Social Question

meagan's avatar

For the Atheists - Do your children get Christmas presents?

Asked by meagan (4650points) March 21st, 2010

Couldn’t help but noticing the thread about how to disprove God to your children.

If you are an Atheist with Children… do you still celebrate “Christmas” or at least give presents?

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77 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

We don’t sing “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus” and then wait to Jesus to blow out the candles. Do you?

meagan's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I’m more or less looking for everyone’s answer, rather than having a debate.

That being said, I’m not going into my personal beliefs ;)

ragingloli's avatar

I personally do not. However, my atheist (atheist because religion was discouraged in the GDR and because they do not give a damn about religion) parents do, because, well, that is what everyone does. There were never any songs or religious symbols however. Just a plastic tree, presents and some lights.

ucme's avatar

I’m agnostic, this puts me in the fortunate position of believing my children should of course receive many christmas presents,while at the same time not believing the fucking prices of some of them.Happy days.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m an atheist, and Jewish, but my husband’s family is Catholic, but he converted LOL. Anwyay, I would be fine, if I had children, for them to get Santa Claus gifts at their grandma’s house, and we certainly would have Christmas dinner with them and exchange gifts.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes. We also decorate the house, have a Christmas tree, play carols, and read the story of the Nativity from the Bible on Christmas Eve.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

I don’t have children, so I’ll just describe my whole families’ Christmas habits.

Sure, why wouldn’t we? It’s a fun time of year, and we enjoy the spirit of the season (not just gifts); we just skip over the religious parts.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

No, we celebrate the whole pagan tree and presents thing on New Year’s Eve.

meagan's avatar

So do you also celebrate Jewish holidays, Wiccan holidays, etc, etc, etc?

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That’s because you are Russian. Russian-American, but still because you are Russian.

meagan's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities Because you aren’t Christians…?

Rarebear's avatar

I get my child a Channukah present.

Trillian's avatar

I was Wiccan for 25 years, but since the prevailing attitude is Christian I made no attempt to force my views on my kids. We always had a tree, presents, dinner, sang Carols. I was raised in a Pentecostal church and I have always loved to sing hymns. In the Garden makes me cry to this day. I also allowed them to attend church when they wanted. There was never any shortage of people who wanted to take them.
I also Celebrated yule, both Solstices and Equinoxes. My kids had the option of joining me or not and I took my oldest to some Merry Meets.
I did teach them that it is not well done to be disrespectful of the religious beliefs of others and that there are a lot of them.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@meagan So? I’m not Irish, but I enjoy St. Patrick’s day festivities.

We skip the christian parts that we don’t like, and enjoy the holiday. If that’s not a true Christmas to you, then fine, we celebrate Xmas (or whatever you wanna call it). I’m not going to let a philosophy/religion that I don’t believe in keep me from celebrating a holiday I enjoy. We make it our own and have a good time, and that’s all that matters.

squidcake's avatar

I was raised in an Atheist/Agnostic family and, yeah, we celebrate Christmas, Easter, etc.

We just celebrate whatever is commonly celebrated and/or what our extended family celebrates. Just, minus the prayers.

Rarebear's avatar

@meagan And yes, I’m an atheist and we celebrate all the Jewish holidays (including Shabbat), and we go to Shul.

meagan's avatar

Don’t you think its a little unfair? Kind of a cop out for a holiday just to get gifts?
“We get presents from Santa. No particular reason. Just because we were good, I suppose.”

Do you not think it would be more of a statement if you blew off giving away presents? Like you were really standing up for what you were believing in, rather than continuing to practice “bad habits” of giving presents during the Christmas season?

cazzie's avatar

Yes, my children get Xmas presents. We celebrate Jule. It’s predates the Christian Christmas.

Trillian's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities has a good point. I’m not Catholic but when I lived in Gulfport, MS I learned to enjoy the finer points of Mardi Gras, and how!
We bought King Cakes all the time from New Orleans (Nawlins’) and vied for the baby Jesus baked inside.

