The Reason for the Season

My father recently came across somebody who said…

This year and every year I will remember the true reason for the season….Jesus is the reason for the season and I will continue to keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I might have been convinced had they used just one more exclamation point.

Dad responded with his usual measured eloquence.

Jesus may be YOUR reason for the season; however, THE reason for the season is the winter solstice, which was here and being celebrated long before there were any Jews, let alone any Jesus.

“Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.”

Don’t take my word for it, by all means LOOK IT UP. If you continue the “reason for the season” crap, it makes you look ignorant. Of course, if a lie you like is more important to you than a truth you don’t like, please keep on as before. However, if that is the case, it really says some very negative things about your honesty.

I can’t help but wonder when I hear “I will continue to keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS”….why don’t you also carry on about keeping MASS in CHRISTMAS? Shouldn’t you (and everyone) go to mass on Christmas? If not, why not? Why one and not the other? It just strikes me as curious you would be vehement about one part and totally ignore the other part of “Christmas”.

I don’t think anyone cares if you “keep Christ in Christmas”, but it certainly it appears that you may have a problem with those who choose not to. Quite often, there is an ugly, bullying aspect to this dispute, in which the pro-Christmas forces are not only asking, reasonably, that their religion be treated with equal status and respect but in which they are attacking legitimate efforts at inclusivity. I don’t care if you keep Christ in YOUR Christmas, but you have no right whatsoever to try to make anyone else try to keep him in THEIRS. None. Zero. Nada.

There is something profoundly wrong with the behavior of Christians using Christmas in their Culture War against modernity. It is claimed by some that use of Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas excludes Christmas and is anti-Christian. This is nonsense. People use “Happy Holidays” to cover all holidays during the season, including Christmas. Christians who get upset over this aren’t seeking tolerance or respect, they are seeking privilege and status. They want others to make them feel better about themselves by treating Christianity as special and more important than other religions.

It isn’t. And it’s followers are not better–and no worse–than anybody else.

Some are turning the phrase Merry Christmas into a fetish, something done for its own sake instead of using it as a sincere greeting. It’s an aggressive statement about one’s own identity that is thrown in the face of others as a challenge or even an insult. It’s not about defending religious meaning in Christmas, but defending a religious identity and a set of traditional privileges. Only you know if you are one of these, but from the appearance of your post above…….you are.

We’ve reached the point where the traditionally empowered majority wants to stake its claim to a piece of victimhood pie. The “War on Christmas” has never been about religious freedom, individual rights, or even the supposed scourge of political correctness. Rather, it’s just an attempt to get attention, jockey for victimhood, and to impose your preferences onto everyone. The ability to celebrate as you and your loved ones wish to celebrate has never, ever been at issue. Never. Ever. So, I support your right to keep Christ in Christmas. It would be real American and tolerant of you to support my right not to.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • jamessweet

    I wrote a similar post last year. Christian, Jew, atheist, or Norse, all of us in northern latitudes have come to a common realization that winter is fucking depressing up here, and that makes it a good time for lights and feasting and spreading some good cheer. Christians are welcome to join us in this, and are even welcome to mutter some words about their sad little death cult while they’re at it, but to act like they own it? WTF?!?

  • KG

    As someone said, if we’re keeping the Christ in Christmas, how about keeping the Janus in January and the Woden in Wednesday?

    • sqlrob
      • Garf

        And Satyrs for Saturday… look them up if you don’t know them; christians (and jews come to think of it) would ‘love’ them.

        • Hein

          Actually, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, Saturday is named for Saturn, not Satyrs.

    • Gregory

      I prefer to keep the Sol in Solstice, but maybe that’s just my neo-Pagan background talking.

  • Charles Sullivan

    What a cool dad!

    Oh, sorry about your Raiders.

  • peicurmudgeon

    A number of years ago, people were putting all sort of decorations in the office where I worked. I made up this poster and put it up.

    Iv’e been using it every year since.

  • v1ctor1a

    You have the coolest dad.

    I work in retail but the store I work at doesn’t really care so much about Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas so I end up using a mix of both depending on the situation. I had a woman and her husband come into the store yesterday and as they were leaving they said “You have a Merry CHRISTMAS,” glaring at me and heavily stressing the Christmas as if they were daring me to respond with Happy Holidays or something. I just smiled and said you too but it never fails to amuse me when people like that come through the store.

  • melwalker

    “War on Christmas” seems to mean that certain people will get all insulted when you wish them well. It’s kinda like calling somebody a Nazi if they say “Gesundheit” when you sneeze.

  • Jeff

    Very well stated. I can’t think of a single aspect of “Christmas” that wasn’t ripped off from some other culture or religion. Then to claim your little group “owns” it is the height of hubris.

  • cypherpunks

    I’m very fond of “keep the Mass in Christ’s Mass”, too.

    While it doesn’t work on Catholics and Lutherans, of course, a lot of these folks are Baptist.

  • ajb47

    The other day, I decided that my answer to someone who says “Keep the Christ in Christmas” to me is to respond, “Slapping your name on something you stole, doesn’t make it yours.”


  • rikitiki

    JT…could I please get permission to e-mail this to my ‘born-again’ sister the next time she pulls something like this on me? It really is eloquent and hits all the points. Thanks for posting this.

