Subscribe for 33¢ / day

I’ll admit it, I enjoy Christmastime. Like everyone, I enjoy taking time to be with my family, great food, giving gifts, seeing the anticipation in my children as the big day approaches and watching their faces light up when they open that special gift. I’ve even been known to belt out Christmas songs, much to the misfortune of family members who find themselves within earshot.

Almost every person celebrates something this time of year. In addition to Christmas and Hanukkah celebrated by Christians and Jews, Muslims celebrate Id al-Adha during the 12th lunar month of the Islamic year, and many different pagan and Native American religious practices recognize and have traditions surrounding the winter solstice.

The winter solstice is truly the “reason for the season,” as this is the day each year with the fewest number of daylight hours, Dec. 22. It marks the point at which days begin to get longer, “the return of the sun.” This event was very significant to ancient people for obvious reasons, and many rituals and traditions were organized around this astronomical phenomenon.

Growing up as a Christian, my memories are full of Christmas traditions — traditions I wanted to share with my own children. However, I did not care to incorporate any of the religious trappings. So we simply enjoyed all of the things most people do this time of year — stories about Santa and reindeer, decorating an evergreen in our living room, giving gifts, singing songs, building snowmen and gingerbread houses, and all of the other wonderful activities that have nothing to with mangers and wise men.

It’s also a great way to keep the peace in a house where the husband and wife may not see eye-to-eye on the subject of religion, as is the case in my own home.

Apparently there are many others out there who enjoy the holiday in this secular way, and some have even taken to dubbing this celebration “Krismas,” quite literally “taking the Christ out of Christmas.” Personally, I feel no more need to remove the name Christ from Christmas than I do to remove the name Thor from Thursday. In fact, most of the days of our week and many of our months received their names from earlier pagan, Greek or Roman gods. Like most people today, I don’t believe in these gods either, yet the names of our weekdays do not bother me in the slightest.

The practice of borrowing traditions from different religions is nothing new. In fact, many elements of the Christmas tradition were borrowed from earlier pagan solstice celebrations. Decorating an evergreen tree, the Yule log and mistletoe are among many borrowed practices.

It seems more people are favoring a secularized Christmas. A 2013 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 1 in 4 Americans viewed Dec. 25 as a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day, and 51 percent of those who celebrated the day did not believe that many elements in the traditional narrative — the virgin birth, that shepherds seeing a star over Bethlehem and that three wise men visiting a baby Jesus in a manger — were historically accurate.

This poll also found that half of those polled preferred a generic greeting such as “happy holidays” out of respect for people of all faiths.

This kind of secularized holiday greeting certainly does bother one self-appointed defender of Christmas, the American Family Association.

Each year about this time, this organization publishes its “Naughty and Nice” list. The group encourage its members to call, email and boycott the stores who make its naughty list, composed of retailers who don’t use the word “Christmas” enough in their advertising. Nationwide, retailers in home improvement to pet food have to deal with this group’s ire annually for choosing to keep their advertisements free of references to other people’s religious observances.

Of course, the AFA is only interested in making sure Christian holidays get top billing in businesses’ flyers and displays, with no regard to the religion of the business owner. I can only imagine the response from the AFA if a Muslim group demanded that Christian business owners recognize the observance of Ramadan in their advertising.

Despite the claims of the “War on Christmas” promoted by groups such as the AFA and some in the media, I have no personal experience with anyone trying to restrict the ability of Christians to practice their religious holiday however they see fit, as long as they are not imposing it on others around them.

As for myself, I will enjoy the tradition of Christmas this year, though not the religion of Christmas. I wish everyone a joyous holiday season and a healthy and happy new year.

Sign up to get each day's obituaries sent to your email inbox

Jeremy Fejfar is a member of the La Crosse Area Freethought Society.

0
0
0
0
0

Digital news editor

Digital news editor

(42) comments

Redwall

Atheism is not a spirit of tolerance, but a spirit of hatred, resentment and envy.

Jeremy F

I hope you enjoyed you Christmas, Redwall. I am definitely enjoying the time home with my family. Peace.

Bill O'Rights

Jeremy and Easy--Thank you both for an excellent dialog. It is refreshing to read your expressions of disagreement without the irrational vitriol that is so common from some of the bloggers here.

Jeremy F

Easy-

Thanks for all the comments. Enjoy the holidays, and have a happy new year.

easy

Thank you for the responses, Jeremy, and I do think we've beaten this to pieces. I am not disagreeing with all that much, and in a different discussion you might find me being quite vociferous against Christian actions and ideas.

Oh, yes, there are bullies there.

I will say, in a gentle and friendly way, that I don't get your finding that phrase to be presumptuous -- that seems to me a mountain out of a molehill. And also that I don't see the birthday idea quite as compelling as you -- who would say such a thing?

