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Atheists at Christmas, what do you do?

(43 Posts)
SweetN0thing Fri 09-Sep-16 20:39:29

I'm just wondering if there's anyone who feels like me on this. I do not think of myself as belonging to any religion, I was brought up in a Christian household but just never got on with the idea. I never gave Christmas all that much thought, it's just one of those things basically everyone does (in uk anyway) and I just have gone along with it. I may not believe the Xmas story to be true but I sang the carols etc and all that malarkey.
Anyway, past couple of years I found myself in a state of turmoil, "what is it all about?" I found myself asking. The bombardment of Xmas related songs and adverts just become overwhelming. It's all consuming and I have felt suffocated by it the past couple of years.
I don't know many people who seem to genuinely celebrate the birth of Christ it just seems to be all about the presents. Who can spend the most? Is the philosophy drummed into us through the tv and other media. It feels so empty and hollow. Without a genuine reason for celebration buying presents for everyone you know seems a ridiculous indulgence (that I struggle to afford) We have 3 DC though and I know how much they look forward to xmas. But why are they getting presents? What reason do you give them for that?!
I'm already starting to dread it, there's no getting away from it.

MarriedinMaui Fri 09-Sep-16 20:42:43

I celebrate it as a midwinter festival. I guess it's the old pagan idea of Yule that was around long before Christianity. It's roughly the time of the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year; a time to fill up your house with light and nature and warmth and good friends or family to see you through the darkest days.

MarriedinMaui Fri 09-Sep-16 20:43:45

Does make it a bit hard to celebrate if you happen to end up in a hot country for Christmas..,

Floralnomad Fri 09-Sep-16 20:44:36

I'm an atheist , DH is not but he's in no way religious , our DC ( who are now 17+) have always known the story and equally know that I think it's tosh , religion has no part in our Christmas ,it's simply a family celebration which involves presents and our family traditions .

Ratley Fri 09-Sep-16 20:47:23

That's a good question, we are atheist but your thread has made me doubt that as I don't question that we are celebrating Jesus' birth but I don't believe in god.
My Gran's were christian though so maybe it is just ingrained.

ralice Fri 09-Sep-16 20:51:04

I see it as an 'all-family holiday'. Throughout the year you've got birthdays, mother's day and father's day, anniversaries, etc - Christmastime can be seen as 'family day'. It's a time to celebrate being a family, which includes spending more time with each other, eating a special meal together, exchanging gifts which show how you appreciate each other, etc.

I'm an atheist, as are the majority of my family and my OH, though we do have a weird tradition of going to church on Christmas day, enforced by my agnostic mother! Weird eh?

MagicalHamSandwich Fri 09-Sep-16 20:51:33

We all spend it at my mum's. I'm an atheist, my sister's agnostic, mum's wiccan, dad's some kind of generic new age crazy and normally we have all sorts of lonely souls of all religions or none over as well.

We have a tree, Christmas dinner, presents and normally just end up getting pissed and arguing about politics, which invariably ends up being what I like o refer to as our traditional Christmas family row. It's brilliant grin

A few years ago we actually went to midnight mass at the local church as one of our house guests had never been to a church service in his life and was curious.

DozyDoriss Fri 09-Sep-16 20:51:35

^^ What Flora said

SharkBastard Fri 09-Sep-16 20:53:17

Seen as judy family time here. DD is aware of the Christian element but is also aware that they borrowed it from elsewhere.

We love Christmas, the food, the booze, the family time, the laughs. Religion doesn't factor in our celebration of family and the year

Anasnake Fri 09-Sep-16 20:54:02

Celebrate Yule, Saturnalia, the Winter solstice, feast of Mithras and a hundred and one other midwinter festivals that predate Christianity and that many aspects of Xmas were based on.

SharkBastard Fri 09-Sep-16 20:54:52

*just...not sure what judy has to do with it ;)

notagiraffe Fri 09-Sep-16 20:55:07

I grew up in an atheist household and my dad definitely saw it as a pagan festival - Yule or saturnalia - most religions have a mid winter festival to take our minds off the cold dark days, and fill them with feasts and firelight to stop us from hibernating. You don't need to be a Christian to celebrate mid winter - evergreens, misteltoe, mulled wine etc all come from earlier celebrations than Christianity.

