Social Question

JenniferP's avatar

Why do people pressure you to celebrate Christmas?

Asked by JenniferP (2113points) December 10th, 2012

I don’t celebrate it for religious reasons. Christ wasn’t born then. But anyway, a coworker was very happy about this and asked if I would work for her so she could have off and be with her family and I did. However, then after the Christmas party she asked accusingly “Why weren’t you there?!” I said “Remember, I don’t celebrate it.” Then she said “What is the big deal? It is just a party?” I had one lady tell me off for not celebrating Christ’s birthday but mostly it is just a look of puzzlement when I tell them I don’t celebrate it. I have had relatives buy me and cards and gifts even though I told them I don’t celebrate it and people wish me Merry Christmas knowing full well my beliefs. I still respect those people and all but I am wondering what it is that people just can’t fathom that some others choose not to observe it.

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43 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I guess it’s become such a secular/commercial holiday, and so many non-religious/non-observant Christians celebrate it, that if people learn that you are religious, they find it hard to fathom that you would not celebrate Christmas. It’s understood as a Christian holiday even though it was but another case of Christianity eating up pagan festivals.

Coloma's avatar

Close minded people don’t understand others that sway from their belief systems, plain and simple. Just stand your ground and ignore their ignorant comments, unless they become very aggressive and pushy, in which case set a firm boundary. ” This is how I CHOOSE to do and it is none of your business and I do not wish to explain myself any further, please respect my choices.”

Most people will back off if you are firm yet diplomatic.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think anyone’s ever pressured me to celebrate Christmas. There is however, as with heterosexuality, a default assumption that in the U.S. you will celebrate Christmas. Schools assume it, community centers, etc. When you explicitly state that you don’t celebrate it or that you celebrate another holiday, you’re made to be the problem. It’s like ‘oh sure you are an atheist, but don’t flaunt it’ which to me always sounds like ‘oh sure you’re gay but no one wants to see you kissing your partner in public in front of children!!!! wahhhh wahhhh.’

Kardamom's avatar

^^ Being a vegetarian kind of fits into the situation you’ve just described. People in the U.S. simply assume that everyone eats meat. Some people are disgusted when they find out I’m a vegetarian, although I’m not disgusted that most people eat meat. Some people feel sorry for me, as though I have some type of medical condition. And other people are convinced that if I just ate a piece of bacon, that I would change my mind. The thing that’s most annoying is they want to know why I’m a vegetarian. However those same people would probably not ask why someone is a Jew or a Presbyterian or a Hindu why they are that particular religion (or any other religions) because that would be bad manners to ask that question.

The other question that always amazes me is when people say things like, “How can you live like that? What do you eat? I’d starve to death on a vegetarian diet!”

Basically, they’re mostly harmless, albeit ignorant, statements, because some people simply have lead a certain type of life, surrounded by people that share their lifestyle and they have not ever had the need to wonder about other people’s lives, until one of “us” comes into their view.

In the instance of a person who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, the most polite answer to give is, “My religion doesn’t celebrate Christmas. My religious beliefs are very personal and I don’t care to discuss my religious beliefs, I hope you don’t mind.” Said with a sweet smile.

If the rude person continues to badger, you could also add in, “It would be hypocritical of me to celebrate Christmas and I would never expect you or anyone else to go against your beliefs, so I would prefer not to discuss it any further. That’s why they say you should not discuss politics or religion in polite company.”

Coloma's avatar

@Kardamom Haha, I know. I eat little meat and was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for years.
I’m too much of a cheese-a-holic to give up most dairy.
I think we all need to watch our ass-umptions, not always easy, but prudent.

gailcalled's avatar

I’ve never been pressured and I have never worked with aggressive people. Change jobs?

Do you ask these people why they feel they have the right to ask you these questions?

