Secular Christmas

            Every holiday season there is a fair amount of controversy over the notion of a secular Christmas. Is Christmas solely a Christian celebration whose non-Christian celebrators defile and diminish the sanctity of the holiday, or is it a cultural practice free from its original religious denotations?

            The argument for and against a purely Christian Christmas is akin to the views surrounding gay marriage: a “new” spin on an old tradition threatens the sanctity of the original process. Supporters of secular Christmas claim that their celebration of the holiday does not diminish its sacredness to those who celebrate its religious aspect. People who become upset at the non-religious corruption of the holiday say that since Christmas was founded as a purely religious observation, secular celebrations should not count as Christmas because the religious aspect is an integral aspect of the holiday. Unsurprisingly, there is often an overlap between those who defend religious Christmas and those who defend traditional marriage, and vice versa.
            Some secular practicers argue that Christmas is not even on Christ’s actual birthday, which was sometime in late June, and that Christmas was established on December 25th to put an end to pre-Christian celebrations of the Winter Solstice. Eventually the two celebrations merged as the Romans in the area began to accept Christianity. Therefore, Christmas wasn’t even originally Christian at all and so modern secular practicers have nothing to defile in the first place.
            I personally think that this argument is weak because modern non-Christian celebrators of Christmas are contending with modern-day Christians, not those who lived back when the holiday was founded. If one wants to base an argument off of history, one has to take into account the fact that celebrations will evolve over time to be pre-Christian and Christian and post-Christian. In addition, defending one’s position by claiming the opposition isn’t even what it says it is sort of misses the point of the argument, which is that the opposition… is what it says it is.
Personally I celebrate a secular form of Christmas, and see the holiday as a cultural aspect of America with all the inevitable talk of excessive consumerism and “holiday” cheer and chewy cookies. Nothing else is quite like the spirit of Christmas in the air, and I’ve gone caroling a couple times – yes, I’ve sung the religious songs as well as Jingle Bells. I do not see my celebration of Christmas as impinging on anyone else’s observations of it, and say that other people are free to do what they want to as long as nobody gets hurt. For example, the show Seinfeld introduced the concept of Festivus, a sort of anti-Christmas that rejects everything repulsive about the holiday (excessive spending, gaudy decorations) and retains what its celebrators consider special. I say you do you.
            With regards to the inevitable talk of encouraging mindless consumerism, I agree that gift-giving is a large aspect of Christmas. However if the emphasis is on the Christmas cheer and being generous, there’s no shame in buying thoughtful presents for loved ones. I personally write thoughtful, elaborate letters to people to save money (and I look thoughtful and hip while doing so). Continuing in the vein of saving money, I know many people who take advantage of the Christmas sales to shop for everyday things. There’s no shame in buying things, especially when they are responsibly manufactured and disposed of and so forth. Now go out there and buy another sustainably-grown-but-actually-deforested-in-Canada pine tree, deck it with lights and candles and a bronze angel, and throw it out with the trash at the end of January. Then drive around and look at all the baby conifers that the sellers planted for your great-grandchildren’s Christmases.


  1. It is in my humble opinion that secular Christmas should preserve the traditional carols, because they have a marked tendency to be so much better than currant pop Christmas tunes (the exceptions being John Lennon's "War is over if you want it," and anything composed by Murray Gold for a Doctor Who Christmas special (especially the Voyage of the Damned Suite)

    1. It is in my humble opinion that currants are better than cranberries, but should not be used in sentences pertaining to Christmas carols.


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