How Has Becoming an Atheist Affected Your Experience of the Holidays?

I got to thinking, while decorating my house for the holidays tonight.  Here I am, with my second child on the way, putting up Christmas tree.  Here I am, my first year as an "out" atheist (for all intents and purposes), so how does that shift the meaning of the holidays for me?

I wrote a piece about this on my blog.  (  But then I got to wondering, what about other atheists?  How has coming into your own beliefs shifted your view of the holidays?  Has it ruined the fun?  Has it made it better?  Is it exactly the same?  Is it stressful when being around religious family members? 

What's your take on Christmas & the like?

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The biggest difference is that I know a whole lot more about it. I know it's pre-Christian roots, previous incarnations of the holiday, other traditions. I see the amalgam that is modern Christmas and it makes me laugh at how un-Christlike the whole ordeal is.

Ask any Christian child what the first Christmas was like and I can almost guarantee that some mention of an evergreen and snow will come up in their image of a first century desert.

As for enjoyability? It's gone up. I don't have to wake up at fucking dawn any more but I still get an excuse to spend the day with people I adore.
Oh wow, where should I start? Well, persacution is alive and well within my family and marriage. I told my husband my belief and his response was, "So your giving up?" I wanted to kill him. We have been together for 7 years and I told him promptly that since I have never seen him with a bible, open a bible, go to church, pray, etc. that I doubt that he was very sincere about the belief in a god him self.....he then proceeded to go smoke a cigarette and we have said not about the topic since but once again there is a wall between us now.

My mother called me a heathen that has embraced the devil and that I need to find a church right now to save my soul...............

As for the rest of any so called family, well, they have always hated me and I them so this only gives them more of a reason to chastise me for becoming a slave to the devil.........

So of course I am surrounded by idiots who say they believe but fail to follow any true ways of the so called Babtist religion but are more than willing to judge others when one rule of a southern babtist people is judgement is not theirs to pass.

Soooooo, if you wonder why I am usually drinking you have your answer now. The holidays......all I want to do is go buy out the liqour store, rent a hotel room for the entire holiday week, and lock my self away..........this has never happened but hey we can always dream.

The holidays are over rated and too damn expensive for no reason.
Hi. Reading your other post in combination with this reply gives me a clearer picture of what you are up against. I'm sorry that you are surrounded by ignorant, rude people :-( If I were in that situation, I'd want to get as far away from everyone I knew as possible and just start my life over in a community that is more welcoming of non-religious people. I live up north in an area where there is a diversity of religious thought (including non-theism). If that seems too drastic of a change, might I suggest moving to a college town (a non-christian college), they tend to have more intellectual people around who are more understanding of different viewpoints. If your husband doesn't support this, then maybe he should get left behind with the religious, too.
If I assumed that the reason for "holidays" is what the Christian church would like you to think then I would probably not celebrate them. However, reading about the origins of many traditions, especially Christmas, lets me celebrate guilt free while I laugh (on the inside) at others who assign meaning where there is none. Holidays are just a way of celebrating challenges overcome and the hope of a new season. Enjoy them!
@ Tom & Louis...

That's wonderful that you have found your own ways of celebrating these holidays.

@ Adrianne...

I hope everyone in your family can put aside differences and still come together, religious or not religious. It's a shame your mother feels that way, but the good news is you don't. So it seems like it's really her issue, not yours.
As for the rest of any so called family, well, they have always hated me and I them so this only gives them more of a reason to chastise me for becoming a slave to the devil.........
- for Adrianne
If that's true, you have no obligation to continue contact with them. What good does it do to continue contact with people who hate you - you they can influence your children into hating you too? Or so they can show your children how a family is about hate? Or just to perpetuate dysfunction?

I am a orphan now for all intents and purposes, but had parents for most of my life - long distance. A tiny bit of family remaining, distant and unconnected. Never did like the so-called 'holidays' when there WAS family. Workplace has christmas decoration contest and potluck, I don't get involved and fortunately most of them dont try to force me, and most coworkers do respect and like me (I think).