It’s an interesting experiment. Rather than defending yourself, try using the interrogatory form.

glacial's avatar

I’ve never had anyone pressure me to either celebrate it or not, nor pressure me to celebrate it in any specific way. I do celebrate Christmas to some extent (it’s fun!), and I’m atheist.

burntbonez's avatar

Conformity is very important to social cohesion. Social cohesion is important for survival. Therefore people try to make others conform in a wide variety of ways. It’s really very simple. We are not as civilized as we might think. We are governed by innate social patterns that have made us the most successful species ever.

Whenever we belong to a minority group, we will experience pressure to conform. Nonconformity is dangerous to the group as a whole. Well…. it feels that way. It’s not actually that way, but science doesn’t hold a candle to emotions.

JenniferP's avatar

@Kardamom-I admire you. I would like to be a vegetarian but don’t know if I have it in me. For right now I am working toward a healthier diet. Keep doing what you are doing and don’t let others give you a hard time for it. They are probably jealous that you are thin (I’m assuming).

bookish1's avatar

@JenniferP : You can’t assume that someone who is veg is automatically thin. My dad was overweight most of my time growing up and he’s an incredibly strict vegetarian. I’m veg as well and the only reason I am not still overweight right now is that I ran out of money in France this summer and was living on 1000 calories a day, haha.

PeppermintBiscuit's avatar

I definitely feel pressured by all the advertisements and such this time of year, but happily, not by actual people. When I get the oh-so-common, “So are you getting ready for Christmas?” and I respond that I don’t really celebrate it, the usual reply is “Oh… okay” and a shrug. They might not really understand my decision, but they respect it.

gailcalled's avatar

@Kardamom; No one ever challenges me for being a vegetarian and trying to work towards total veganism either.

What kind of people are you hanging around with?

hearkat's avatar

I don’t celebrate Christmas, either; but I don’t get offended if people ask me why I don’t. I am a curious person by nature, so I am one who does ask people about why they choose to be a vegetarian – but not in a judgmental way. I’ve created a stock answer for when I am asked why we don’t celebrate: “We’re not religious, my son is grown, and we are very fortunate to already have more than we need; but we enjoy a day off and having the time to get together with our loved ones.”

Our company Holiday Party is not a religious event in any way, and we don’t have gift exchanges or anything like that; so I’ll attend if the date and time is convenient (I’m not a party person), because it’s nice to get together with these people that you see more than most friends and family members, and to be in a more relaxed environment with them. It does seem to help build a sense of camaraderie.

gondwanalon's avatar

I honestly don’t believe that Jesus is God and I also don’t believe in Santa but I see no harm in playing along in order to get along. Yes I have been pressured to go to my work’s Christmas party. But I think that the main reason is that money and time were put into the party and the powers that be want to make sure that it isn’t all wasted. Also Christmas parties can be fun and good for moral. I’ve been going to Christmas parties at work for over 30 years and not once has someone try to push any kind of religion onto me. If anyone ever asks me if I believe in God, I just say “I like Jesus” and everything is cool. I learned long ago how to play the game.

JenniferP's avatar

@hearkat I don’t really get offended if they are surprised. It gives me a chance to educate them to my views. I didn’t like my mother-in-law (who cut down my religion) to always say Merry Christmas and buy me a gift just to annoy me. I also felt used that the co-worker wanted me to work for her to have Christmas off but then acted like there was something wrong with me for not attending the party. People often overdrink at those parties and that of itself is enough to keep me away.

Kardamom's avatar

@gailcalled Some of my well meaning relatives ask me why I’m a vegetarian and seem very concerned about it. I’ve been a veg since 1990 and most of them seem to forget that I’m a vegetarian, so the subject often comes up at holidays. No one means any harm, but they actually seem befuddled.

My Dad is 87 years old and often forgets that I can’t/don’t eat meat. He sees bewildered by the entire idea of vegetarianism. Not that he thinks it’s wrong, it just doesn’t make sense to him because every meal of his involves meat.

None of my relatives are vegetarian, so it’s not something that they ever think about on a daily basis. They only think about it, when they see me and are gently reminded (by me) that I am a vegetarian. The relatives are the most sad when they are reminded.

