ve been hearing about?

Well, from my point of view, the rational one that realizes that there is no war on Christmas, it would give peace to the irrational point of view by separating out the already secular elements of Christmas and the baby Jesus part.

But I admit it might just embolden their resolve. Actually, it would most definitely do that. That’s an unfortunate side effect.

So, wait: would Christians still be singing about the birth of Jesus, and having their kids put on Nativity plays where There’s No Room At The Inn, and displaying big elaborate manger scenes all over the place, and et cetera, just like they do now? And everybody else would keep doing all the other stuff that they’re already doing now?

Except instead of calling it a “holiday party”, we now call it a “Yule party”?

I don’t see any problems now. The people who are religious who say “Merry Christmas” to someone are thinking of its religious significance. Those of us aren’t religious who say “Merry Christmas” to someone are saying the same as “Happy Holidays”.

This is a great idea. I suggest you tackle this head on, and make it your mission in life. Report back annually on your progress.

In other words, Yule be sorry.

I find it amusing that there are people who reject Christmas (as well as other Christian themes) in western culture and seek to replace it with things like Yule, which itself was a religious event that is:

  1. Even older than Christmas, so arguably less relevant to modern culture.
  2. Generally applicable to Germanic peoples and not all Europeans.
  3. A pagan “holiday” with some rather bizarre rites compared to traditional Christmas (such as animal sacrifices like slaughtering the sacred boar and hunts).

And, if we must be technical about it, the chosen date of Christmas was never intended to replace Yule…that happened organically as Germans converted over centuries. December 25th (or thereabouts) was chosen by the Romans to replace their original festival of Saturnalia.

Recognizable Christian holidays and Christian themes are a part of western culture and traditions and has been for the better part of a thousand years. And for a long time now it has also been an accepted idea in western culture that you don’t have to be a Christian or even religious to take part in these traditions, nor do you have to take part in them at all if you don’t wish to.

The idea that there should be some concerted effort to sanitize our own culture because a minority of people are offended by Christian themes seems strange and rather pointless.

Being a Christian myself, I obviously view Christmas through a lens of religion, but it is also a secular holiday within the context of our culture. I think having both sides of that, the secular and the religious, inherently makes it an all-inclusive holiday where it isn’t strange for an atheist or even a Jew to celebrate it. And I think it is very important for a culture to have things like holidays that are somewhat universally celebrated, even if we all can’t agree on religion.

Keln, welcome to the SDMB. That’s one of the best “first posts” I’ve seen in awhile.

How is it less inclusive to call it a “holiday” party than to call it a “Yule” party?

It is no skin off my nose either way. If you want to have a party, call it whatever you like. Same for me.

Probably not, but isn’t that the idea? You want to exclude Jesus from Christmas, so you call it Yule. That’s your right, but it isn’t any more inclusive than calling it Christmas and thereby excluding atheists.

And it depends on who you mean by “we”. You can do whatever you want. As can I.


I’d argue that this is just simply a half-measure at best. If you are an atheist who really wants to divorce secular culture from the religious origins of Christmas, well… don’t celebrate the holiday on December 25. Make it like Easter, where Christians (and whoever else) can celebrate it if they wish and replace the holiday with Winter Solstice or something. To deny the religious origins of Christians and just claim that it is wholey secularized is kind of silly.

Hell, what I call Christmas has presents, food, drink, family and friends, Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, snow flakes, a tree, coloured lights, etc. All of this with no trace of religion. Just as my Easter revolves around chocolate, decorating eggs, and the Easter Bunny. From my experience living in Canada and the US I’d say that there are large swaths of people who celebrate both holidays with no hint of the religious trappings. Why should we change the name when this is working fine for us?

Businesses may be getting flack from a small percentage of people upset that they are not being catered to as they use “holiday” in an attempt to increase their market share or to be more inclusive of their employees. It can’t be hurting their bottom line too badly as they keep doing it and using Yule wouldn’t help there as, even if you could get atheists to go along it would still not be inclusive of people who celebrate other holidays this season (even if it is only New Years). Businesses are still going to want to include this market.

