Ho! Ho! Ho! I’m a non-Christian who celebrates Christmas! Shocked? You shouldn’t be. It’s actually pretty common.
If you want to read about my religious history, you can find it here. I say that, because I grew up celebrating Christmas as a Christian. We always talked about the meaning of Christmas, why we celebrate it, and what it means to Christians as a whole. As I got older and stopped identifying as Christian, I didn’t stop celebrating Christmas. If you haven’t gathered by now, I LOVE the holiday. I love the season leading up to it. I love shopping for presents, I love the movies, the music, the excitement, and really all of it.
But what, if not the birth of Jesus, am I celebrating? Well, let me just send you here so you can get a brief history on Christmas first.
Did you watch it? It’s pretty interesting, huh? If you didn’t watch it, I strongly encourage you to. But I digress.
Why, as a Unitarian Universalist, agnostic, non-Christian do I celebrate this holiday? How can I? What could I possibly be celebrating?
Firstly, I celebrate it because I’ve always celebrated it. As I said before, it’s a tradition for my family and me. Granted, they don’t all believe the way I do, but even my mother – who not only belived what I believed, but was always teaching me about the holidays of the season – loved celebrating it. It’s fun to get wrapped up in the joy of it all. Giving gifts is ridiculously fun for me, but I also love the other traditions: carolling, making Christmas cookies, watching movies and drinking hot cocoa, decorating the tree and the house, wrapping presents even! Celebrating Christmas is a comfort to me, ebcause it brings me back to the simpler times in my life when it was just plain easier.
I also love the story of Mary and Joseph and the little baby Jesus. Do I whole-heartedly believe in immaculate conception, etc.? Why not? Who am I to say it didn’t happen; I wasn’t there that day. But I love the idea of young, scared, innocent, faithful Mary being entrusted by her God to carry, birth, and raise the man who would go on to do so many incredibly wonderful and good things. Jesus, whether or not you’re a Christian, was a genuinely good man. His whole life’s purpose was simply to spread love and joy and peace. That’s all he wanted. And that’s why the song “Mary, Did You Know” is one of my favorite Christmas songs, especially when you think of it terms of speaking to this 13-year-old child telling her what her baby will one day grow up to be and do. And it’s also the reason I have a nativity display in my living room. That, and my husband is Christian.
But Christmas isn’t the only holiday I try to observe this time of year. I also have a menorah and menorah candles that I light on each night of Hanukkah. I (obviously) celebrate Chalica, the UU celebration of their seven principles that I just wrote about here, and I observe the winter solstice. I celebrate and/or observe these, because they are the roots of Unitarian Universalism and because I love the stories they celebrate and tell. I have just as much faith in the birth and life of Jesus as I do that a days worth of oil lasted for eight days while more could be prepared after Seleucids contaminated it all. It is important to me to recognize and acknowledge the history behind my own faith.
I go to church on Christmas Eve every year. We recite the verses from the bible that correlate with the birth of Jesus and we sing songs that are tailored to fit our beliefs as UU’s. We also do a candlelight rendition of Silent Night that always brings me to tears and I try to volunteer to do a reading if I can. Afterwards, we have coffee and fellowship (like we do after every service) and it’s so great to just be surrounded by so many people on such a special night.
When I see the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers, I don’t get mad. I might catch myself rolling my eyes, but I try to myself because I know the person means well. As I’ve said, I love the story of the birth of Jesus, and I understand when people claim that the holiday is “too commercialized”. The fact is, we could all stand to be a little more “Christ-like” by loving and serving one another and seeing the holy in everyone. And yes, I’ve noticed that some people act a bit silly around the holidays, but it’s all for a good cause, because ultimately, happiness and love are the reasons for the season.
So, yes, I’m a Unitarian Universalist, agnostic, non-Christian who celebrates and adores Christmas. And honestly, I probably won’t ever stop adoring Christmas. It just makes an otherwise mostly-dark and cold time of year warm and bright.