One of my cousin’s wives actually asked me, “Do people remember that you are a vegetarian?” I had to tell her that most people forget, even though I said I’ve been a vegetarian since 1990, so it’s no secret. But since most people eat meat, vegetarianism is not something that they ever think about, except when they see me on holidays. It’s ironic, because even though she was the one who asked, she has also forgotten. That made her feel anxious, that people forgot. I do my best to remember who is gluten free, lactose intolerant or diabetic, but sometimes people forget. I don’t hold it against them, I just gently remind them and ask if there is anything that I can bring.

One of my former co-workers used to ask me now and then, “Why would you eat fake meat? If you like meat, the real thing is much better. I just don’t understand why anyone would eat fake meat.” I had to often remind him that it wasn’t because I didn’t like the taste of meat, or the texture of meat, it was because I was against the killing of animals to get meat. He could never get his head wrapped around that concept, no matter how many times I tried to explain it to him. He was a great guy, so I never tried to push the issue with him, I just reminded him of the fact that bacon tastes pretty good, but to me killing and innocent animal just to get that flavor was not worth it to me, ethically, when Morningstar Farms makes a perfectly acceptable equivalent. Even if they didn’t, it still wouldn’t be ethical for me to justify a killing and I can easily live without. But I also accept the fact that most people don’t believe the same things that I do and I live in a society where meat eating and Christmas celebration (I’m an agnostic that celebrates Christmas as a beloved family tradition) is the norm.

It would be nice if everyone with disparate beliefs could live in harmony, but that will never be the case. So all we can do is try to explain ourselves, in a way that doesn’t offend others, while at the same time, protecting our own privacy and beliefs.

Some people are actual boors, but I think that most people just ask inappropriate/rude/prying questions simply because they don’t know any better. I try to give those folks a break.

jca's avatar

If someone asks you something that is a little too pushy, you may find it works wonders if you give them a little stare with a raised eyebrow (like “hun?”), and then say “Excuse me?” Continue staring at them with a quizzical look and let them explain themselves to you.

I think as far as attending parties goes, management views it as an occasion for everone to get together and it’s good for morale, as someone said above. Therefore, it’s not necessarily about celebrating any particular holiday (where I work it’s referred to as a “holiday party” but no holidays are specified), it’s more just an opportunity for people to get together and have a good time, and socialize with one another. I think, especially when it comes to work, it’s beneficial to try to go with the flow.

Regardless of whether or not you celebrate Christmas, can any harm come from attending the Christmas party? I don’t celebrate Chanukah, but if I were invited to a Chanukah party, I would attend. It’s a party, why not?

Unbroken's avatar

We have a couple JW’s at work and a few potlucks during work hours. It’s a treat for us and a few employee’s who try to include everyone and have deliberately changed them to non holiday get togethers are a little hurt when the JW’s still won’t come. There are no religous overtones, no gift sharing no drinking just food sharing and conversation kind of a bonding moment.

On the other hand I completely understand not wanting to go work parties. Regardless of the reason, over indulging is just one of the reason’s. At least you have a good reason. They’ve come to accept I won’t show up. So hang in there.

As to pushy relatives and friends. I tried to tell everyone I didn’t do Christmas. It just seemed unnecessary fuss and I’m not a fussy person I don’t mind good will but I don’t have children. And if I am shopping for others I would rather give impulsive gifts. But it was terrible how bad I felt when people continued to give me gifts anyway. So I gave in. I don’t have any advice, accept continued reiteration and firmness.

wildpotato's avatar

For the people who keep wishing you Merry Christmas when they already know you do not celebrate, I suggest the following dialogue:

Rude Person: “Merry Christmas!”
You: “Happy Birthday!”
RP: ”’s not my birthday.”
You: “And it’s not my holiday.”

Works wonders.

JenniferP's avatar

@ica- A Christmas party is a “Christmas” party. Can you imagine what a hard time my coworkers would give me if I went to the party? They would say “She claims she doesn’t celebrate it, so why is she at the party?” I don’t care what management thinks. They can’t tell me how to spend my free time.