AstroChuck's avatar

Yes. I give Christmas presents to my kids as well as their kids. It’s just that Santa Claus brings them and not Jesus Claus.

dpworkin's avatar

My older kids, whose mom celebrates Christmas, get Christmas gifts from me, my younger kids, whose mom is Jewish, get Hanukkah gifts from me.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan I should add that as a child we did not do Christmas we did Chanukah, the kids got presents, my family is Jewish and atheist as I mentioned above. Your point about blowing off the whole thing. I don’t get how religious, theist, Christians justify the whole santa thing? Isnt that kind of selling out to commercialism also? And the tree has its roots in pagan ritual. That is strange too. Do you think Jesus expected people to give gifts to each other on his birthday?

I think everyone just does what they want, live and let live.

Arisztid's avatar

I have no children but was raised by an atheist (agnostic is the easiest thing to call myself).

We had Christmas presents, but Santa brought them like @AstroChuck said. We had a tree, decorated very old style, and other things, much more entertaining that presents, like my father making chocolate chip cookie dough and having to send half of the batch to a neighbor before baking because I could not keep out of frozen raw cookie dough <salivates> and ate most of it before my father could bake. Then he had to send half of that to the neighbors because I have the same love for frozen chocolate chip cookies <salivates>

Not being religious did not stop us from celebrating a fun holiday. While neither my father, nor I, see a need to wait for a specific day to give a present. However, the rest of the nation is celebrating this holiday… why leave your child out of it? Why break fun tradition?

meagan's avatar

@Arisztid Because its kind of like half assing something?
If I’m going to be a vegan, am I going to eat a hamburger just because its the fourth of july and its offered to me?

I’m really not trying to be rude. But its frustrating! I don’t understand how you couldn’t completely stand for something you believe in like this. :-/ – It makes absolutely no sense to me.

Arisztid's avatar

@meagan I do not see December 25th as a Christian holiday. Religion was completely removed from it… we did not do the nativity stuff or any of that lot.

It was just plain fun.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Santa Claus, the gift giving, tree, etc, is half assing Christmas for the religious.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Do we really need a metaphysical reason to have a party?

I think not, so my boys get Christmas presents as well as gifts on Japanese Children’s day.

Why should atheists not celebrate Christmas? It’s not like Jesus was actually born on December 25th anyway…

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie True, but I see it the same for people that aren’t Christians. Christmas isn’t even about presents. Especially when you dont ~believe~ in it. So why benefit from that holiday?

Sarcasm's avatar

I don’t have children, but being raised in a secular household, we did indeed celebrate Christmas, including gift-giving.
We were raised to treat Christmas as a time of togetherness and sharing. At 20 years old, I honestly don’t understand why people feel the need to attach their deity to those two. Maybe someone older and wiser can teach me.

We also recognize Easter. When my siblings and I were kids, that included colored egg hunts and lots of chocolate. as we got older, it usually just meant some candies to wake up to. I never understood how this holiday turned from the celebration of the return of Christ into.. a rabbit who hides multicolored eggs.

We never celebrated Mardi Gras nor St. Patrick’s Day as a family. Those two seem to have strayed pretty far from religion as holidays.

meagan's avatar

@Sarcasm Thats the way I’d go about it. I’m pretty sure Easter has to do about fertility and is more of a Pagan holiday, anyway… that turned into some kind of Christian thing. That happened to be around the time of Lent and all that jazz.

Jeruba's avatar

@meagan, let me ask you something. Are you a believer in the ancient Roman gods? Do you celebrate the Roman holiday of Lupercalia by performing a blood rite with sacrificial goats? Or perhaps are you a devotee of a martyred saint from the Middle Ages who defied a Roman emperor who wanted to conscript single young men for his armies? Or are you honoring the deeds of a French political prisoner from the 1400’s?

If not, then I assume that you don’t send anybody a Valentine’s card, eat candy hearts, or accept flowers from your sweetheart on February 14th, and what’s more, you can’t understand anyone who does.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Benefit? Look, growing up as a Jew, we used to sit back and think it was crazy how Christians celebrated Christmas. The meaning of the holiday was lost, people stressing themselves out and going into debt to buy gifts. Just stupid. My family looked at it like Christmas was not our holiday, but not because we were atheists, but because we were Jews.

