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Why I don’t celebrate Christmas

Posted by on Friday 24 December 2010 in meta | 12 comments

I don’t celebrate Christmas. I don’t buy presents, give cards, eat turkey or see family. For the last few years, I’ve treated it like a normal work day, this year will be a normal Saturday. I think we’ll have pizza for tea and watch a film.

Not a special day for me

I was talking to some (teenage) kids at class about it a few weeks ago and they exclaimed “but it’s Christmas!”, as if it had some natural inherent specialness. I explained that I’m not a Christian and so I feel about Christmas how they might feel about, say, Eid or Hanukkah. It’s something that other people, with other beliefs, celebrate but I don’t.

Christmas was never been a really big deal in my (small) family – apart from a few times when I was very little, it was just the four of us and presents aside, it wasn’t that different from a normal Sunday (we didn’t even have turkey because one third of the family’s meat eaters – my brother – didn’t like it). As I grew into my teens, its specialness ebbed away even further – my dad had to drag us out of bed for lunch – and so when I left home for uni and beyond, I didn’t feel the need to create a big production of my own. For a couple of years, we (me, the ex and a friend) had an unusual-for-us roast dinner but did little else to celebrate (and it was lamb not turkey, and involved a whole lot of chilli). But pretty much since then … nothing.

Such pressure – and such waste

Probably because it’s never really meant that much to me, it was easy for me to leave it behind and now that I’m completely out of it, I find it hard to comprehend how much pressure some people put themselves under in the name of the season – not everyone, not by any means, but a lot of people. The pressure of finding the perfect present or affording an ever growing pile of more expensive presents, the pressure of cooking the perfect meal, the pressure of finding the perfect tree, the pressure of everyone getting along, the overall ongoing pressure to make this year better than it was last year and to make sure everyone has a good time… I’ve had a good number of people (adults rather than kids) tell me that they don’t enjoy Christmas at all, but it’s just something they feel they “have” to do, especially if they have kids. It riles me when people do things because they feel they “should” rather than actively want to do it.

And it’s not just that – the greenie/anti-consumerist in me is obviously outraged at the excess and waste too – the presents-for-presents-sake, the packaging, the food… Basically, it pushes a lot of my buttons.

Every day is special

I think some people think I’m just a Scrooge-ish, contrary bah-humbug type but I’m really not. I just don’t see why 25th Dec is any more worthy of celebration than 19th February or a random Thursday. I see friends & family when I want, we have nice meals when we want and I give presents to people when I see something I think that person would really like or need, rather than keeping it until the end of the year. I would rather enjoy the whole year than saving up all my festive juices for just a couple of days.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, not in the slightest. I’ll admit that I can see why the old celebration was revived in the 19th century as it gave people something special to look forward to in the middle of winter and I could probably do with more events to look forward to in my calendar – but for me, right now, it’s not worth all the stress and waste.

Rhonda on Down to Earth recently talked about how her Christmases have evolved over the years with the coming and growing of children, and soon grandchildren. Perhaps we’ll be more interested when we start a (non-animal) family in a few years – but coming from a place of rejecting it all, I suspect we’ll pick and choose what bits we do more than most.

For those who do celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a good one. For those who don’t, have a fantastic Saturday :)

If you don’t also celebrate Christmas, I’d love to hear why.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Alice

    This is great, as ever, and I hope you have a lovely Saturday.

    I’d like to hear more about your starting a human family idea… Is that a definite plan? You know that having children is probably the single biggest contribution you can make to climate change etc – have you thought about it from that angle at all? Have you considered the huge benefits of NOT having children?

    I am going to lie in for as long as I like tomorrow, for example :-)

    Happy Saturday xx

    • louisa

      Hi Alice,

      Yes, we’ve thought about that re: kids – and it’s one of the (many) reasons why we’re hoping to adopt. And not for a few years yet – we’re making the most of having long long long lie ins while we can. ;)

      (Actually, I’m not getting them at the moment because I’m having to get up to defrost the chickens’ water. Am looking forward to it getting a bit milder again!)

      • Alice

        Awesome, it sounds like yours would make a wonderful place for a child to grow up. I think there’s a similar but even greater pressure from family and from society in general to have children, and choosing not to is seen as selfish or strange, a bit like opting out of doing xmas. So this seemed like a kind of appropriate place to mention it.