JenniferP's avatar

@rosehips-If your coworkers are hurt they need to reevaluate themselves. No one has a right to be “hurt” because someone else follows their God-given conscience. Haven’t they heard of freedom of religion? If you know that they are hurt that means that they are gossiping about those poor JWs to other people. Gossip is my pet peeve.

I don’t even participate in potlucks at my job and it has nothing to do with my religion. I just don’t want to and no one has a right to be hurt. They shouldn’t care about other people’s personal choices as long as they aren’t hurting others.

I don’t mean to sound harsh by what I just wrote. This subject just causes a lot of feelings for me.

@wildpotato-That is actually a very good response.

Unbroken's avatar

@JenniferP No I respect and understand your opinion. I for nonreligious reasons tried the same path and am not necessarily inclined to want to socialize with a majority of my coworkers.

It is viewed as anti team building behavoir, the opposite of networking. I now go to the work events held during work hours if I have time, and participate to bare minimium.

I was just sharing my understanding of their behavoir though I don’t personally agree with it. They take it sort of personally. In a way it is kind of a personal affront. I didn’t choose these people to be around me. I can work with these personalities and be pleasant and effective but don’t wish to socialize. I see them more then I do my friends or people I care about.

But I also realize that that viewpoint holds me back from opportunities. So I participate in a minimium and that is my compromise. Since you have religious beliefs you can use it, probably without any negative reflection on you so your lucky.

JenniferP's avatar

@rosehips-I clean for a living so don’t need networks.

hearkat's avatar

@JenniferP – Giving gifts when you’ve explained that you don’t want them is a problem I’ve encountered with my future mother-in-law. We explained that we don’t celebrate Christmas, and that we have everything we need and more, yet when they came over to watch football around christmastime, she brought us gifts. Ugh. Then you wind up with things that you don’t necessarily want or need and they add up to clutter up the place. I don’t recall my exact words, but they were to the effect of, “I wish you hadn’t”. I’m hoping that she remembers this year, but I suppose I should ask my fiancé to mention our wishes to his mother.

jca's avatar

@rosehips makes a good point about participating to look like you’re not anti-social in the eyes of management. It is also beneficial for networking opportunities as she points out. When someone works independently, as @jenniferP does, then of course this does not matter.

@JenniferP: When people give you “holiday tips” do you return them and say you’re not celebrating the holiday? Just curious.

Seek's avatar


Of course you have the right to not celebrate whatever you choose not to celebrate. I would say that you should understand that others do celebrate, and not be offended when they try to encourage you to join in. They are just inviting you for the fun. A simple “Thank you for the invitation, but I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and we do not participate in holiday celebrations” is sufficient.

I’m more concerned with your statement about non-holiday related social events, like potluck lunches. If you work for a company with other people, it is assumed that you are all working toward a common goal, and are a team. You can say you don’t “need” networks, but frankly your business isn’t going to do very well if you don’t have recommendations from happy customers and coworkers. Again, you have the right to not participate in non-holiday team building exercises (like stupid office luncheons), but then your coworkers also have the right to consider you a poor team member, and cull you from the herd when the time comes.

Blackberry's avatar

Tell them to convert to scientology with you.

burntbonez's avatar

If you lived in a less parochial part of the country, where people are more tolerant, you might get less trouble. You might try NYC. I believe JW headquarters are there. JW owns a major portion of the city. Life should be more tolerant there. New Yorkers are generally more tolerant, because they are exposed to all kinds of people.

JenniferP's avatar

@ica-You are recommending I give up my religious beliefs aqnd rights so that others think that I am not anti-social. I don’t work independently, btw. @Kolinahr- I don’t mind that they invite me but when they already know where I stand I don’t see why they have to bring up the subject. Also, I work in a hospital and clean. I used to take my breaks with some people but the gossip got so bad that I started sitting by myself either using the computer or reading. I found I liked it better. On my evaluations I get praised for staying out of the gossip. I also have a problem where I can’t stand to hear people eat so I stay by myself. I do my job well and I think that my being a loner at work won’t get me fired. People like me okay. @burntbonez-It isn’t that big of an issue that I am going to move to NYC.

