An Atheist’s Guide to the Holidays

An irreligious christmas meal around the dinner table full of cheer. © Dr. Suess

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of laughter, good cheer and spending time with your friends and loved ones. However, if you happen to not belong to the Christian faith—or any faith at all, for that matter—the holidays can seem quite overwhelming.

What are you supposed to celebrate if you are not a part of any religion? If you don’t celebrate Christmas or don’t believe in the religion it was founded on, does that mean you aren’t allowed to celebrate it?

As an atheist in a predominately Christian family, I know what it’s like to struggle to find a place for yourself during the holidays. Many holidays that are celebrated during the winter—especially Christmas—seem to be deeply rooted in religion.

Does it make me less firmly rooted in atheism if I want to celebrate Christmas with my family? What would my family think if I decided that I wasn’t going to celebrate with them this year? Is there some sort of medium that I can find between the holiday season and my beliefs?

Many modern holidays have evolved quite dramatically from their original forms, at least in the U.S. Instead of focusing on religion, the winter season has transformed into a time that is more focused on being close to your family and friends and showering each other with gifts. It’s a time to reflect on all the things that you are thankful for in your life.

It shouldn’t matter whether you are Christian, of a different faith or belong to no faith at all; you should be able to celebrate whatever you want and be able to enjoy the holiday season. Because in the end, aren’t the holidays supposed to be about spreading good cheer?

It doesn’t seem right that not everyone can be happy when so many holiday traditions are designed to bring happiness. We shouldn’t limit our good cheer and kindness only to people who are just like us. People should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas, even if they don’t have a religion.

Instead of focusing on the apparent differences, we should instead search for commonalities. Because in the end, we are humans; we all have families, and we all deserve to be happy during a time of celebration.

I propose that we take this time of the year to be compassionate, caring and kind to everyone. And I mean everyone.

We shouldn’t aim to change people or try to find one holiday to fit all, because that would never work. However, if we ever hope to live in a peaceful world where everyone can get along no matter how different they might seem, we need to start somewhere. Why not here? Why not vow to make an effort, a really solid effort, to be the kind of person that the holiday season is supposed to inspire?
So whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, the winter solstice or the many cultural variations of the New Year, you should be able to celebrate it well and enjoy all the season has to offer, no matter what.


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