When I was little Chanukah was still just lighting the menorah, and giving presents to the children in the family (which I think developed to compete with Christmas. Chanukah is not one of the bigger holidays). Now I see Jews who decorate and even celebrate Christmas. I have Christians tell me I can put a tree in my house because it is not religious it is secular. People are all over the map on Christmas. My point is there is hypocrisy and irony all over the place when it comes to Christmas. I don’t fault you for asking the question, I can see how it might be a curiousity if you don’t know many atheists.

Trillian's avatar

@meagan Do you work? Do you take the holiday off time? I don’t understand what it is that’s frustrating you. Btw, Christmas began as a pagan Holiday as well. Pre-empted by the Church…gaaah. Too much to get into.
Hallowe’en is Pagan in nature as well. People get dressed up, have parties, eat candy. The night before is considered “devil’s night”. Do you object to that as well?
People like to gather together, socialize, party, and enjoy each others company. We use just about anything for an excuse.
I consider it harmless. I’m not sure what excatly it is that you’re objecting to. Do you mean that atheist people a should boycott the holiday traditions? Because tradition is another thing that we, as humans, take comfort in. The dinners and family gatherings are part of the Holiday tradition. Why deprive a child of that? The Mormons don’t allow their kids to celebrate Hallowe’en. I think that sucks for a kid.

meagan's avatar

Please everyone, excuse me for not having the popular vote!

Trillian's avatar

@meagan that isn’t it for me. I just don’t understand what is frustrating you. You being an atheist doesn’t mean that you have a right to force that view on your child, and I really think it’s a bummer for kids who don’t get to trick-or-treat like the other kids. It sounds like what you’d have for kids at Christmas. I don’t know, maybe we do place too much emphasis on the presents, and we could teach our kids a sense of proportion as well as ourselves. Just…. don’t make them be excluded entirely. That’s harder for a kid than it needs to be and can cause resentment. I say this from experience.

Keysha's avatar

Given that Christmas is the Christianized version of a very old Pagan holiday, Yule, I have no problem celebrating it. I fail to see how Santa, flying reindeer, presents, waking parents at horrid hours, huge meals, and spending time enjoying family has to be Christian. Even many Christmas carols make no religious reference.

Mistletoe is from Yule, as is the burning of the Yule log. Yet the Christians have laid claim to it all. Do some research, and, instead of asking this, you might end up asking yourself what about Christmas is truly Christian? It cannot be that it celebrates the birth of Jesus, because most authorities agree that Jesus was not born on Christmas.

So what valid reason would the Christians have for claiming that day? The only reason could be, because they were pre-empting a previous holiday by another major religion, so they could claim it as their own, justifying, in their own minds, the Pagan celebration.

meagan's avatar

There really isn’t any winning for me in this argument unless I drop my religious beliefs and humor everyone’s idea of being a faux atheist that enjoys sort of celebrating holidays.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan If you are thinking of Christmas in the purest sense, the birth of Christ, which pretty much everyone agrees was not Dec 25th, but that is something else, then you should not be putting up a tree. This was adopted later to get the pagans to convert or something like that. I am not being argumentative, just letting you know there are all types of inconsistencies.

Arisztid's avatar

@meagan Who is attacking you, who is trying to change your beliefs or even challenging them, and you asked about atheists.

Oh my favorite Christmas show was, and still is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”... not a religious show.

meagan's avatar

@Trillian What is annoying me, as I said earlier – If I were a vegan, I wouldn’t be eating burgers just because its the fourth of july.

I don’t understand why people would make exceptions to “sort of” celebrate holidays.

meagan's avatar

@Arisztid I didn’t say I was being attacked.

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan We, or I, am not saying you are wrong, just giving our opinions. Explaining why.

meagan's avatar

@JLeslie No offense, but I don’t really care to hear everyone’s why’s over and over ;P

JLeslie's avatar

@meagan Your vegan analogy is a good one. Just seems people are all sorts of inconsistent when it comes to celebrating holidays.

