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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@ Super Fluid: That is a great way of looking at it. I especially like that you don't feel the need to have people respect your beliefs if you respect them yourself.

Has anyone looked into the history of Christmas and how it's evolved?
I will have to check out that article, Park. Thank you for the suggestion.

So knowing all this information, has it changed how you celebrate Christmas? Does it give you more confidence as an Atheist? Do you enjoy the holiday?
I suppose what I'm referring to is the notion that there are those that would criticize atheists for celebrating such a holiday because of its religious roots. I know that before I knew about Christmas and it's history, I felt a tad hypocritical for celebrating it like I did when I was little. Knowing what I know now, that changes things, of course. Maybe it's just me.

I have a daughter, too, and I'll admit I love watching the magic unfold for her at this time of year. I don't think there's anything wrong with letting your son believe in Santa Claus. I do understand the hesitation. We want to protect our children, not feed them stories. Yet I'm one of those weird atheists that doesn't mind doing so because I think it fuels the imagination. Like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek (not the same thing of course, except in the sense that he was an atheist and he gave our culture one of its greatest stories). But cultivating that kind of imagination in a child is not-in my opinion-a harmful thing. There will be plenty of time to hit them with reality when they get older.
I have often thought of the connection between believing in old st. nick, realizing that it is all a lie (from your parents no less), and children rebuilding themselves. Perhaps it isn't all bad. It could facilitate the growth of a young skeptic, hopefully in a positive manner.

Maia, I do have a question. What is involved in a proper Lutheran Christmas?
@ Super Fluid: You know that's a very good question. I'm not entirely sure of what the answer is. I was raised Roman Catholic. Anything else seems pretty low key from there. My husband's family is very Lutheran, and from what I can tell, they simply attend church and then do the typical traditions that we all do. I know my Catholic mother likes to attend the midnight mass.

@ Park- I think telling your child about Santa Claus isn't exactly the same as lying to him. I can understand seeing it that way. But that's treating it a little too black and white. Plus, I think there's ways of telling him the story without making you feel guilty about it. I.E. "Son, there are stories about Santa Claus and through the ages the folktale says that if you're a good little boy, he'll come and bring you presents on Christmas Day." It's all the angle you work it. Remember, children love stories and get wrapped up in their imaginations. That's the beautiful thing about children. I think you can find a way to swing it without putting that kind of weight on your shoulders. I wouldn't over think it. I don't think your son will. And there's no reason to believe that he wouldn't do the same for his children. It is what we make of it, I'd say.
Great link, Keely! Thank you!
I dont really have any religious family members so ever since I became an outspoken atheist it haven't really made a difference.

Maybe with the exception that in denmark it is customary to dance around the christmas tree and sing christmas songs that sometimes include hymns about christ. It's weird to do so but in my family is has more to do with tradition than actually celebrating christ. We dont talk about christ, we dont go to church, none of us own a bible. For us christmas is about getting together and have fun.

We dont wake up early. We wake up whenever we want on december 24th when christmas is held, prepare for the evening with good food, presents. We dont celebrate anything on december 25th.
It has very little to do with christianity.
@ Name: I'd say that's fine considering so many Christmas traditions are derived from pre-Christian eras. I still put up a tree, decorate it, and decorate the house. And I enjoy the whole thing, especially since I have children.
Yes, it's a wonderful tradition for kids - I at least remember how much I anticipated christmas, I know my siblings did too. But that probably had more to do with the presents than everything else :P
On my blog, while discussing the holiday season, I just got asked by a Christian apologist why I think what I believe is valid. Have you or anyone you know ever gotten asked that question?
Thank you, Park. That makes me feel better. I wasn't trying to pick a fight with the guy, so I chose my words carefully. Did you go to his blog? The link is here. Talk about plenty of fuel for the fire for people like us.

So, I decided to address the issue in a later blog, discussing why I am an atheist. Spending some time researching it, and maybe I can apply some of what we're talking about here with the Christian holidays. Richard Dawkins states that the burden of proof should be on the religious, not on the atheist. He sees God as a hypothesis.

How would you have answered that guy about why do you think your beliefs are valid?
Well said, Park. Basically reiterates the idea that atheists would believe in God if they were shown some kind of truth to it. Hence, the burden of proof is on the believer, not the atheist.




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