        What a shame about the lie-ins, I thought the automatic door was going to sort that out :-( Perhaps supply the chooks with little tiny pickaxes?

        • louisa

          think there’s a similar but even greater pressure from family and from society in general to have children, and choosing not to is seen as selfish or strange

          Yes, I’d definitely agree with that. John is the eldest of his siblings and before his younger brother & sister had their kids, we were getting a lot of not-so-subtle hints, including the word “selfish” being used on at least a couple of occasions and we were urged to “just have one”. That we’ve got to 31/32 without reproducing is seen as very deviant.

          (Thanks for the kind words – I do hope we can provide a wonderful home for some small ones :) )

          The automatic door helped a lot – definitely a good buy – but the drinkers have been frozen *solid* recently so I’ve been having to get up to melt them. Pick axes may be the way forward ;) I don’t mind really because I know it’s only a short term thing and during the week, I kinda have to get up anyway – but both they and I will be happier when it’s a bit warmer!

  2. Steve

    For the past few years I’ve been trying to get away from Christmas for many reasons. This is the first year that I’ve managed to put my foot down, and keep it down. I’ve been pretty churned up that i seem to have upset some close friends and family but I really dislike the ‘now i’m supposed to’ feeling that’s so expected all the time. It’s now 3.20pm here in New Zealand on Christmas day and i’m starting to feel refreshed and quite comfortable with my ‘born again non Christmas day’.

    Thanks for your post. It helped me to become more comfortable about not having Christmas.

    • louisa

      Hi Steve, thanks for leaving a comment and I’m glad you enjoyed your Saturday off.

      I remember our first couple of no-Christmas years were really tough too – we know we upset family and that’s never a good thing – but it got a lot easier and is much more widely accepted now. I hope it gets easier for you too.

  3. lizzie

    Always winter but never Christmas………………………..

  4. Andrea

    I love this thank you. I know it has been almost a year since you wrote this, but it was nice to find. I was raised in a big family that held Christmas at the utmost importance… ugh. I never really cared for it. I now am starting a family of my own and don’t feel the need to celebrate holidays. I don’t want my kids to feel like they deserve presents for no reason once a year. I think it teaches them greed, and I want them to understand that you need to work for things if you want them. I feel like I would have benefited from this in my childhood. Not that I had a bad childhood but when the economy started in the decline and my parents lost their jobs it was a huge adjustment for my family. I don’t want to celebrate things that have no meaning. Christmas is…? I asked my step son this and he said when you get presents. So my husband and I sat down the kids and told them we will not be celebrating any holiday (Christmas/Easter/Halloween) except their birthdays. We do not practice any religion. They didn’t like it until I told them that if they did well in school and did nice things then would be rewarded all year long not just on holidays. I want to raise smart, non- greedy children who don’t feel like they are owed anything but what they work for. Education is important and they should be rewarded for working hard and doing well. My family is not to crazy about this idea, and still want to get the kids things for the holidays. I don’t mind spending time with the whole family and having a nice dinner since we don’t live close and see them much, but I don’t know how to go about the no gifts thing when all the other children in the family will be exchanging gifts. I don’t want my kids to hold a grudge and be scared from me taking away Christmas. Should I let them participate with the family and just let them know that we will not be celebrating. If you have any advice it would be appreciated. Wish me Luck! Thanks again!

