Why I Don’t Celebrate Christmas
Ever since I was a child, I have found myself having to explain why I don’t celebrate Christmas. This is surprising to me, since I am Jewish. This explanation does not seem to satisfy many, who suggest that not celebrating it is un-American, or even scrooge-like.
Christmas is omnipresent. From the day after Thanksgiving (if not before) right through the one-day holiday a full month later, Christmas music, once-a-year sales, and light-filled decorations permeate our culture. For many, this holiday has lost religious meaning and represents a purely secular day to spend with family, enjoying good food and company. Many who are not Christian celebrate it. To those celebrating it, this holiday brings feelings of warmth, love, and giving.
Why, then, if the holiday has lost its religious significance to many, should non-Christians hesitate to celebrate it? Let me note here that I am not bemoaning non-Christians who celebrate Christmas. I respect this choice. I am simply explaining why celebrating Christmas should not be considered the natural default for all.
Christmas is a Christian holiday
While many think of Christmas as an “American” holiday, the fact is that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. For many individuals (Christian or otherwise) who celebrate it, the holiday has only secular meaning. And, since our population is predominantly Christian, most Americans celebrate Christmas. But, these two facts do not magically transform it into an “American” holiday. It is, foundationally, a Christian holiday.
Preserving non-Christian religious practices has value
Almost 80% of Americans identify as Christian, with less than 5% identifying as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other world religions, and the remaining 15% identifying as non-affiliated (many of these have Christian roots). We are very lucky to live in a society where individuals can choose what religions to practice. However, raising children of other religions sometimes means not doing what everyone else is doing.
Judaism has survived the ages because Jews have fought – and died – to preserve their ability to practice their own religion, rather than adopt the religious practices of the dominant culture. For some, celebrating Christmas represents a contraction to that historical struggle.
So, Why Don’t I Celebrate Christmas?
I don’t celebrate Christmas because it is not part of my religion or tradition. As we become more multi-cultural, more people of mixed backgrounds may choose to celebrate Christmas to embrace differences within their own families. I believe that sharing holidays is a fantastic way to help bridge understanding between people. At the same time, we need to understand that Christmas is not a tradition for all Americans, and we need to respect people’s personal, religious, and cultural reasons for not celebrating it.