Monday, December 13, 2010

The Reason For The Season?

I had an interesting encounter with an acquaintance last week and I'm still not entirely sure what to think about it.  This gal and I have known each other for awhile, but I wouldn't say we're close friends.  We have a few mutual friends and we see each other on occasion, but only in group type settings.  I was having a conversation with her at a holiday function and we got to talking about our plans for Christmas.  She was surprised that I even had plans for Christmas and asked me "With your beliefs, why do you even celebrate Christmas?" 

I suppose it's a valid question.  I'm an atheist.  I don't believe in god and I certainly don't believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin to save us from our sins.  I mean, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?  Anyway, I do realize that Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of this Jesus guy, but does that mean that I shouldn't participate in holiday festivities?  Even as a church-going gal until my early 20s, that's never what Christmas was about for me or for my family.  It was about being together, the joy of giving, being thankful, enjoying time with family and friends, WATCHING HOME ALONE A HUNDRED TIMES...you get the idea. 

I know plenty of non-Christians who celebrate Christmas.  I know Jewish people who put up a Christmas tree every year.  I have some Hindu friends who love singing Christmas carols and throw an annual Christmas bash.  For us "non-believers" (I despise that term, by the way) we still find plenty of joy in the holiday season. 

I don't think this person meant to offend me, and I'm not even entirely sure if I am offended.  I was just sort of taken aback by the question. 

What do you think?  What are your beliefs?  What is YOUR reason for the season?

19 comments:

  1. I'd be offended too! Christians have a tendancy to forget that Christmas is not a Jesus-exclusive holiday. Its about family, charity, good-will, and warm fuzzies. The Church "moved" Jesus' "birthday" to December 25th to coincide with an already well establish pagan holiday.

    The reason I, Ari the agnostic, celebrate Christmas is because I believe in the warm-fuzzies of family and good will towards all mankind.

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  2. Interesting. I say 'to each their own'.

    While I am firm in my beliefs I am not one that shares them often, as I know a lot of people do, so I too would be taken aback by her comment.

    When I get questions that hit a little too close for comfort's sake I figure a quick smile and change in conversation do the trick.

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  3. I wouldn't be offended; for people to whom Christmas is an exclusively religious holiday, it can be hard to understand what other reasons people might have for celebrating it. To me it's a joyful tradition and a time for family and gratitude, and I enjoy celebrating it, and that's enough reason for me. But I could see why it would be puzzling to someone who is actually religious. I have also had religious people ask me questions such as "how will your child feel safe and secure without a religion?" and "how will you teach your child right and wrong without religion?" Those are questions that I find much more offensive, though I suppose the same principle applies... if someone is used to viewing something through a singularly religious perspective, it can be hard for them to grasp other ways of doing it.

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  4. To be honest, as a Christian, I don't really think of Christmas as a Christian holiday. The history of it is just stupid. Same for Easter. Same for the traditional Sunday morning church service. It's just not how it's supposed to be, but I digress. So Christmas is just a holiday to me, a holiday for taking time off of work and doing the traditional holiday things. It's more of a celebration of my family's ancestry than anything else.

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  5. That was a rude comment for her to make. It's honestly no one's business what you do, when you do it, or how you do it. If you want to celebrate Christmas, celebrate Christmas! It's definitely more of a holiday that anyone can celebrate if they want to, as opposed to Hanukkah, which has a lot more traditions and understanding to it. I believe in God and that Jesus was His only son, but I DO NOT think it's up to me to judge anyone on what they want to do with their lives.

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  6. For me it's all about the religious aspect of Christmas AND the togetherness with my fam!

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  7. I think Christmas here in the US is not religious at all. It's more consumerist really. Besides that, a holiday is what you make it. It might be about religion for one person, but not for someone else.

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  8. Hm. I think that's kind of a rude thing to ask personally. I am a Christian and whatnot but I would NEVER ask someone who is a different faith something like that. I mean, was she trying to "claim" Christmas from you? Like, you aren't ALLOWED to celebrate and enjoy the season? Sheesh. It's about charity/goodwill and remembering others instead of yourselves. If that's Christ-centered, fine, but if it's not, who really cares? Can't hurt anyone.

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  9. I think even if she didn't mean to judge, the question in itself shows a bit of ignorance and judgement to think that Christianity is the only reason for celebrating the season.