GinIsIn Fri 09-Sep-16 20:59:15

I bloody LOVE Christmas. I've also been an atheist for as long as I can remember. The things I value about Christmas are togetherness, generosity, family and celebration. Those have very little to do with any gods. There has always been a festival at that time of year, way predating the Christians. And Divali and Hanukkah both fall at that time of year too, which isn't a coincidence.

I think Christmas is a time to celebrate love and friendship San family, and if some people want to tie that into a particular god that they believe in, that's entirely up to them.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Fri 09-Sep-16 21:01:08

We eat, drink & be merry. I think there's something primal and pre-religious about having a giant feast at the dark time of the year, especially when the days are just starting to get noticeably longer. Presents are nice too.

MagicalHamSandwich's day sounds fun!

Artandco Fri 09-Sep-16 21:01:37

It's just family, food and time off here. No religion involved

Kids love the Santa and elves malarkey

Flisspaps Fri 09-Sep-16 21:02:16

It's a nice break in the middle of the misery of winter to enjoy good food, drink, company and to share presents.

It's pinched the Yule festival anyway.

I hate the fact it starts in bloody August though, shops should be banned from Christmas stuff until mid-November at the earliest.

Tubbyinthehottub Fri 09-Sep-16 21:03:21

I'm atheist and have a tree, Christmas dinner and presents. I know Muslim and Hindu families who do the same. I think Christmas is kind of hard to avoid and I'd feel a bit bah humbug (heh) not joining in. We always celebrated Christmas when I was a kid even though my parents are not religious either and I always remember it being such a magical time. To be honest, I don't know anyone who is a 'real' practising Christian and I think for many people in the UK it's more a time for family rather than the Jesus stuff. I mean, Father Christmas??

CrotchetQuaverMinim Fri 09-Sep-16 21:21:37

I think you can concentrate on the midwinter festival side of it, family and friends, celebration, presents, etc.

And I also don't see a reason not to celebrate it as the birth of Jesus, even if much about the actual story isn't true - I tend to think of it as being based on some events that probably happened, to a very rough extent, and that he was an influential person and did some good things, regardless of what people did in his name afterwards, regardless of whether every aspect was good, regardless of whether someone believes the Son of God part, etc. So I can make peace with the idea that people might want to do something to celebrate his birth, without having to believe in or agree with much of the Christian view of things.

And I can see the story as being an allegory rather than literal truth, so don't mind singing carols about highly improbable events.

I can also appreciate the historical aspect of it, that it's something that's been celebrated in the culture for a long time, and has changed in all sorts of ways over time, but it can still be seen as part of my culture - the lack of religious belief is part of those changes. Many cultures have some unusual traditions that probably at one point involved belief in something that most people there no longer feel is true, but they still enjoy the traditions, food, costumes, etc as a part of their heritage that they can be proud of.

And traditions like Santa/Father Christmas can be brought into that. Tradition of charity, peace, love, etc are valuable whether there is a God involved or not.

anyway, that's how I reconcile it all

FrancesHaHa Fri 09-Sep-16 22:59:19

I'm an atheist, brought up by atheists. My parents made it clear from a young age that Christmas was an ancient festival, many aspects of which were appropriated by Christians.

I see it as a cultural festival, a time for family to come together, for children to have some fun in the depths of winter.

It sounds as though its the consumerism of it all, as much as the religious aspect of Christmas which is concerning you. Would it be helpful to find ways to cut back on the present giving (eg children only, limited amount)? We tend to celebrate it in a fairly frugal way, not too many presents, no trips to Santa etc. doesn't mean we don't enjoy it, but I tend to do more things like making crafts with dd, spending time with friends. I realise this might change as she gets older though.

CodyKing Fri 09-Sep-16 23:22:22

I think shops stocking christmas stuff in September really drags christmas s down -

How much simpler to to start in December? Short list - a few cards and gift wrap?