I look at the holiday as a mass self-indulgence in "me me me me me me me" with an overlay of social and religious self-rightiousness and self-delusion. I keep that to myself tho. You may one day be able to view the time through the eyes of your children, with joy and love, I hope so. As for me, I like having the day off to take my dogs for a hike in the woods.
I am never an advocate of cutting off family. If they choose to do that to Adrianne, that is their choice. I am always going to support finding common ground, because that is completely OUR choice as atheists to maintain that kind of control. If severed relationships with family happen, it would be because others choose to severe them. All we can do is educate, execute patience, and hope they come around. Family members thinking we are wrong, satanic, mislead.... that doesn't mean we are. That's simply their perception of us. How can we change their perception if we severe contact with them?

I'd say Adrianne is up against a lot. She also married a man who thinks very differently from her in the religion realm. That's not something you can just walk away from. She & her husband are going to have to work through that. Or they're going to become a statistic.

I come from a family where my mother is a devout Catholic & my father is an atheist. I know that it's possible to work through that kind of stuff. Maybe not always easy, but possible. All Adrianne can do is make herself willing. If her husband is not, that's another matter.
I still have to play Christmas music every so often. As a musician, it's the big money-maker of the year.

My family puts up with Atheism, still decorating the house, not taking account of anything else. I suppose that's all I could want. Not to be persecuted.
@ Clare: do you have children? Are you typically with your parents & close relatives during the holidays? They are all aware you're an atheist?
My wife and I celebrate a winter solstice-ish holiday with family and friends. As we live in the south and have a few old wankers in part of the family, it goes by the name christmas for ease. Growing up, I don't think that either of us have every experienced a truly religious christmas, just a bonanza of materialism. So for me personally, I still don't believe in santa or jebus, thus not much has changed.

Like a pervious poster mentioned, modern American christmas (1950's+), is a far cry from any other iteration previous. Our, wife and my, reasons for actually celebrating such a holiday, other than it is part of our shared cultural tradition, is that this time of year is the coldest, darkest, and crappiest time of year. Thus, a celebration with warmth, food, friends and family to fend off the darkness, and anticipate the spring makes a lot of sense, and happens to be, more or less, the same reasons pre-christian pagans did so.

As for conflicts within the family, if someone's senile southern baptist grandma want to babble about blonde haired, blue eyed jebus, I say let her. That part of her delusion does no harm, however when that spreads to human rights issues (racism, homophobia and the like), I choose to battle those within the issue itself, and am known at times to rely on religious metaphors and quotes when debating a clearly religious person.

The world is full of people that will offend in every way, and family has a particular power. Since in this situation, the atheist is not part of the social in-group, it can be harder and one must handle situations with the utmost grace, as they are on display in those situations. Of course faux-christians will pick and choose bible verses, out of context (and from the old testament oddly enough) and then self righteously ignore anything that jebus character was known for (judging others...). In fact, those people are the overwhelming majority of christians I have ever met.
@ Super Fluid... have you ever been accused of being hypocritical for celebrating what is seen as a Christian holiday? I like that you've found your own reasons for celebrating, and they are positive ones. I am also with you on the "doing no harm" bit, because if we celebrate with family, that is ultimately always going to come up. I'm someone who'd rather not cause a ruckus or create an argument. It is only known to my parents that I'm an atheist, not to my in-laws, who are devout Lutherans.
Ask most modern American christians what christmas is about and why it is important to them, and I believe you still get responses about family, togetherness, tradition, and giving. We don't celebrate christmas as a religious holiday, but more because it is a shared cultural tradition. Call it christmas, festivus, or nothing at all. Hell, have it on different days or multiple times a year, I doubt I would get called a hypocrite for celebrating chanukah with a close Jewish friend. Even non-practicing Jews sometimes do this, because it is a cultural tradition. It might still have some religious associations to some, but that has no bearing on my belief, in fact preserving these traditions is seen as a good thing by sociological-anthropological critics if it were applied to non-whites in some remote place.

While I am at times an uber-curmudgeon, I see no benefit in demanding others "respect" my beliefs. I can do that all by myself. To me that is the antithesis of being an open, accepting person.

Background: I was born in the mid 1980's, so the only christmas I have ever known is rampant materialism, the jebus theme was not only sporadic, but clearly an afterthought of the media, not my family. Santa Claus was the leading imaginary figure involved by far. This is no different than a giant chocolate bunny. As I don't have children, my celebration is showing up with a dish and a bottle of wine. In fact, I honestly never have thought of christmas as any sort of religious holiday, as food and gifts have nothing to do with religion.




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