I know, I know. I'm subverting the dominant paradigm, or some shit. Consider me a conscientious objector.

Celebrating the Christmas holiday is something that a whole lot of people do, particularly people living in the USA and Canada, and in the UK, or any marginally Christian-majority nation on Earth. Very few people actively avoid celebrating it, and those that do are not often vocal about it. When the subject comes up, the non-reveller is invariably asked about her/his intentions, why they've got no spirit, or if they're just miserly and crotchety.

Even people who consider themselves non-religious often celebrate Christmas, just because it's too big a problem for them not to, assuming they don't live in total isolation from the rest of society. Some feel obligated to do so because of the actions of the people they surround themselves with; others do it because to them Christmas is no longer about religion; and others still do it because tradition dictates that they must. Though I've never met anyone (myself and people who aren't regular, average, Christian-like people not included) who didn't celebrate Christmas, I can only stipulate that the reasons for not doing so involve financial inability, fervent rejection of religion, or a belief that the so-called "Christmas spirit" should not be confined to a mere week of the year and could, in theory, be practised anytime. There is also the anti-consumerist clause for not celebrating Christmas; marketing firms the world over have been encouraging people to define themselves through their purchases, doubly so at Christmas time, and around calendar holidays in general.

What people fail to consider when dealing with someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas is the fact that it's been crammed down each and every one of our throats for years and years, and we're sick and tired of it. Believe it or not, there are some who refuse to cave in to pressure from relatives, corporations, friends, etc., and just sit the holidays out. Most people I've known grew up celebrating Christmas and haven't considered shedding the habit because it's an institution that marks people's so-called "good spirit" and "willingness to share" and so forth, but I ask, why can't these things be done on an everyday basis? Why does it have to happen only at Christmas time, only once a year? Honestly, if people acted as nice as they think they're acting around Christmas time all year round, there'd be no more war.

A few of my relatives have tried to reach a compromise with me about the celebration of Christmas, and they misguidedly wish me a "happy winter solstice" as though I were Wiccan, which I'm not. It seems the idea of not celebrating during the final week of the calendar year is a concept that is extremely foreign and/or incomprehensible to some people. They just cannot understand the desire to ignore the holiday season.

For me, it's all an illusion. It's an excuse that people make so they can feel better about themselves by "getting into the spirit." Christmas is supposed to be about generosity, good samaritanism, and modesty. From my perspective, Christmas spirit has become a culture of greedy corporations, uncomfortable time spent with ne'er-seen relatives, grandoise dinners that should not only be confined to one or two holidays each year, and false sentiment. Maybe not everybody is like that, but it seems all of my relatives are, and year after year they fail to understand why I refuse to partake in the festivities. Year after year, they still buy me things I have neither asked for nor need, to try to guilt trip me into doing the same thing to them. Year after year they fail to understand that I'm so poor that I usually can't afford to go grocery shopping more than once a month, much less spend half a paycheck on gifts for people that only cause me anguish.

Please don't get me wrong here. I do normally engage in the giving of gifts and the helping of relatives and others at all other times of the year, whenever the urge strikes me to give a gift, or the need arises to lend a hand. I just fail to see why doing such things is pushed to such a high level of hype during Christmas time. I have no use for religion and I know only a few people that do; yet Christmas is all around me, totally inescapable. It would be a little more bearable without the false good cheer and the banal, endlessly repetitive Christmas music that plays incessantly in any store I go into during the month of December. It wouldn't be as bad as it is if I hadn't heard every single song more often than I've heard my own name spoken aloud.

People celebrate their own birthdays for a reason; why rehash it in the most generic of ways for Christmas? Try as I might, I can't find a single reason for the season, as it were, not even commerce. I've spent more than half my life trying to avoid the whole business (I started denying it at age 15, and I was born in 1976, so instead of updating this part of the writeup every year, just work out how old I am now in your head), but I always get goaded or guilt tripped into it in one way or another, for no good reason, by people who can't accept the fact that I'd rather not participate. The only effects Christmas has on me is closed or overly crowded stores, slow postal service, and a day or two off work (although I don't get to choose which "important" days I get off work -- I'd rather have those days off in June so I can watch the Stanley Cup finals on TV). No more, no less. Perhaps this makes me a "scrooge," or crotchety, or mean, but whatever it makes me, I can't understand why not celebrating Christmas makes me such a bad person in so many people's eyes.

