It’s a touchy subject. I’m a non-believer, but for me, Christmas has always been my favorite holiday for all the seasonal and festive reasons. I love the lights, the baking, the presents, the family togetherness time. Gingerbread coffee is the most intoxicating discovery for me this year, and I can’t get enough. Agnostic seasonal decor was a great post last year, but one of the unanswered questions, is what do you DO as a non-believer at Christmastime?
If you’re curious, these are my reflections, conclusions, and current practices as an Atheist as Christmas:
I put up a Christmas tree. My husband and I were married at my uncle’s Christmas tree farm, also a place I spent a lot of time at as a child. It has meaning to me, maybe not in the same way as some other people, but the tradition of decorating the tree was always greatly anticipated and still is. At least half of the ornaments we have up are small toys from my childhood. My dad used to take old happy meal figurines, drill a little eye into them, and attach hooks. As a result, I have a ton of great toys I get to
play with revisit once a year. Plus I now have a whole shopping list of ornaments to collect, and a glittery dinosaur is right at the top of the list.
I use the Christmas tree skirt my grandmother made and as I kneel on it, stringing lights, I remember her and smile. I have my tree topped with a bow currently, but I have seen a lot of secular tree toppers; a snowflake, snowman, Santa, and even an owl. Or you could leave it bare, which I have done in the past.
When a lot of people I know are attending Christmas pageants at their churches, I can be found ice skating, sometimes outdoors, almost always falling on my behind. Not only is it a way to get active when it’s cold out, it’s a great secular, seasonal activity that doesn’t involve shopping. Unless you happen to see some really sick ice skate guards, cuz I’d really love a purple pair.
In the park near my local library, they have lights up all through the months of November and December, on all the trees and a big gazebo. And on quiet nights, when my husband and I actually have time, we grab a hot beverage, gingerbread coffee, perhaps, and stroll through the area, taking the opportunity to slow down and actually spend some quality time.
I bake. I almost never bake, all year. I don’t have the time, it messes up my kitchen way too much. But at Christmastime I break out my rolling pin. I make several highly requested Southern Comfort apple pies and tons of cookies. Other times of the year, I find it entirely too tedious to do this, but for some reason it becomes a comforting and zen-like task in December.
I play Christmas music almost all the time. I am a classically trained singer who received her training at a Jesuit university, so I am no stranger to music with sacred overtones, and have long learned to appreciate the music, even if I don’t necessarily jive with the message.
For me, Christmas will always mean family togetherness, love, and the delights of the season, such as gingerbread coffee, and it always has. I’m sure my stance will not be agreeable to some, both believers and non-believers alike, but I choose to celebrate the values of Christmas — like family and giving and joy — because I believe in them, even if I don’t believe in the Christmas story.
I love buying gifts for my younger cousins and nephews, and making them feel as special as I did as a kid. I love my new position as an adult, contributing to the family meal. And I love this quote from an article published in The Guardian’s “An Atheist at Christmas: Oh come all ye faithless,” which sums it all up: “I’m interested in the emotions underneath these rituals, not the specifics, and really what is at stake is a celebration of family and of love.”