Should Atheists Celebrate Christmas if They'd Like to Do So?

Evil Santa Claus

Some atheists have various complexes (i.e., psychological conflicts invested with emotion). This isn't a bad thing, as it reflects our humanity. Lots of people have these, no matter what they believe about gods. One of the big ones to surface every year revolves around Christmas, and it doesn't make much sense. "Should atheists celebrate Christmas?"

Some atheists love Christmas. They look forward to it each year, and they celebrate it in a manner that would put many Christians to shame. Some might even prefer it over far superior holidays! Others prefer not to acknowledge the holiday at all. They enjoy a day off from work and nothing more. Christmas doesn't bother them, but it holds little interest.

I'll address Christmas and the question of whether atheists should celebrate it in a moment. First, I need to clear something up that often derails this conversation. Telling you what I do is not the same as telling you what you should do. If I tell you I celebrate Christmas, that does not mean I'd like you to do the same. If I tell you I ignore Christmas, I am not trying to convince you to do the same. What you choose to do isn't about me and what I do.

It is true that I sometimes use a persuasive tone in my writing. I may argue for a particular point of view or course of action. I also write posts in which I explain my position without advocating that others adopt it. For example, in this post I noted that I am not a particularly friendly person. I did not in any way suggest that others should emulate this characteristic. It would not make any sense to do so. Telling you how to approach Christmas without knowing how you feel about it would be silly.

When I write that I am not fond of Christmas and choose not to celebrate it, I am expressing a personal preference. I am not suggesting that anyone else should feel that way. I have no strong opinions on whether atheists should celebrate Christmas. It isn't up to me, and it isn't something to which I've devoted much thought. Do you enjoy Christmas? If so, I see no reason why you wouldn't celebrate it. You'll get no judgment here if you decide to do so.

The question of whether atheists should celebrate Christmas might be fun to debate. But the question that matters is whether you should celebrate Christmas. You are the only one who can answer that question. It is a personal decision for each of us to make for ourselves. It is not a moral question, as "should" sometimes implies.

If you are an atheist who enjoys Christmas, celebrate it. Celebrate one of the secular alternatives if you prefer. If you are an atheist who would prefer to skip Christmas as I do, then skip it. There aren't any right or wrong answers here. What matters is what is right for you.

Some people will tell you that no atheist should celebrate Christmas. I've heard this from both atheists and Christians. The atheists usually claim it would be hypocritical to celebrate a religious holiday. The Christians often insist that we don't deserve to share in their holiday. They're both wrong. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas that have nothing to do with any religion. Atheists deserve to celebrate whichever holidays they'd like to celebrate.

Whatever you decide, don't allow anyone else to make you feel bad about it. They don't have to like what you choose because they can make a different choice.

Image by author via NightCafe

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2009. It was revised and expanded in 2022.