Seek's avatar

@JenniferP They bring it up because they want you to feel included, because they are not assholes. It’s not meant to insult you, it’s meant to include you. Thus, a “Thanks but no thanks” is all that is required from you, and maybe a nice thought in their direction – like “How sweet of them to invite me, and help me to feel like one of the guys”.

The alternative is them all going “Oh, don’t bother with her, she’s one of those Jehovah’s weirdos that doesn’t believe in birthdays or happiness”. Which would make them all jerks. So be glad you don’t work with jerks.

JenniferP's avatar

@Kolinahr-I disagree. If someone knows that you don’t believe in something they should leave you alone about it. You weren’t there to make the judgements that you are. Anyway, I am always polite to them. You make it sound like there are only two choices. Do that or be rude. But the subject only mildly bothers me. I think people on here think I am more bothered than I am.

Lets put it this way. Have you ever eaten something and are full and your host asks you if you want more to eat. You say no. Every ten minutes they ask again if you are hungry. You tell them no, you are full. They keep doing this. You would be annoyed. I just had a friend do this to me recently. I was polite about it of course just as I am when people do this about my beliefs. Are we supposed to use words like that one you used, btw?

I need to add one thing. The coworker I referred to was NOT trying to include me. She was rude and said accusingly “Why weren’t you at the party?”

Seek's avatar

I would not be annoyed. I would assume that my host wants me to be satisfied and happy. That’s what a good host does.

You were clearly bothered enough to come on here and ask a question about it. It all boils down to this: You make a choice – follow your beliefs and don’t attend the party, and run the risk of people thinking you antisocial (since you can’t control others’ thoughts), or go to the party against your beliefs, and run the risk of people thinking you’re a hypocrite (since you can’t control others’ thoughts). Either way, you’re going to have something to complain about. What you don’t have is the right to not be offered an invitation to a party. It’s not their responsibility to leave you out of any discussion of festive events lest they insult you.

I’m not really sure what you’re expecting. Do you want to be ignored? Are you expecting your coworkers to know the intricate details of your religious beliefs and be mindful of them in all interactions with you? Are you under the impression that the fact that your religion doesn’t celebrate holidays makes you in some way “special”, and that everyone should treat you with kid gloves accordingly? Honestly, I don’t know what your coworkers should have done in order to please you in this situation.

And as I am a grownup, I am fully allowed to use any word I please as I see fit.

jca's avatar

What @Seek_Kolinahr said.

@JenniferP: I am not recommending you give up any beliefs or rights. I am suggesting that when it comes to work and work-place, you consider appearing to be part of the team, at least for appearance’s sake. Even if just for a little while, go and just try to have fun, show your face, and bow out early. That’s all. I am not saying change your beliefs and you definitely have the right not to do any of the above.

blueiiznh's avatar

You should not be pressured for not celebrating Christmas, Birthdays, Mondays or Friday’s.
It is your personal choice and your business. It is like a person asking “who did you vote for”?

Don’t sweat it.

gailcalled's avatar

If anyone asks you an inappropriate or nosy question more than once, try “Asked and answered.”

JenniferP's avatar

@kolinahr-I only complained about “one” coworker not all of them. And it happened years ago. I also had some problems with my mother-in-law and brought up the recent and the past all at once. And no I don’t expect to be treated with kid gloves. She was actually rude. I don’t think expecting politeness is the same as wanting to be treated with kid gloves.

If people who know I don’t celebrate Christmas invite me then I do have the right to be annoyed. Unless, they forget. But that isn’t the issue. The girl didn’t “invite” me. She acted annoyed with me after the event already occurred. This is clearly a hot topic for you (more so than for me-it was a minor annoyance for me) so I am going to drop it. I don’t want to argue. I just wanted to hear others kind advice. Peace. @blueiznh-Thank you. That is the way I see it. If I submitted a question about why people pressure you to vote a certain way then no one would give me any trouble.