The thing that seems to escape both the Keep Christ in Christmas types and the evangelical atheists is that Christmas is a mashup of two separate events: Christmas, per se, an important but definitely secondary celebration in the church calendar (Easter being, of course, the Big Deal), and the big year-end party, which, whether you call it Saturnalia, Yule, or Festivus, has really nothing whatsoever to do with the other.

As a moderately believing Catholic, I would be quite happy to separate the two events, and let the churches celebrate the birth of Christ, and let the merchants ring their cash registers for the Big Show. Not sure how to go about making that happen, however. Maybe the wester4n churches should adopt the Eastern church’s calendar and celebrate it on January 7?

Since the celebration of Christmas starts right around or after Labor Day, that would just add 2 more weeks to the 4-month celebration calendar.

Agreed. As a Christian, I am a “keep Christ in Christmas” type, but that message is meant for Christians who get caught up in what has become the bigger cultural celebration and let that obscure the religious meaning. It isn’t and should not be a message foisted on non-Christians, as it is pointless to force people to have faith (that undermines the entire idea of faith).

Christmas’ cultural significance goes far beyond it’s religious roots. It is a “thing we do” like all cultures have “things they do” which don’t necessarily have to have any special meaning to be enjoyed.

And I think especially in modern society, we need Christmas. Think about how fast paced and demanding life is now. We’ve replaced a lot of the drudgery of subsistence farming with an almost prison-like existence of bills to be paid and schedules to meet. We may not go hungry if the crops don’t turn out well, but the social pressures we deal with are immense. The Christmas holidays are the one time of the year where, all Christmas shopping trials and tribulations aside, a lot of the pressure disappears and everyone can just have a little fun and enjoy themselves.

And for some of us (people like me), Christmas is a connection to the past. A lot of tradition and such has disappeared from modern western culture, but this one time of the year we get to sing centuries old songs and use words that are otherwise lost to modern language. And nobody thinks it’s weird. I personally find the antiquated aspect of Christmas very enjoyable. I don’t want any of it to change, but being a student of history, I know it all will eventually. Christmas will be replaced someday, or even disappear altogether. I just hope I’m not around to see it.

I think the point is that “holiday” is generic and meaningless, but that “Yule” is a traditional, specific, and originally non-Christian term that people of any or no religion could embrace.

Adopt the term “Yule” for the season and the holiday that everyone - gasp! even Christians! - can celebrate, while Christians continue to have their Christmas, and Jews their Channakuh, and whoever their whatever. It’s an addition, not an exchange.

If it works for you, you shouldn’t, but it’s not working for a lot of people who feel specifically excluded, even more so when some start shouting about a war on religion if any effort is made to not exclude people.

I grew up with “Happy Holidays”; it worked fine for me, but that’s not an option anymore. We need something.

Who’s this “we” you keep talking about?

If I were sick of Christmas talk, why would I replace it with another religion that I don’t believe?

I mean, if I want to have a day where I take off work, and put presents under a decorated tree, and serve a nice meal, and decorate the house with lights, and drink eggnog, and hang stockings from the chimney, and watch old movies, I can do that any time. I don’t even have to have a name for it. The only point of the name is to talk to other people about what I’m doing. And then we can all do it at the same time, more or less.

If I’m just decorating the house and giving my kids presents because I feel like it, why should I only feel like it once a year on Dec 25th?

The point of calling it “Christmas” is that everyone does it, and we all do it together at the same time, and we do the same things. More or less, that is. If you don’t want to set off fireworks on July 4th, go ahead and don’t have a picnic and watch fireworks. But it would be kind of silly to have a picnic and set off fireworks on July 4th, but then insist you’re not celebrating Independence Day. Maybe you don’t give a shit about the founding of the country, like, you know, a lot of people. But doing the same thing as everyone else but calling it a different name doesn’t actually make it different. I can go home every night, eat Cheetohs, play video games, masturbate and cry myself to sleep, and calling it something else wouldn’t make it something else.

Well said.

Funny, we already do this in Norway. We call it jul.

Juletre, julegave, juleferie, julesang, julenisse, julefred, julaften, juledag etc.