Why do Atheists celebrate Christmas?

I can’t speak for all atheists, I can only speak for myself, so please leave a comment below and explain why you celebrate Christmas!

When I hear someone ask, “Why do atheists celebrate Christmas?” my first thought often is: Better Question: Why do Christians celebrate Christmas?

Christmas tree? Nothing to do with Christ.

Christmas presents? Nothing to do with Christ.

Christmas lights? Christmas ornaments? Santa? Elves? Reindeer? Stockings? Nothing to do with Christ.

The vast majority of Christmas traditions are actually Yule traditions with pagan origins. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it’s in the lyrics of Christmas songs:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Similar celebrations have existed in several cultures throughout time, but eventually the traditions from Saturnalia and Yule and the “Grandmother” Pasqua Epiphania (she filled children’s stockings with candy), etc. were absorbed into Christianity. (I personally believe it was done to make transition to the Church comfortable and familiar, but I can’t provide you any real evidence for that.) So, Christmas really doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity or Jesus Christ… so why do Christians celebrate it?

Well, I imagine the real reasons are the same reasons why I celebrate Christmas: Friends, Family, Fellowship… and maybe some Food. 😉

I was raised as a Christian, but a sect of Christianity which does not celebrate Christmas (Jehovah’s Witnesses), so I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas. I didn’t start my life with any Christmas traditions. I think the first time I celebrated Christmas I was around 24 years old… and the person who ostensibly taught me how to celebrate Christmas was an atheist. Over time, I’ve produced my own traditions and preferences when it comes to celebrating. 

Before the craziness of the actual day, I like to get together with my loved ones on Christmas Eve, open one present together, and spend time goofing around, maybe drinking, and almost definitely doing so in comfy pajamas. Then Christmas Day will be spent with Theresa‘s family, which is the tradition of the last couple years, where we’ll play silly party games, eat food… and tease Theresa a lot.

I take great care in the wrapping of presents, but I think this one has to do with never having wrapped presents as a kid (and a little bit to do with my engineering mind that likes clean lines and everything to be ordered and neat). In the past years, I have not only wrapped the presents with paper, but I would often have them banded with ribbon and large bows, hand written name tags, etc. I haven’t done that in the last few years because my box of wrapping supplies is overflowing with gift bags… hm. (Theresa, I think we need to talk about the collection of gift bags…. Edit: It turned out that we just needed to organize the wrapping supplies box.) 

I prefer Noble Fir trees because I like the way the branches and needles are shaped (the photos above and below show our tree). I do have one rule when it comes to the decorations on the Christmas tree and it has to do with the topper: No angels and no stars. Really, I just don’t want any religious ornaments on the tree, but those are the big ones. Those are the two that actually link Christianity to the totally-not-Christian Christmas tree. This one vexes Theresa a bit, but she accepted that one requirement and found a big red bow for the top of the tree instead. 

I also have a preference, not a requirement, for certain types of ornaments on the tree: icicles, interesting geometric shapes, and little photo frames. Many of our ornaments are standard colored balls, but have been hand painted with designs by friends in the past, so they carry sentimental value. I like taking pictures of the tree after it is decorated and sharing the photos with friends on Facebook. This is one of my favorites this year:

Photo Ornament

I also prefer irreverant music instead of the standard choral, hymn-like songs…. for example: No Doubt’s cover of Oi to the World! Or any of Jonathan Coulton‘s Christmas songs, like Chiron Beta Prime.


Regardless of your religous beliefs or lack thereof, why do YOU celebrate Christmas?