Snyder: Celebrating a secular Christmas



It is statistically supported that Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday.

Stephen Snyder

Now that December has arrived, even a perpetual Grinch like myself must discontinue my holiday protests and accept that the season is upon us. That doesn’t mean that I won’t let out a groan or leave the room whenever I hear a track from Michael Buble’s Christmas album, but it does mean that my arguments against the music are no longer founded in anything other than a personal opposition.

So now that my Scrooge-esque efforts are futile, I will just have to focus on the positives that can be found in winter holiday traditions. While I acknowledge the frustrations of those who do not celebrate Christmas, it is the holiday I grew up with and is therefore the only winter holiday upon which I can comment.

With that fact established, it is important to note that while Christmas has been a lifelong occurrence, the celebration of the holiday has been an almost entirely areligious experience. In the not-so-distant past I had considered it somewhat of an oddity to celebrate a holiday rooted in religious beliefs while having no personal affiliation to the religion.

While my parents were both raised in religious households and still hold themselves to be Christians, I have only stepped inside a church for the purposes of worship a handful of times—I actually found myself there more frequently to play basketball than to pray—and for that reason in particular, I have always held myself to be somewhat of an impostor within the celebration.

So imagine my relief when I came across statistics which provided proof that my experience is in no way singular. It is my statistically supported opinion that Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday.

That statement is a little too black and white, so let me clarify my point by saying that it seems as though you no longer need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas.

Torie Bosch, a writer for the online magazine Slate, details an experience much like my own in her column “The joy of celebrating a Godless Christmas.” In her argument, Bosch also makes an interesting case for our society ignoring the religious purpose for Christmas even within our specific ideas and depictions of the holiday.

“Most of the classic songs and movies that celebrate Christmas don’t even mention God or Jesus. Santa doesn’t check church attendance to decide whether he’s going to give a child a present—he checks whether she’s been naughty or nice. He’s the perfect secular judge of moral fiber,” says Bosch.

Those thoughts, while provocative, reflect the views of only one person and those who celebrate for religious purposes may take issue with such beliefs, but that same secular sentiment is spreading more and more quickly in the United States.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Foundation survey, 92 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. However, of that 92 percent, only 51 percent said that they see the holiday as a mostly religious celebration. Additionally, only 54 percent of those surveyed said that they planned to attend a religious service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The religious majority of America bemoans the changing view of Christmas and has made efforts to stop the secular advance and new commercial focus. However, I believe that a less religious Christmas is in fact better for America than a strictly Christian celebration.

First of all—and I know everyone hates this bleeding heart liberal stuff so I’ll make this quick—this widespread celebration breaks down the religious barrier which keeps so many Americans on separate sides of so many cultural and societal debates. Not to mention that the good will mentality which surrounds the holiday is best served while it is upheld by as many people as possible. Essentially, more people can do more good for those who are most in need.

Beyond all that sentimentality, I have something much more concrete to offer. Think about the economic opportunities that would be lost if Christmas were only for Christians. Millions would be lost for businesses on Black Friday. Locally owned stores would lose the stimulus that is Small Business Saturday. Then we have the massive revenue generated by Cyber Monday.

All of these consumer driven additions to the holiday season add much needed funds to the American economy, which is hopelessly dependent on people’s willingness to spend.

The issue comes down to a couple of very simple points. First, change is the inherent nature of all things. Christians should continue to celebrate the holiday for its religious significance, but they must accept that the holiday is no longer solely their own.

Why should the fact that some people choose to celebrate the holiday in their own way affect the fashion in which Christians celebrate? Secular celebrations of Christmas hold many of the same values like expressing love of family and showing compassion and charity to those less fortunate.

Spend more time celebrating and less time worrying about how or why others celebrate.