Christmas for Atheists

Question from Floyd:
As a devout Christian, I celebrate Christmas on a religious basis. Ever since was a child this day has filled me with joy. Do you celebrate Christmas with your children? If you do, how do you explain this holiday concept to them?

Answer by SmartLX:
I’m pretty sure nobody here is a parent, Floyd, but a lot of atheists in predominantly Christian countries celebrate Christmas just like everyone else. They put up trees and lights, they exchange presents, they have big lunches, dinners and parties, they sing carols, they travel to be with their friends and families. A lot of them go to church with their families out of tradition, and it’s about the only time they do. All of that can be great fun for kids, and something to look forward to.

The nice thing about Christmas is that it has an alternative, secular mythology already set up: the Santa Claus mythos. If moderate and liberal Christian parents can prepare for Santa with their children, intending to dispel the myth when they get older, atheists can too, and many do.

There’s also no harm in telling children the truth about the holiday: it’s traditionally been to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (hence the name Christmas, and most of the songs), but not everyone believes that’s so important anymore, and everyone gets the holiday anyway so we all like to celebrate. Before that, it was a pagan holiday when people celebrated all kinds of gods and spirits.

Few if any atheists object to exposing children to religion, though preferably not just one and not in an atmosphere of indoctrination. Christmas is a great opportunity for non-religious families to see Christian rituals and traditions, and potentially compare them to others.

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