Sunday Morning Survey – Should Christmas Be For Everyone (With A Little Calvin And Hobbes)?

Sunday Morning Survey – Up Early Because A Friend Is Having Birthday Brunch In About Two Hours And I Am Going To Collapse For The Rest Of The Day So I Might As Well Exercise The Brain Cells At Least Once Before Then.

Someone in the comments (hello!) for another post was rather surprised and thrilled to notice that I referenced Alom Shaha. In fact, Alom Shaha is coming to my home town, to the Perth Writers Festival – so do subscribe to this blog’s feed and to Alom’s Twitter stream to keep up to date about that!

But in the meantime, here’s something he’s written previously about atheism and Christmas - Christmas should be for everyone, atheists included; we should rejoice in the fact that Christmas is celebrated by people of all faiths and even those with none:

I know I wasn’t the only kid from a Muslim family at my school to wish I could experience Christmas in its full glory; now, as an adult free to make my own choices, I can. Like many atheists, I will be sitting down with family and friends for a special meal on 25 December. We will exchange presents and sit around feeling warm and fuzzy about each other, looking upon the world in general with a little more hope and forgiveness than usual.

 And here’s a thought to warm your cockles until they glow – many of my Muslim friends also celebrate Christmas, going as far as putting up a tree and eating a special family meal on the day. Unlike the Muslims featured in the Daily Mail who want to ban Christmas, these Muslims cheerfully ignore any irony, or potential sin against Islam, and embrace the joy of the season, their only concession to religion being to substitute a halal chicken in the place of turkey.

What are your views about Christmas – do you do as Penn Jillette does and only give presents to celebrate the New Year instead of Christmas? Or do you have a different reason for the season?

Speaking of which – we don’t get snow here, but I can see how another interpretation of the season could be rather joy-giving:

About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Elf Eye

    This atheist and her family have been celebrating “Christmas” for years–there is just no “Christ” and no “mass” in our solstice festival. We eat a lot, laugh a lot, exchange meaningful gifts, and visit with family and friends. Not only do we have a celebration on December 5th, we also have one on January 6th, corresponding to the festival of the Three Kings. And we celebrate the pagan festival of Easter, too! Never mind that it has been coopted by Christians (like Christmas itself). It is a delightful way to mark the advent of spring.

  • Gordon

    I think christmas already is a secular holiday and I dont understand why so many people are in a rush to grant ownership of it to the christians.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Thank you for the video. I remember Calvin’s snowpeople fondly.

  • magistramarla

    I used to be a Latin teacher, and I became an Atheist when while studying ancient cultures and religions, I realized just how much of xianity was “stolen” from other religions and cults, including Mithras and Isis.
    My students and I would celebrate Saturnalia in my Latin class just before the winter break under the guise of having a “culture day” and learning about the foods that the Romans ate. (I was teaching in Texas, and thumbing my nose at the fundies without their knowledge).
    Our family has always celebrated the day as a secular holiday – the end of another year, a break from school and work, and a good excuse to blow off some steam. It also fits in very well with honoring the ancient tradition of having a celebration mid-winter.
    My hubby and I have the perfect secular holiday tree. We’ve been collecting Hallmark Star Trek ornaments since the mid-70s. We have a small artificial tree filled with them, with blue and silver bulbs (for the Federation). I’ve added a sterling silver star to the top and a shimmering peacock ornament to represent Gene Roddenberry, the great bird of the galaxy.
    We live far from our adult kids, so we will exchange small gifts that we’ve placed under the Star Trek tree, and then perhaps see a matinee movie. I’ll prepare a nice dinner, and we’ll call our kids (except the one who is traveling in Egypt with her hubby) and listen to what the three grandsons have to tell us about their presents.

  • John Morales

    What are your views about Christmas – do you do as Penn Jillette does and only give presents to celebrate the New Year instead of Christmas? Or do you have a different reason for the season?

    A period where one is supposedly obliged to be celebratory and which one cannot avoid. Bah.

    I stopped giving presents (and cards and so forth) when I became of age. I give presents when I think it appropriate, not when societal pressures dictate.

    (Of course, the supposed Christianity of the event is just a patina on older, pagan traditions)

  • F

    Christmas – I do it insofar as family obligations require, but I have a habit of avoiding it as much as possible as far back as I can recall. There are elements of the holiday which I respect and find good, but they seem strangely limited to the day or the “season”, which strikes me as being particularly sad.

    Still, without reservation, I can wish you all a happy christmas.

  • Lou Doench

    I’m an xmas head, hopelessly addicted to the tradition. I still can’t wait to open my presents, even if at my age they usually aren’t toys.

    Love the video. It would go well with this t-shirt.

  • Pjevs

    I don’t think Jesus would be very happy with Christmas,wasn’t he a modest man?

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM.

      Jesus was born on Christmas. That means he only got one set of presents all year instead of two like most of the rest of us. :-þ

  • Vikram K. Mulligan

    Whether or not Christmas need be religious, and whether or not non-Christians sometimes choose to celebrate Christmas, it’s important to remember that Christmas is still a cultural tradition that belongs to only a subset of the people of any diverse society. While there exist Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, etc. who do choose to celebrate it, there also exist people from all of those groups who just as reasonably choose not to, since it is not part of the culture with which they self-identify (or it actively conflicts with their religious beliefs). These people are no more “wrong” to avoid Christmas than those who choose to celebrate it are “wrong” to celebrate it.

    The biggest problem with Christmas is the expectation that it be universal. I’ve never encountered a Jew or a Muslim who reacted with shock or belligerence when informed that I don’t celebrate Hanukkah or Eid; the explanation that “I’m not Jewish,” or “I’m not a Muslim,” is generally accepted quite readily. The same is not true for those who celebrate Christmas, on finding out that I do not. If I had a nickel for every time that a person who celebrates Christmas reacted with, “But Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!” or, “But everyone should celebrate Christmas! Where’s your Christmas spirit?!?” I’d be a rich man.

    Cultural imperialism comes in many forms, and perhaps the most insidious one is that motivated by apparently benign desire to have everyone celebrate a holiday that one personally enjoys, without recognizing that others might not. I don’t know what the situation is like in Australia, but I worry that, here in Canada, many of the diverse cultures represented are being pressured to suppress their own traditions, and to homogenize. Worse, many of our public institutions, including public schools, still help to establish Christmas as the cultural norm, alienating Canadians who do not conform to that norm, or indoctrinating children into a culture different from that of their parents. (From experience, I can say that being made to feel like an outsider in one’s own school — not by bullies, but by the administration — is a pretty traumatic experience for a young child.)

    For those Christians and non-Christian celebrators of Christmas who observe Christmas privately, in their homes and/or places of worship, I wish you a very happy Christmas. For the rest, though, who shove Christmas down the throats of those not culturally Christian, it’s time to learn to treat others’ cultures as equal to your own, and to cease to expect everyone else to celebrate your holiday.