Christmas for Atheists

Christmas is a holiday that beats all holidays around the world. And it doesn’t matter how much you can argue, Christmas remains the most magical holiday of all times. 

I was brought up in a Christian house, and surely Christmas was and still is  part of our winter holiday season. Even though we live in the Middle East, we celebrate Christmas almost like the rest of the western world: every year we have a Christmas tree, presents and of course carols. There are many Christmas songs in Arabic. Yes, many many Christmas songs in Arabic. Many of them are based on the Christmas English songs, but in Arabic.

I went to both a christian school and a public-non-christian school, and for both we decorated the school for Christmas. Christmas was around me every winter. I never missed it, even when my family was in mourning, and we couldn’t really celebrate the holiday (I think it’s a Middle Easter tradition: we don’t celebrate a holiday or have a wedding when there’s a tragedy in the family during a specific season). Christmas bells are heard for days around Christmas. Christmas lights in the streets were always around – sometimes they used to stick around for a whole year, and that was okay. 

More than seven years ago, we started having Christmas market and festival in Nazareth every year. Even amidst crisis and drama, we always have a grand Christmas tree in the center of the City. In Nazareth, Christmas is all around.

Christmas Market/Festival – Nazareth 2013

There’s something many of you my readers know: I’m an atheist. I don’t go to church, I don’t fast the lent, I don’t pray to God before food or bed, I don’t even believe in heaven and hell. And with all honestly, I love being an atheist. Or more precisely agnostic atheists (no knowledge of the absence of God, just don’t believe in it/him/her). There are many things I believe in, of course, like: beauty, nature, love, and many many other things. But not an almighty God that decides your faith. 

So, why do I live a whole year waiting for Christmas? — Because it’s fucking magical. 
Christmas lights, Christmas music, cold weather, and warm indoors. The Christmas spirit is basically living in a magical realm for a whole month. And of course it ends on the 25th of December. The whole month before Christmas is a fantasy land where everything is beautiful and romantic, and the music is lovely. 

If Christmas is universally magical, and is celebrated in the Middle East, does that mean that even Muslims and Jews celebrate this holiday and decorate their own Christmas tree. 
My answer is sadly no. Only few Muslims and Jews have a Christmas tree, though most of them attend Christmas parties or Christmas markets, if there’s any in the area. Then how can an atheist like me, make a big deal about this holiday? – I was brought up in a christian house. Most of the time I imagined that I would still be the same person if I was brought up in a Jewish or a Muslim house. I would grow up to be an atheist, with the same beliefs and lifestyle, and I wouldn’t care about the holidays, except that they’re days off from work. But would I feel the Christmas spirit? would I know how it truly feels? 

I know many Muslims and Jews who always tell me how lucky I am that I am a Christian and I celebrate Christmas with my family, because they saw and heard about the magic of this holiday from TV and from their travels. And I always try to tell them that they can also have Christmas by setting up a Christmas tree and throw on some decorations. But no, it’s not the same. Apparently, you have to be a true Christian to know and feel this international holiday. 

3 comments

  1. I am an atheist and hate Christmas. I don’t mind the religion, I just hate the crass and tacky commercialism which starts earlier every year

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    1. I can easily understand you.
      As for relating to what you said, I find it difficult to dislike Christmas music, and feeling the coziness of decorating the house for Christmas.
      I personally don’t over do it, I only have a tiny Christmas tree and one cord of lights in my apartment. But I wanted socks and a new Christmas sweater this year.
      However, when I decided to go outside, I passed by a very famous avenue in the city I live in, and the Christmas/Hannuka decoration were tacky and not even pleasant. I always liked Christmas decoration, and Christmas lights all over Nazareth (I grew up near Nazareth), but perhaps when I noticed that a whole street in a non-Arab/Christian town are kind of over-doing it just to attract tourists and make business out of it.
      And let’s not get into the whole concept of fake coexistence in Haifa (where I live now).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. It must be hard.

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