Trillian's avatar

@meagan I wasn’t aware that I was in an argument. I’ve asked you more than once what exactly you object to, and I asked for my own clarification. Everything I’ve said to you has been phrased politely and as an explanation. Why the combat metaphor? This is not an argument, but a stating of opinions. I’m still waiting to hear from you an answer to my courteously stated question.

JLeslie's avatar

Cool. I let the others handle it.

Trillian's avatar

Wow. Ok, I’m out.

Fernspider's avatar

@meagan “There really isn’t any winning for me in this argument unless I drop my religious beliefs and humor everyone’s idea of being a faux atheist that enjoys sort of celebrating holidays.”

There is no “winning” or “losing” in discussions about why people do the things they do. If enjoying a festive occasion with family and traditions is something people want to do regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs is their business and has no bearing or weight on your religious beliefs or celebrations.

My celebrations have nothing to do with Christianity. I like food, friends, family and togetherness.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@meagan Christmas wasn’t originally a Christian holiday, anyway. So if Christians can turn it into whatever they want, why can’t atheists or agnostics???

meagan's avatar

@DrasticDreamer Yep. I’ve read that point many times. Thanks

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@meagan “Yep”? I’m asking for your opinion. :P

PandoraBoxx's avatar

We are agnostic. We have a tree, gifts, Christmas stockings. We do not go to church, or have a creche any more. When my children were little and attended a religious school, we had a birthday party for Baby Jesus, complete with a cake. The Wise Men moved across the living room, arriving at the manger on Epiphany, bringing gifts of money, chocolate and perfume (representing gold, incense, myrrh).

ratboy's avatar

No, my children do not receive Christmas gifts. As one would expect of the children of atheists, they are very bad children who therefore deserve no gifts.

meagan's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I’m sorry, I’m just really tired of the subject. As I said in like.. my second post – I really wasn’t interested in discussing my opinion. I wish I hadn’t of gotten into it. I’m exhausted from this thread x_x

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@meagan “just because you were good, I suppose” is pretty much how Christians explain Christmas, too.

escapedone7's avatar

Many Christian parents also allow their children to participate in Halloween even though it is clearly not a Christian tradition.
I think some holidays have become a part of American culture. How could you raise a kid in this culture and them never see a Christmas tree or a Halloween party? I doubt children are debating the philosophy or theology behind the traditions, just taking comfort in delight in the celebrations.

ooops noticed this was for atheists. I don’t know exactly what I am yet but I don’t think I qualify to answer. sorry.

Jeruba's avatar

Some people celebrate holidays that others don’t recognize at all. I know a family that has celebrated Wagner’s birthday every year for more than 30 years by playing the complete Ring cycle. At my house we used to faithfully celebrate the birthday of the inventor of the Eskimo Pie (guess what that occasion involved!). I don’t know why people shouldn’t celebrate anything they want, any way they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. Does my Christmas tree harm you in some way, @meagan?

kheredia's avatar

Holidays are just holidays.. I know lots of christians and catholics who celebrate halloween and I’m not pointing the finger at them. You can either look at Christmas in the religious way or you can look at it as a fun little holiday to show your loved ones how much you care about them. It’s not a big deal.

Jeruba's avatar

@kheredia, Hallowe’en is a religious holiday, at least in its origins as the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows Eve, or the eve of the day of all that’s holy—hallowed). Very Catholic (and Catholics are Christians).

kheredia's avatar

@Jeruba Really?? I’ve heard a lot of religious people opposed to celebrating it. I guess maybe it’s turned into something that it wasn’t before. I don’t know, I have never looked into the history of Halloween but it just doesn’t seem like the type of holiday a religious person would celebrate.

HTDC's avatar

I don’t have children, but growing up with my Atheist father and Catholic mother, we never celebrated Christmas or acknowledged Jesus in anyway. We just used it as an excuse to buy really nice food. Presents were hardly on the agenda either.
Same with Easter, again it’s an excuse to eat a shitload of chocolate bunnies. As long as these traditions are around we’ll have our excuse to stuff our faces. I’m happy with that.

escapedone7's avatar

oh shows what I know. I though Halloween was wiccan or druid or something.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@meagan, perhaps you would be less tired of your own question if you would have a clear idea of what your intention was in posting it. The way it’s written comes a cross as a “You People” question, which sounds like you are looking for an argument.

