What Do Atheists Do During Christmas Holidays?

Man walking alone near a church
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The festival of Christmas gets its name from the term Christ's Mass or a mass performed in honor of Christ. It is at this time that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This, however, is not all there is to the modern Christmas holiday.

Holidays can serve to form a connection to the past and can form and reinforce connections with the friends and family with whom you celebrate. As it is during most religious holidays, at Christmas it's customary to attend church services. Often, people attend services as a family as part of a long-running tradition, and even those who rarely attend religious services are moved to attend during the Christmas season.

Should an atheist attend such services with their family? That's a matter of personal choice, but many prefer not to, to avoid misrepresenting themselves and their beliefs. Some may choose to attend in order to continue a family tradition, especially if it's one which the atheist may have participated in when they were younger and still a believer.

Revealing Atheism On Holidays

The question of where, when, how and even if a person should reveal their atheism is a thorny issue at any time of year. It is not unusual for people to pick the December holidays to reveal their atheism. Again, it's a decision that should be based on your personal situation.

If you think your family would appreciate knowing so they don't unintentionally make you feel uncomfortable, it may be a good idea to "come out" as an atheist. But weigh your personal needs with the potential disruption to family harmony, because there's likely to be confusion and hurt feelings at first.

Atheists, Families and Holiday Traditions

Perhaps the biggest loss in not attending religious ceremonies at a church and not participating in religion-themed rituals is the ending of a family tradition. Should you go to church with your family or should you insist on staying home while everyone else attends?

If this bothers you and others in your family, you might consider starting some new traditions which might genuinely include everyone, regardless of belief. Perhaps you'll decide to attend religious services anyway as a sign of respect, but finding alternatives may prove to be the best long-term solution.

Alternative Holidays for Atheists

One of the more popular alternative celebrations for atheists at Christmas is observing the Winter Solstice. Since this is merely a date on the calendar that marks the beginning of astronomical winter, it doesn't have any inherent religious meaning.

But for some pagan religions, the solstices do hold some important symbolism which may not be compatible with atheists' beliefs. This is another area where your personal preference should guide your decision. 

The way in which an atheist might best approach the question of religious holidays and the creation of new atheist holidays is to ask: What might this mean to me? 

Finding Personal Meaning at Christmas

If you can't find meaning in the usual traditions and rituals, and especially religious or holiday traditions, then make your own traditions where you can. Even small ones have value and while they may not seem like much at first, you'll come to appreciate them eventually. Traditions and rituals serve important roles in binding us together socially, psychologically, and emotionally. 

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Cline, Austin. "What Do Atheists Do During Christmas Holidays?" Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-do-atheists-do-during-christmas-249571. Cline, Austin. (2020, August 27). What Do Atheists Do During Christmas Holidays? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-do-atheists-do-during-christmas-249571 Cline, Austin. "What Do Atheists Do During Christmas Holidays?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-do-atheists-do-during-christmas-249571 (accessed June 5, 2023).