    I do believe in God, and that is a FACTOR, of the holiday season, but so is family, friends, truffles and Starbucks eggnog lattes. The holidays are what you make them to be, not what it's expected to be by any one person.

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  10. The way I see it is that Christmas stopped being strictly a religious holiday a long time ago & lots of people celebrate it for the same reasons you do.On the flip-side, I've met Christians (who do believe in Jesus) who don't celebrate Christmas because they don't believe in it.

    Even though I do believe in a higher power, Christmas for me is more about being with family, eating good food & the warm fuzzies.

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  11. For me, it is a fun tradition and a chance to slow down and celebrate with my fmaily. The Christ stuff makes me a little uncomfortable, but I was raised by two Christmas celebrating atheists, and now I'm married to an athiest-leaning Jew. We celebrate everything anyway.

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  12. Um, what do trees with lights on them, toys and Santa have to do with Jesus? That was a very rude thing to say to you. If she was truly perplexed she should have just asked you how you celebrate or what the holiday means to you. XOXO

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  13. Ha! Well nothing like a friend to help you remember what Christmas is about...for you.

    For me it is about family and appreciation for the year. Because on New Years, although appreciative wine makes me forget it.

    Mary was nothing but a sorority girl in Bethlahem ;)

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  14. Hmm, interesting. I too wouldn't be sure how to respond to that. I would say that she probably didn't mean to offend and that it was probably based in true curiosity if she knows you as an atheist and she is a Christian but I also know that those Christians who say and do things like that, usually do it in some way because they are upset you're an atheist. She is probably annoyed that she sees you partaking in Chrstimas and all of that but she doesn't think you have a right to do so. Personally, Christmas for me is about everything you said and that is probably based in the fact that I'm not really religious. However, I do have a lot of respect for true Christians meaning the people that truly use religion to be good people. I have always felt that the ones who use "Jesus" in every other word or say things like what she said to you, tend to just not be that nice of people and they can be a "Christian" all you want but at the end of the day, they're just kinda rude and mask their judgmental, rude comments with their religion. I hope that makes sense! Either way, Christmas means something special to you and so I hope you won't change anything about it just because someone tries to take a part of that joy away from you.

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  15. I don't believe in most religious ideas, but I do believe in love and peace...and I believe in giving my friends and families gifts, drinking hot chocolate, and having fun with loved ones! I am excited to share the holiday with my husband and son, and it has nothing to do with any supposed idea of Jesus.

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  16. I had the EXACT same thing happened to me when I lived in Boise. A good friend asked in genuine curiosity "How do people like YOU celebrate Christmas?"
    I tried to take it with a grain of salt...but over the years it does get very frustrating how insulated people are in their own world and beliefs. Even people who I know personally and I know are fairly open minded, have such misconceptions about atheists.

    So my answer to that friend years ago was "To me, it's about love and family and goodwill towards man. Christmas is about treating others well and about kindness and charity."

    What bothers me is that other people who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc...think outside the box. They know that there are many other ways of doing things. Yet so many Christians seem to forget about the rest of the world. Maybe it's because we live in an very Christian country and it's easy to just think that their way is the only way. Being an Atheist...or honestly anything other than Christian in this country can be difficult. Especially this time of year.

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  17. Wow, that sounds like a rather rude thing to say to someone!

    I am Wiccan. I don't necessarily believe in Christmas as a religious holiday, but I'm not against it as one either. I guess you could say my religion is "Wiccan/easy-going" haha. In my eyes, what anyone wants to believe in is what is right for them. If I was in a house with me and Jen being Wiccan, my MIL and FIL being Mormon, my sisters being Catholic and than add an Atheist, Buddhist and Christian... I wouldn't have a problem.

    Everyone celebrates the holidays differently anyway.

    For me, Christmas - like for you - has always been about family. Giving and receiving gifts, yummy food, love and warmth. If Jesus is real and if he was born on Christmas - than it's his b-day and yay for him! And no, I ain't being sarcastic. But for me, it's a jolly time and that's about all.

    Now with Wicca, I also celebrate Yule (or I would if I'd kick my butt into gear.) Does that mean I think anyone else should? No.

    People and religion annoy me sometimes (and I mean that girls comment, not you!)

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  18. I'm an atheist too but still celebrate Christmas with my family because too me, it is not a religious holiday. You can make it one with trips to church, angel ornaments, saying grace at the table, etc. but you can also just make it about family.

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Talk to me, Goose.