As an endnote, I'd like to state that apart from the misunderstandings that doing this brings, it's also a great way to get out of participating in Secret Santa rituals. Oh, and as an aside, the fact that I really don't like children may have something to do with my scorn for Christmas, since it's so child-centered, at least in America.

I don't love anything
No, not even Christmas
Especially not that


-- Belle & Sebastian --
"I don't love anyone"

Christmas was bogus when I was a secular humanist. Christmas was bogus when I was a neo-pagan new ager. Shortly after giving my life to Jesus Christ I understood why.

"So are you all ready for Christmas?" the grocery checkout girl asked. "No. We don't do Christmas." Mrs. Milspec responded. "Oh!? Well, how come?" was the stunned response of the checkout girl. "Truth?" "Yes truth." "Because I'm a christian and Christmas is not." replied Mrs. Milspec. "What?!"

And so it was. Another year had come and gone, and the season was upon us again. The time of year when everyone fancies themself a little kinder, a little better, a little more christian. Christian by association. Christian by proxy. Christian by feeling.

Being a christian is about none of these superficial things, but that will have to wait for another write-up.

It was once said, or something close to it, that "The unexamined life is not worth living." What does this mean? Especially what does this mean in relation to not celebrating Christmas? To examine something you must question it? Let's question Christmas, shall we.

In our best gum-shoe schtick.

Christmas. Is that your real name? Are you known by any aliases? Why ChristMAS and not ChristDAY?

C'mon Christmas! Cooperate and we'll go easy on ya!"

How old are you? Why are you on December 25? Where were you in the first century A.D.? Where were you in 2000 B.C.? What's with the tree thing? And all the decorations? What's with the present thing? What the heck is a yule log? Tell us about this Saint Niklaus fellow you've been hanging around. How come your boy Jesus never mentions you?

Come on Christmas! Speak up! We haven't got all night!

I read Avalyn's writeup above, and it made me very sad, that somehow he had missed or mistaken the entire point of Christmas. True, the holiday has been overly commercialized. The gift giving tradition almost guarantees as much with retailers scrambling for our dollar, euro or other applicable currency. I could even speak of the birth of Jesus, but I don't think that would be appreciated. Instead, I'll speak about what Christmas means to the secular me.

When you're a child, Christmas is about presents, overeating, fabulous desserts, and a really long break from school. My brother and I used to wake up at five thirty, because we couldn't sleep worrying about what was underneath the tree. And we'd dive bomb the tree.

Mom and Dad would trundle out of bed in their bedrobes, still bleary eyed from playing Santa the night before. They'd smile, and get us something to eat, and themselves coffee, as we went into a long marathon of opening and playing. Then we'd go over to multiple Grandparents for two Christmas dinners and multiple presenting. For a kid, life just didn't get any better than that. For parents it was a lot of work.

Then my parents split up and it became Christmas Eve with Dad, Christmas Day with Mom. They remarried, and I remember my late step-father Gary in his robe and pajamas as we tore into our presents. Mom making the turkey as Grandma grew too old. Me throwing a fit when Mom wanted to substitute artificial mashed potatoes, which led to me peeling and mashing, a tradition that continues to this day.

Today it's still Christmas Eve with Dad, and Christmas Day with Mom. The gift giving doesn't matter so much. I'm middle class now, I can afford what I want. Now it's my turn to give.

We've been doing this together for over forty years now. Mike lives in the Beltway, me Columbus and Bryan in New York. We have to travel to be together. This is the one day we set aside above all others to be with the people we love, to celebrate each other's company, and to just savor the moment. All across the country, and much of the world, people are doing the same, gathering with the people they care about and celebrating.