Now it's must see Santa must go on a work party do secret Santa - visit all rellies- decorate the tree and add lots of trimming cook them perfect dinner -

Look at all these ingrained - must have X chocolate and Y drink? Xmas pudding sprouts ... List goes on

Lorelei76 Fri 09-Sep-16 23:35:48

OP I hear you, I find it all bonkers

I don't have kids but I do have god children - spaghetti monster children? - and a couple of friends who want to do gifts no matter what. I now do only small gifts of the sort I'd get them anyway, so you know if you're out and you see something and think, oh Jane will like that, I just buy it and save it for Xmas. Never more than a fiver, happy to spend on birthdays but with Xmas I feel I'm just fulfilling a crap societal convention.

I have tried having the conversation with my friends but they were honestly upset at the thought of not doing Xmas gifts and some if them are atheists too. Thing is I'm not a consumer either and I hate all the waste so that's why I just save something id have bought them anyway.

I don't do cards.

In my case it has got worse because now my sister, also an atheist, wants to do gifts, which is new for her. She's decided it's fun?! We stay with others at Xmas so helping with turkey etc is a given but I just think, oh well, it's food, of course I help prep it.

My other atheist friends go to some lessons and carols events run by atheists and talk about it being time to appreciate our family friends. Isn't that all the time?

I get really bad SAD so now I tend to see it as celebrating the worst of the winter being over because the shortest day has gone.

Finally, I hate how so many essential services reduce at Xmas and I don't see how in a country where so many people are not religious, we have our two biggest bank holidays set for religion.

End of rant.

ToffeeForEveryone Fri 09-Sep-16 23:46:01

Bah Humbug!!

There is a genuine reason to celebrate, which is that once a year everyone makes an effort to be nice to each other and has a naice turkey dinner :D

It's a midwinter festival. The reason for celebrating is to cheer everyone up. Have some sodding mulled wine and a chocolate orange and stop overthinking it halo

ToFindAndWakeTheDreamer Fri 09-Sep-16 23:49:44

Christmas is an ever-evolving tradition, if that's not a contradiction in terms. It has Christian elements (The Nativity), Roman elements (the timing of Christmas day) Pagan elements (Christmas trees), Monarchy elements (The Queen's speech), modern media elements (Bond films on TV, the Xmas Cinema Blockbuster, Christmas specials, Christmas No 1 single), Victorian elements (gift giving), Dickensian elements (Scrooge), Germanic elements (Santa) etc etc. We have a diverse culture with a long history and many influences, Christmas reflects that perfectly.

Christmas is so diverse, I think it's best treated like pick-and-mix - enjoy the bits you enjoy, ignore the bits you don't. Ignore the pressure to enjoy ALL the things.

LozzaChops Fri 09-Sep-16 23:50:14

Atheist from a long line of atheists. We have a tree (he lives in the garden year-round and comes in for a fortnight or so every year) and I try to decorate as much as I can. I've worked in posh-end food retail for the last 8 years so Christmas is horrendous and I'm usually in a coma as soon as I get home on Xmas eve.

We never really had much of a Christmas when I was a kid, and I'm the only one that has festive inclinations - if it was up to me I would drown the place in stuff. Tend to adopt a Yule-based aesthetic, holly and ivy all over, although we do have a set of nativity tree decs that get hung on some twigs. Joseph has done a runner so Mabel the Angel Cow has stepped into the breach there. She and Mary manage just fine.

Presents are an absolute afterthought in my family. I think my mum got me toothpaste (...charming) and a book (that I had already read) from the charity shop last year.

I get horrible SAD too so try to grab onto it as a few days of silliness and no commute in the dark.

OdinsLoveChild Fri 09-Sep-16 23:56:59

We celebrate Yule, it's brilliant because my DH can usually get that date off work unlike 25th December. Food, games, family and a few drinks. We have the tree, lights and loads of sparkly crap. I tell my children the story of St Nicholas and the Pagan Holly King and the Oak King. We make plans for the garden over the next year. We don't mention 'Christmas' or 'God/Jesus/Church' it's just not relevant to us.

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