Monday, November 21, 2011

'Twas the Month Before Christmas

This will be my first holiday season as an outed atheist, so as December approaches, I've had an internal monologue going about whether to say "Merry Christmas" (as I've always done) or "Happy Holidays" (or something else similar.) After much deliberation with myself, I've come to the conclusion that I'll say... Merry Christmas! Here's why.

First, the holiday season was always Christmastime when I was a kid, this despite the fact that it was not about Jesus. Sure, my mother told us about Jesus and Mary and the virgin birth, but not in much detail. It's obviously too late to ask her what she really thought about religion, but whether she considered herself a Christian or not, I definitely have the feeling Mom didn't buy into the literal story of Christ's birth. I have vague memories of attending midnight mass as a young child, but church wasn't part of our Christmas season in any way for most of my memories. My parents' gradual separation from the Catholic church provided me an almost non-religious, mildly "Christian-ish" childhood, for which I am thankful.

While not about Jesus, Christmas for me is and always has been about family. Yes, the gift giving and receiving is fun (and not related to Jesus either, despite the retrofit of Jesus's birthday to the pagan holiday that already occupied the calendar.) It's a time to share love and season's greetings with your family and friends, to reflect on another year, and to spread wishes of peace through the world. Rum-spiked eggnog is also really, really important.

Another reason I will stick with "Merry Christmas" is that I don't want to call my Christmas tree a "holiday tree." I just don't. I tried it out and it just seems silly. Similarly, I want to give Christmas gifts and not "holiday gifts." I want to make Christmas cookies, send Christmas cards (though I've been known to draw a line through the word Christmas and write "Hanukkah" when sending one to a Jewish friend), listen to Christmas music...You get the picture. Now, I am not in any way opposed to and certainly not offended by atheists who don't want to use the word Christmas in these situations (hell, my whole point here is that it took me a while to decide for myself. I see the other side to this, too.) But for me, December 25th and the weeks surrounding it are and always will be Christmas. The bottom line is that I don't think of it as celebrating Jesus any more than I think of the month of January as celebrating the god Janus, and don't feel the need to rename either one.

And on that note, here's a very awesome, sappy poem by Digital Cuttlefish that I read this evening on the subject of Christmas from an atheist point of view. I love it.

The reason for Christmas is bigger than Jesus;
It’s bigger than even a God up above.
The reason we gather together this season
With friends and with family, simply, is… love.

The stories they tell of a wonderful heaven,
The myth of a savior’s miraculous birth,
Are mere consolation for leaving behind
All the love we encounter in one life on earth.

More precious, more rare than the greatest of treasures
This life we are living—each one, we know, ends;
I wish you a love even greater than Christmas
And hope you will share it with family and friends.


  1. Glad I am not the only Atheist who loves Christmas! I agree with you completely.

  2. Merry Christmas to you too, Leanna! :D

  3. I make Christmas cookies and give Christmas presents and am completely delighted by Christmas trees... but I always say 'Happy Holidays' to strangers and others whose theo-political orientations I'm not sure of because 'Merry Christmas' could be (mis)construed as religious and a. I don't want to offend (or just make uncomfortable) non-Christians and b. I don't want to (mis)represent myself as a Christian and c. anyone who chooses to take offense at being wished a happy holiday season can bite me.

  4. Well said, M! :) Happy holidays!

  5. Well, I'd like to make a comment here. I grew up celebrating "Christmas" with my family until I was about 13. I believed in Santa, we always had a Christmas tree up, I always had presents under the tree marked from Mom, Papa, siblings and Santa... but when I hit 13-14, we stopped. We began to just do the gift exchange games, where you buy a gift worth max. $20 and you draw a number to pick. We did however continue celebrating Christmas for my nieces and nephews who were too young. (So a child is not pointed out and teased throughout his/her life, they should not be necessarily totally stolen from the idea of Christmas)

    I was at an age where I didn't understand why we celebrated "Christ"mas if we weren't Christian. My father is Jewish born (Not religious at all..) and my Mom claims Paganism. I, myself, am an atheist to an extent. I do believe in the Greek Gods but not the same way it is portrayed religiously.

    But I also understand and respect other people's beliefs. What has been driving me COMPLETELY insane lately is the RIDICULOUS remarks that people are ruining Christmas and trying to destroy the religion by not saying "Merry Christmas". Has people gone insane? Not everyone celebrates "Christmas" and there is not just one holiday celebrated at this time of the year. To avoid insulting one's religion, I rather say Happy Holidays because it is a holiday time of the year! Mithras, Hannukah, Christmas, & Kwanzaa (And maybe more, I do not know them all) are all celebrated during this time! The ignorance people have for other religions and holidays has grown so high to almost the point of no return!

    The Americans & Canadians have completely forgotten what Christmas is about! I would love to share something that was posted by a friend on his Facebook... if you don't mind me stealing shine from your blog post, Leanna.

    "I was @ The Bay at STC on the weekend and when I was cashing out, I wished the cashier a Merry Christmas and she looked at me with so much joy and thankfulness and replied, "I am so glad you said Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays". It made me realize that the real meaning of Christmas is disappearing just because of people getting offended of hearing the phrase "Merry Christmas". I do not mean to offend other religions or beliefs, however, this is a Christian country, we believe and praise Jesus (at least I do). My point is, we shouldn't have to change our religion or the way we wish Merry Christmas upon someone just because the person beside us doesn't celebrate this wonderful time of the year. JUST SAYING."

    The meaning of Christmas was NOT how it was said or who celebrated it or how it is conducted... but it is about family and cherishing your time! And the worst part about it... Canada does not have an official religion. Not many countries do have official religions.

    This is why I think all religious holidays should be erased from the Calendar and Thanksgiving should be the only holiday celebrated ALL over the world!(I know Thanksgiving is not religious)

    Sorry Leanna, but your blog posting sparked the fuel. Well done! I respect your choice!

  6. Lmao, maybe I should just get my own blog. /facepalm