There won't be that many more. My parents are their sixties. Age has begun to bite. Mom 's steel-trap mind is slower. My father's arthritic hip pains him, even if it doesn't stop him from playing tennis. I can hear him breathe now. For my entire life they've showed their love for me, and their family in the way that really matters, by giving of themselves. I won't have them forever, so each and every Christmas becomes something special, a time to cherish immortal moments in very mortal lives.

I could argue that Christmas is really about celebrating the birth of Jesus, and for many people it still is. But I don't think that's what's needed here. Christmas is really about love, and showing it for the people that matter to you. It's about a child's smile when he opens that Lionel Train set, or about dancing with your sweetheart about the Christmas Tree. Because it's a holiday, it gives you a reason, an opportunity, even an excuse, to gather the people you care about and celebrate each other. The preparations, shopping, the giving of the tree, are like foreplay and flirting, something to build up to the main event. If you don't want a tree, or a turkey, fine. If you prefer Nine Inch Nails to Christmas Carols, crank the tunes. (Hint: The jazz guys know how to do carols that kick serious butt) But take this opportunity to celebrate being alive, and the people you care most about.

That's why Christmas is so big.

I am so angry, angry, angry about Christmas, not only my voice but even my fingers become choked when I think about it, try to explain myself.

The whole Christmas Spirit thing doesn't seem to be as much of a big deal here in the UK as it is over the pond. It's about family and presents, and being nice to people rarely comes into it. Perhaps for that reason, but maybe for many more and different ones, the season brings out the worst in my in-laws. Every year (except for the rare ones when I manage to put my foot down and flee the country over the holidays) from about this time on I am by turns ignored, insulted, sidelined, taken for granted and patronised.

Oh, I celebrate Christmas. I have to. For one thing we'd never hear the end of it if I decided to boycott it, and for another, my husband's birthday is very close to Christmas and if we didn't go over to his family's home on Chrismas Day, he would never receive a single birthday present or even card from them; a situation that I would by no means wish to contribute to. Not to mention that he himself would probably be a bit hurt if I just opted out of something that has always been an important part of his life.

I had originally planned to fill this writeup with a catalogue of my mother- and sister-in-law's selfishness and lack of consideration, but frankly that's just tasteless bitching and washing dirty family laundry in public. Just take my word for it that I always end up feeling hard done by after Christmas. I'll have to be brave and plunge right to the bottom of what I find so utterly infuriating about their attitude:

They think I'm Jewish on purpose.

I'm serious. As far as my mother-in-law is concerned, I'm just doing this whole no-Christmas thing to spite her. To be awkward. Because I'm a bad person. It's a truth universally acknowledged, after all, that all decent people have a natural urge to get around a table once a year, overeat and have a family row. The way she sees it is not so much a concession on my part to even participate in this consumerist paganism, but a show of bad breeding to decline going to Midnight Mass with her.

There is no parallel tradition in my family, and even if there was I'm not sure I would necessarily submit my husband to it. He is lucky enough to be at perfect liberty to sneer at and ignore our family traditions and religious holidays, because he is allowed to get away with it; also frankly because whenever he does participate, my whole tribe makes him feel like he's doing them a favour. So there is no hope of forcing reciprocity on this issue. Needless to say, on years when Christmas coincides with Hannukah the menorah is never invited to make an appearance.

And the worst of it is that even people outside our circle see my anger as unjustified, contrary, foreign. After all, who could object to celebrating Christmas? When I once noded related sentiments on this site, I got nuked faster than you could say "cultural imperialism"1. So it's not just my husband's family, although of course they're the ones I have to deal with on an intimate basis. Even if not celebrating Christmas constitutes no political statement, no rebel action, in fact nothing more deliberate than automatically celebrating it, it will always be considered provocative, stand-offish, arrogantly anti-establishment. Maybe if I was married to a Jew and living in the UK I could deal with that, but as it is you can expect to find me spluttering in pathetic helpless rage from now until January.

1 The editorial attitude softened after my WU was removed and now you'll notice the node is amply supplied with views on both sides of the issue.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.