“Keep Christ in Christmas!” is the familiar refrain of Christians who fear the secularization of the holy day celebrating the birth of Jesus, their savior. But in America, non-Christians often celebrate Christmas. According to a recent poll by the Christian group LifeWay Research, “A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent), individuals claiming other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) celebrate Christmas along with 97 percent of Christians.” Do you need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas? What is Christmas all about?
“I won’t get into the debate over whether early Christians appropriated December 25th from pre-Christian faiths, or came by that date honestly, but few can argue that much of what we now culturally consider “Christmassy” came from non-Christian/Pagan sources. Decorating with greenery, decorating trees, the exchanging of gifts, feasting, even the special seasonal attention towards the poor and less fortunate can be found in several Western pre-Christian Winter-time holidays. In addition, many cultures had their own narratives/traditions about the (re)birth of the sun/son, promising a return of life and light in a time of cold and darkness. I don’t say this to diminish Christianity, but only to point out that these Winter celebrations are a deep part of us, and whether we identify as Christian, Pagan, agnostic, or atheist, there is a draw towards the light and fellowship that has become an integral part of this time through the centuries.”