  5. VA

    I came across this discussion while looking for recipes to use up my excess amount off eggs..
    When you have children you have the amazing opportunity to create traditions to be what you want them to be for your family. Of course there is the extended family and society around you to fit in with to some extent, but it will be a good few years before your children realise that not other families may celebrate differently.I do love family gatherings and we host them because we have the most space. And perhaps because of that I have more impact on ‘the rules’. At Christmas everyone contributes to the meal (bringing food ready for Christmas Day or Boxing Day)and the cleaning up after, children get presents from everyone but adults only get one (we draw a name in advance). Some years we have been organised enough for the children to make presents in return to the adults – say baking pretty biscuits wrapped in cellophane). But the things I enjoy in the run-up to Christmas are the ones to have most impact on what my children associate with Christmas – smell of home baked biscuits and cakes, making your own decorations but also getting lots of presents. When growing up we some years where only allowed home-made Christmas presents were allowed – but I was late teens then. I would say that I think it would be difficult for children who don’t get presents and I think they would resent it, getting presents when you are a child is SO exciting – but they don’t have to be expensive. We also kept the Father Christmas belief going for ages, children love ‘magic’ and indeed my children thought it cruel that some others were not told that ‘story’. Because that is all it is – I have no religion, look at the original Yule celebration. We just enjoy a chance to have party and decorate the house, lots of candles and fairy lights at a bleak time of the year. And as to Easter – well, again a great time to decorate the house with branches from the garden with tiny leaves emerging, hung with little decorative eggs. And tonnes of chocolate, again SO exciting when you are a child. But do other things, bake and decorate Easter biscuits, blow and decorate eggs etc etc – and just stay clear of the hideous big cardboard packets of Mars Eggs or whatever, other ‘nice’ ones exists. Or make your own. You can direct it all the way you want it, but I think that if you have children, they will feel like missing out if everyone else are celebrating but you are not. You can’t really compare it to Eid etc. as hardly anyone else (no one in our circle of friends) celebrate it anyway. Just try to enjoy and have fun with it all – and by all means, feel free to wait until you have children. Although – I think I would be upset if my adult children weren’t coming for Christmas, year on year. Hmm. Good luck, whichever direction you take.

  6. Louisa

    We don’t celebrate Christmas either much to my families disgust. It took me 51 years to say I’m not doing this. Now it’s like every other day. This year we’re going on a narrow boat holiday for 2 weeks so we can ignore the whole thing. Wood burning stove, loads of books and the occasional stop off at a riverside pub. Wonderful. No more two months of build up with a flat january and no money.

  7. Marc

    Thank you very much for this wise and thoughtful article. The thought has been on my mind lately: “Why Christmas?” For religious reasons, I can understand (though I just learned the actual “pagan origins”, which make lots of sense, and would be appropriate for those who still believe in them!). But a SINGLE lyric from the Charlie Brown song “Christmas Time is Here” has always stayed with me:

    “Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year.”

    Why not? Why not celebrate Christmas throughout the year? Thankfully, there IS the growing habit of “Christmas in July” that serves as a welcome reminder to have that spirit at other times… but why not? Why not be nice and friendly throughout the year, then focus on ONE point for the sake of tradition and obligation? It reminds me, too, of the “wrong” reason why Catholics do good things: to get into heaven (not to simply be good and do good, without expectation of reward).

    I best be careful here… I am guilty, too, of wanting reciprocation for my actions, but I’m also mindful of my reasons for doing things. I buy presents and send cards each year (that’s as far as I go for tradition…anything extra is simply because I WANT to, which is good!), but I would much rather not. I do these things because I feel I HAVE to (and also, according to my mom, because the family would be upset at me for not getting presents, and so I have to stick with tradition to avoid an ugly family fight).

    I don’t want to be Scroogey (and I always wish everyone Merry Christmases in good spirit)…but often I’m filled with sad feelings at Christmas, as I’m mindful of those who are having miserable ones, lonely ones, suffered ugly tragedies at the time, and so on. And yes, I know it’s my duty to make sure THEY have happy Christmases by doing service in whatever way I can. So as I age, I will seek THAT to be my tradition, but at the same time, I’d feel stupid by making it only a CHRISTMAS tradition. Why not the rest of the year?

    As I consider these things and gradually change my ways, thank you for your words, and I wish you nothing but the happiest of days, ALL YEAR ROUND, for your ENTIRE LIFE. Not just one day. :)

    *gives you BIG walrus hugs and LOTS of love, always!!!!*

    — Marc

  8. Jules

    I don’t really know why I searched for this…. but I’m glad I came across this, along with some other sites, and found that so many people feel the same way. I decided to stop celebrating last year. Maybe I went about it a bit poorly– I did buy my son gifts, but I felt like it wasn’t enough and I was irritated by the whole idea of it. So I started looking up the meaning of it all and none of it resonated with me, so on Christmas morning I left the gifts hidden, told my son “Santa Claus” DID exist… hundreds of years ago and then told him where the gifts were… he seemed more confused than disappointed, and now he doesn’t even care, and I no longer feel like I’m obligated to celebrate with him. I told him he can get gifts any time of the year. Which is in a sense, a tradition on it’s own, don’t you think? Anyway, I don’t really know where I’m going with all this. I’m just glad other people feel the same way about holidays.

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