Unbroken's avatar

@JenniferP I had to come to understand that when I chose not to particpate or to interact in more then a professional manner that people didn’t like me or understand me.
They didn’t like me because they thought I was too good or that I judged them. They didnmt know where I came from and vice versa.

If you choose to be a loner that is how you will have to become used to being treated.

I found out that I don’t have to listen to gossip to be friendly or interact with them. I just trade friendly work related banter or tell a funny story if they are talking to a group and are conversating about something I don’t care about I either get back to work, walk away or start reading etc.
If they broach a topic with me I just get a bland face I have no idea what your talking about and I’m not really interested or so forth.

Not a big deal. Like you said.

But I think what you have described is a misunderstanding based on miscommunication. If you don’t talk with them they have no idea where you are coming from and might not have encountered or know what you consider to be polite etiquette.

JenniferP's avatar

@rosehips-I love my alone time on breaks and my coworkers have no problem with it. The only person that objected at first was the woman that motivated me to leave the clique. Someone pointed out to me that she was always cutting me down. I knew she was a strong willed person but I never noticed that she was actually picking on me but I observed her after that and they were right. No matter what I would say she would cut it down, so I left. Then she started saying “Why don’t you take breaks with us anymore?” The other ones quit hanging around with her too. They take their breaks somewhere else and I go to the computer and go on sites like this one. Anyway, I talk to people in my department. I worked there 17 years. I know everyone.

It is interesting how this conversation has evolved from Christmas to vegetarianism to taking breaks by myself. Lol.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Obnoxious colleague: “Merry Christmas!”

You: “Happy holidays!” (This generic greeting covers New Years, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Veterans’ Day, Martin Luther King Day, Festivus for the Rest of Us, and anything that one might choose or not choose to celebrate.)

KingCupcake's avatar

Society and tradition, my current bible study teacher said it was not advised to celebrate such holidays because of it’s pagan origins.

Unbroken's avatar

So this is more a question of how to deal with unpleasant and rude people.

Eh conversations go where they go. I like that on fluther, your thought or question triggers someone else’s brain to start ticking and…. cards will fall where they do…

Rude people. I am matter of fact courteous to a flaw and or clipped and professional. I look them straight in the eyes and don’t back down. I may put a smile on or just simply keep nuetral I purposefully relax my body loose but alert. I listen I may or may not respond. And often they walk off before I do.
I may vent later but I don’t let them see that they got me steamed.

I usually avoid confrontation but under the right circumstances I will. I do my best to maintain fully body control and and even tone of voice.

But for the most part just avoid them or ignore them if I can tactfully do so.

wildpotato's avatar

Ohh JWs means Jehovah’s Witnesses! Now I feel kind of slow. Gotcha. Knowing that…I find it a little horrifying that people are pressuring you. I was taught that shoving your holiday in the face of a Jehovah’s Witness is at best a serious faux pas, and at worst is pretty much a form of religious persecution. But from your story and from many of the responses on this thread I’m beginning to get the impression that this is not a common childhood lesson. Now I feel lucky to have had a JW classmate in elementary school who was self-assured enough at that early age to explain to us why she wasn’t singing in the holiday pageant. Someone asking a JW why she didn’t attend a Christmas party? Seriously? Yeesh, join the 21st century already.

JenniferP's avatar

@wildpotato-I wish I would have had that confidence in school. I wouldn’t say the pledge and a kid gave me trouble. I lived with my mom and she was anti-Witness and I didn’t have anyone bolstering me up at home (more like tearing me down for my beliefs) so I was ill-equipped to deal with it.

But you are right. Anyone challenging someone for not being more like everyone else, when they already know their stand and that we have religious freedom in this country is persecution. It is not trying to help include them. But she had no problem with me not celebrating the actual day because I worked for her. But I am not still troubled after all these years about that. I just used it as an example.

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