Most atheists were raised in a religious tradition and have consciously chosen a different path.

Jeruba's avatar

@kheredia, there are some religious people who won’t countenance a holiday that isn’t found in the Bible. (Oddly enough, those people usually do drive cars, use telepones and washing machines, etc.) But the ecclesiastical calendar of the Catholic church from early times has been full of feasts of all kinds, and many of these celebrations have their roots in the Middle Ages, when the Church was the most powerful institution in the Western world.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day, November 1 and 2, are two such, and the old idea was that on the eve (the night before) of those two big holy days (holidays), which together cover just about everybody—all hallows—the evil spirits might run loose while they still could. So certain customs grew up to protect ourselves from the dangerous night when they were all abroad (looking like goblins that might come to our door). We might make offerings to them (trick or treat!) so they would leave us alone.

Meanwhile, it was also a big night for the practicing witches! So there really might have been dark celebrations going on while the good Christians were quaking behind their doors and waiting for the holy day to dawn.

The kids in costumes going from door to door for candy treats have no idea what they’re acting out, but it is a day that has deep roots in the culture from which our culture grew.

I happen to believe that Hallowe’en has become such a big deal in the U.S. in the past few decades because it is perceived as a secular holiday (by people who don’t know a thing about the history)—and therefore that it is safe and politically correct to play up in schools, just like Valentine’s Day and others that seem to be free of religious connotations. A great sensitivity has arisen about giving official school attention to a traditional and legal U.S. holiday like Christmas, which is really odd when they’ll give over an entire day to celebrating a minor Mexican holiday as an official school event, but anyway. So the emphasis on Hallowe’en and Valentine’s Day has taken the place of the old emphasis on Christmas and Easter. And so merchandisers follow through, and they become a big deal at Walgreen’s and Safeway, and presto! everybody thinks it’s a major American event.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Oh, I have to get into this one!

I have never been raised Christian. However, we have always celebrated Christmas. It is not a solely Christian holiday anymore. For my mother and I, it is about being together. We exchange gifts because, yes, it is tradition to do so but also because we so enjoy figuring out exactly what the other would like. Celebrating Christmas is fun!

Also, you have stated your opinion about people who celebrate Christmas but who are not Christian. I believe you called it “half-assing” the holiday.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I no longer get the point of this question, @meagan – seems to me no one is asking you to drop your beliefs not does it seem to me that you care to find out any of the answers because all you want to talk about is your opinion that those damn atheists and agnostics get to ‘benefit’ from Christmas and how dare they? Do you really think so much of this commercialized day? And even if it was special, so what? Other families can make whatever traditions they want with these ‘christian’ days (as they’re not actually christian holidays, never were) because they have to also put up with all the negative crap that comes with this religion on a daily basis.

Trillian's avatar

@Jeruba Actually, we had our big blow out parties open to the public on Hallowe’en night, but Samhain is celebrated according to the Lunar Calendar and falls around November 6. Or it did the last time I actually celebrated it. Those observances we did not open to the public.
@Simone De Beauvior – Thank you. I still don’t get what she was after.

Jeruba's avatar

@Trillian, the Wiccans of my acquaintance observe Samhain on or as close as possible to October 31st. The calendars do seem to allow some leeway. I think it is very enlightened of the earth religions not to be quite so rigid about these events.

lynfromnm's avatar

As an Atheist with 2 children, I have never seen any need to “disprove” a god to my kids or anyone else. How do you disprove something that doesn’t exist? As my children were growing up they were exposed to a wide variety of belief systems and philosophies. It has always been their choice and they knew I would respect their choices because I respect everyone’s choices.