    • John Eberhard

      I am honored. Of course you may.
      JT’s Dad

  • rikitiki

    Oh, and you might like my re-lyricing:

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Mythmas
    (sung to the tune of: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”)

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Mythmas,
    Cold and clear and bright
    Celebrating some ancient myths
    With our kin and with our kiths
    While we bask in the Yule log’s light
    It’s beginning to look a lot like solstice,
    Days keep getting short
    Parties and warm drinks abound
    While we wait for the turnaround
    ‘specially if you live way up North
    But they keep saying,
    “Keep the ‘Christ’ in Christmas”,
    And that’s just really lame
    ‘cause if they knew any history,
    Well, the only ‘christ’ there be
    Is in the god-damned name!

  • The Amazing Rando

    The delightful irony of the whole thing is according Jeremiah 10:3 of their own BIBLE, a Christmas tree is Pagan tradition so any Christian who has one is a card carrying Pagan. Apparently they miss that part of the Bible when it comes to this “War on Christmas.”

  • Sastra

    What a beautiful letter — reasonable sentiments well expressed.

    I say that nothing takes the Christ out of Christmas like atheists celebrating Christmas. The religious version of Christmas is an optional subset of secular Christmas. The names of holidays don’t necessarily indicate either their origin or their nature — or their “true” meaning. We don’t think one needs to be a Wiccan to celebrate Halloween, a Catholic to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or a Roman pagan to celebrate Easter.

    Christmas for everybody! I’m not going to play their game and agree that, as an atheist, I have no reason and no right to deck the halls, have a tree, give some charity, exchange some presents, or eat way too many cookies. There is no God and, damn it, I’m going to celebrate Christmas!

    It’s okay. I have a personal relationship with Santa Claus.

  • Rawnaeris

    I had to listen to both my mother-in-law (a Catholic) and my father (a Baptist) give the “Oh Noes, there are people who say Happy Holidays instead of CHRISTmas!!11!!eleventy!!” speech yesterday.

    I think I may have pissed my mother-in-law off a little bit because I replied that I usually use “Happy Holidays” to include New Years as well as my many friends who are not xtian.

    I also pissed my in-laws off last year by mass texting X-mas instead of spelling out Christmas.

  • H.D.Lynn

    The northern latitudes are depressing this time of year. I leave work at 5 and it’s already dark! If I go in at 7 and leave at 5, I never see sunlight for about a month. :/ So yes, I at least get to enjoy people putting up lights. Also, Christmas songs are awesome and latkes are delicious. Secular Christmas is great, and I take some joy out of the knowledge that atheists celebrating Christmas confuses people. :)

  • Rieux

    Jesus may be YOUR reason for the season; however, THE reason for the season is the winter solstice….

    What? Pffft.

    Clearly Mr. Eberhard is one of those fundamentalist militant Anti-Axialists, who pointlessly deny the fundamental role the one and true Axis of Earth plays in this holiday season. “THE reason for the season is the winter solstice”? What “solstice” would you have, pray tell, if it were not for our Axis’s beloved 23.5° tilt?

    As any astronomer could tell you, “the winter solstice” is but a shadowy, subjective (ask Aussies, Kiwis, Argentines, Chileans, South Africans, etc., how their “winter” is going this month), and human-concocted consequence of the true author of this holiday, Axial Tilt.

    End the war on Axialism! Axial Tilt is the reason for the season.

    Thank you.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    The whole idea of people getting pissy because someone wished them a “Happy Holiday” instead of a “Merry Christmas” has always struck me as equally absurd as someone getting bent out of shape because someone said “Good day” instead of “Good morning”.

  • Beaux

    Pops – 1

    xtian – 0

  • Ani Sharmin

    They want others to make them feel better about themselves by treating Christianity as special and more important than other religions.

    It isn’t. And it’s followers are not better–and no worse–than anybody else.

    This, this, this! I’m really enjoying your dad’s posts.

    I wrote a post last year addressing this topic and pointed out that being upset about “Happy Holidays” is rather ridiculous, especially when some Christian groups get upset about it being said in stores, since cashiers don’t have telepathic powers that we can use to tell which religion the customer is a member of (with an exception for those who might be wearing some clothing/jewelry indicating their beliefs).

    Also, clearly Weasley jumpers are the real reason for the season/the true meaning of Christmas.

  • Gregory

    I figured others might like this; I learned back in one of my theist phases (which I’ve fortunately outgrew.)

    Tune: Gloria in excelsis Deo

    Christmas time is pagan!
    Christmas time is pagan!

    Christmas time is here again,
    Decorations everywhere.
    Christmas carols ringing out,
    Gentle pagans, we don’t care.

    Modern folks all celebrate
    What they learned in Sunday School.
    In December, they don’t know
    They are celebrating Yule!

    Let them have their Christmas trees,
    Decked in red and green and blue.
    We rejoice at every one!
    Christmas trees are pagan, too.

    Bowls of bubbly Christmas cheer,
    Fill your cup and quench your thirst.
    They think the tradition’s theirs.
    Wassail bowls were pagan, first.

    Every door and window bears
    Wreaths of holly, wreaths of pine.
    Circles represent the Sun.
    Every wreath is yours and mine.

    Christmas lights on Christmas trees,
    Candle flames burn higher and higher,
    Let us cheer along, my friends,
    As they light their Yuletide fire.

    There’s a possibility
    That this song is yours and mine
    ‘Cause the tune was known to all
    Back in A.D. one-two-nine.