Why I don’t celebrate Christmas

Christmas is seen by many as a time of cheer and joy, but all I see is an empty holiday. A holiday that used to have a real purpose and stand for some good values, but has left them behind for the modern Christmas much of the world now celebrates.

The way I see it, Christmas now has three parts: the religious, the consumerist, and the festive. The first two I take issue with, the third is great fun.

My first issue with Christmas arouse five or six years ago (maybe longer, it’s hard to remember exactly), when I started to really question the faith I’d been raised to believe in. I won’t detail that whole process, only to say I’m currently an atheist, and don’t believe in the Christian ideals Christmas was founded on.

But even still, despite my atheism, I continued to celebrate the other parts of Christmas, with the gifts and the food and the visiting of a few family members, out of both a consideration for longstanding family traditions and my own self-interest, my desire to get as many gifts as possible.

However, as I grew older I started to also question that side of the Christmas holiday. While I’d already developed my own views toward religion, which I was pushed to examine because of having to constantly confront it through the different Christian holidays throughout the year and the occasional forced church attendance, over that time and the time since I’d also been slowly developing a broader system of values.

An important piece of those values is an opposition to capitalism, specifically consumerism. It became quickly apparent to me that the former Christian holidays have really lost much of their religious meanings, and have been largely co-opted by capitalism. So many of the holidays we celebrate in the Western world are based around gift-giving, and in societies where we already have so much, many of those gifts end up being rather pointless, things the recipient doesn’t want nor need.

It was with that realization that I knew I had to stop celebrating the Christian holidays, Christmas most of all. I’d already given up on the religious aspect, and many others were with me, but the part I was still celebrating was arguably the worst one. It causes people to go into debt, it promotes needless consumption and it makes some incredibly stressed from the task of finding either gifts or the money to pay for them. It has become almost completely divorced from its redeeming qualities of giving people time to be with friends and family, and to take time to relax. These now primarily only take place at the very end of a stressful time of increased work, stress, and consumption.

Last year I finally decided I’d had enough. I asked not to receive gifts, and didn’t buy gifts for anyone but my two younger brothers. I didn’t participate in much of the festivities, and while I did spend some time with family and friends, it was really an uneventful holiday, just the way I wanted it.

This year I stepped it up. I didn’t buy gifts and didn’t receive any. Few people, knowing I don’t celebrate the holiday, wished me a “Merry Christmas” and I spent it away from home, in Egypt, where Christmas is only seen in the decorations in the shopping malls trying to push non-Christians to celebrate the very side of Christmas I most despise.

Of course, I know the obvious question this presents: Why not celebrate the festive part, without the religion and the gifts? I did consider this, as I overthink nearly every action I take, and my final decision was that while Christmas is so linked with consumerism and with its foundations in religion, two things I try not to partake in, there is little reason for me to celebrate Christmas.

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that the celebration of the New Year follows closely behind it, and I see no problem spending time with people to celebrate the end of a good year and start of a better one, as long as there’s no praying or gift exchanges!