We did and do exchange gifts and gather together at Christmas. Since everyone has that time off from work/school it is convenient. And gift giving is fun!

casheroo's avatar

I wouldn’t call us Atheists, but we have never celebrated anything religiously. We do presents, a christmas tree and family gathering. I was raised with no organized religion, and my husband was raised Catholic, but hasn’t practiced since he was 18.

Supacase's avatar

I am agnostic, but for those who say that is impossible you might as well put me in the atheist camp because I’m closer to that end of the spectrum. I celebrate because many members of my family are Christian and I enjoy the family time and the spirit of the season. They probably don’t know I am not Christian because I tend to think it is none of anyone’s business. I am respectful of the season and their beliefs. I see the sincerity in the eyes of many. I am happy for them! Honestly. Just because I don’t believe as they do doesn’t mean I don’t wish them well or want to celebrate their joy.

A friend could get drafted to the Detroit Lions – lousy team in a lousy city. He would be over the moon!! Would I party down with him even though Detroit sucks, this is not going to go well? Hell yes I would! II am going to crazy celebrate for my boy making his dream come true and I will not bring him down with my own opinions. I’m there to party, not talk about what better teams could have chosen him.

@meagan Do you not think it would be more of a statement if you blew off giving away presents? Like you were really standing up for what you were believing in…

The thing is, I don’t feel like I need to make a statement or take a stand on my beliefs. I happen to feel that religious beliefs are very personal, so I rarely talk about it at all. I don’t care what religion other people follow and don’t often take their opinions on my beliefs into account. They can think I’m being a lazy or uncommitted agnostic/atheist for celebrating Christmas, but I don’t care.

ninjacolin's avatar

@meagan this is all pretty simple. i celebrate. why? because i want to. why don’t i celebrate the jewish holidays? because i don’t want to.

@meagan asked: “Do you not think it would be more of a statement if you blew off giving away presents? Like you were really standing up for what you were believing in…”

i don’t do this because i don’t have a desire to make the statement you’re expecting me to want to make.

i hope this helps. :)

cazzie's avatar

I’m tired of Christians who think the world began when their saviour was born. The celebrations of the end of December were in place well before the Jesus holiday was put in it’s place by the Romans. Same with Easter. It’s a spring fertility festival. (rabbits,,, eggs, Ester the goddess of fertility..nothing to do with Jesus)

At the end of December we (my family) celebrate a tradition that goes further back than two thousand something years. It’s called Jul where a tree is decorated, presents are exchanged and we share what we can with friends and neighbours because the winter is tough and we all start looking forward to the turn of the sun and the days getting longer.

If someone celebrates it in a different way, great for them. Super. I respect your beliefs. So please stop judging mine.

mattbrowne's avatar

Music is either sacred or secular. The sacred agrees with its dignity, and here has its greatest effect on life, an effect that remains the same through all ages and epochs. Secular music should be cheerful throughout.—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I did not mean anything negative by the comment. I was just pointing it out, because I doubt any Americans celebrate that way, unless they fairly recently immigrated over from Russia. I just think it is interesting. I would say most American atheists (I am not saying you are any less American, I am simply talking about 2nd and 3rd generation Americans) Just go ahead and celebrate the whole gift giving thing on Christmas or Chanukah, or whichever of the typical gift giving holiday best makes sense to them, assuming they give gifts at all. I have never heard of Americans switching to New Years for gift giving. I just find it interesting. Kind of makes sense to me.

@meagan Maybe you did not notice that I wrote I don’t fault you for asking the question, I can see how it might be a curiousity if you don’t know many atheists way up above. I was supporting your question, unlik others on teh thread. You failed to respond to atheists with an, “oh, I had never thought of it that way.” Or, “oh, I was not aware of that.” You can still disagree with what we say, I respect that. It can be illogical in your mind, but you can’t get pissed about the answers. Asking a question is to learn and find out other people’s opinions.

Silhouette's avatar

Yeah, I give the kids presents. I have never tried to disprove God to the kids, in fact, I went the other route, I sent them to church with their friends because they wanted to go. When I was asked why I didn’t go I said because I don’t really believe all that stuff so it’s better I stay home. I am now the mother of agnostics. They don’t know and they don’t have to as far as I’m concerned.

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