Beyond that, battling Christian overreaches is a very good thing, but complaining about this phrase (you're not), or Christmas trees in an airport terminal, or a creche in a store window, is very different. Main accomplishment, pissed off people.

Let's find compromise instead, that being so elusive lately.

Anyway, respond if you wish, otherwise just let me say Good Will to you, and Happy Holidays too. And...and...and Have a Nice Day!

easy

And, Jeremy, you also want to get into a typical battle of this side versus that side. I said Christians have done much for the needy. Do you deny that? You cannot.

And you seem to be suggesting that because of my statement, I somehow wouldn't approve of government agencies doing the same thing. Where does that come from? I said nothing like that. Why not be glad for both?

Thanks for the links. It's heartening to see non-believers efforts are paying off. But it is small potatoes and coming late to the party -- Christians have been at it for years. And I don't mean the easy thing of pulling out your wallet. I mean the hard kind of thing, say manning the soup kitchen every Thursday night for years.

And you said: By "atheist shelter", I'm assuming you mean anything not explicitly religious.

No, you are wrong. Shouldn't assume. What I said was, where are the ATHEIST shelters? Not necessarily here, but anywhere. What are they doing on Thursday night?

Jeremy F

Easy-

Absolutely Christians and some Christian groups do good humanitarian works- no doubt. So does Hamas & so does Bill Gates. The religion is not necessary for this. You were asking for atheist charities, so I provided examples.

"What I said was, where are the ATHEIST shelters?"

I am not aware of any specific shelters run by "atheist" groups, but I'm sure they are out there. Most nonbelievers don't feel the need to start their own "Atheist" shelter. Bill Gates didn't start "Atheist Gates foundation", he is just out there doing good work leaving religion out of it- which is how it should be, IMO.

To me, it seems very silly to start a separate "Atheist" shelter, when there's already one serving the population. I would rather put my time and energy into the existing facility, rather than have 2 separate entities serving the same function. It just seems more efficient. That is why I favor a govt run program- more reliable, and they won't turn people away for ideological reasons.

easy

Jeremy, you're over the top -- that response has nothing to do with the topic that I can see, but it does provide a more clear glimpse into your feelings about Christians.

I can't and won't defend any Christian dogma, and I can agree that there is indeed bullying on both sides, but -- where on earth do you get the idea that smilingly saying Merry Christmas to someone you pass in the street or hallway makes the assumption that they are Christian too? Who cares?

I have said I'm not religious. But I have happily said Merry Christmas for this last half century, and have never thought to worry if they were religious or not.

What I mean by that phrase is: There's a holiday now, and I hope it's good for you.

You are the one imbuing the phrase with power. Calling it presumptuous seems a large overreaction. Why should you be offended, other than you want to be?

We use many terms as minor greetings that mean very little. When people ask "How are you?" do they really want to know?

Jeremy F

Easy-

Perhaps you missed my response to Richard's post below- "While I don't get bent out of shape from people wishing me a Merry Christmas..."

I really am not offended by people wishing me Merry Christmas- almost all of the time, it is a genuine greeting intending good will, and that is the vein in which I take it. Normally I will respond to that greeting with a, "Thanks, you too".

That being said, I do feel it is presumptuous on the part of the person using the phrase. Why would you wish a "Merry Christmas" to a person you know does not celebrate the holiday? It seems to me like saying "Happy Birthday" to someone when it is not their birthday, you are just presuming it might be. Again, I would not be offended if someone wished me Happy birthday today, though I would think it odd that they would just make that presumption. That is why I don't go around indiscriminately saying Merry Christmas, for the same reasons I don't say Happy Hannkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Saturnalia, etc.

Kris Kringle

Jeremy is on the naughty-list.

Jeremy F

Easy-

Yes, Christians are totally being "bullied" by the minority. Like the 1500 kids every year who are driven to commit suicide by the atheists who label their feelings as "sinful", disgusting, and an abomination. Oh wait, bad example. How about the atheist moms who kill/attempt to kill her kids because she was convinced the end times was approaching and she wanted them to go to heaven? Shoot.
Okay- How about when the atheists tell the Christians that they totally deserve to be tortured forever? Or when the atheists tell them who they can marry, or how they should dress, or what days of the week they can work? I know the atheist groups are always trying to get their beliefs infiltrated into the government, plastered on the money, in the pledge, in oaths- just so they can force Christians to recite these things.

Hmm... Maybe I got that backwards...

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GoX52zeX5Fc/UYa7oRc-SOI/AAAAAAAADdI/hrnGlSvGT44/s1600/Anti-ChristianBigotry.jpg

RichardSRussell

The "wrong" kind of season's greetings? Please! It's not that hard. Here's the short course:

 • If you know somebody is a Christian, say "Merry Christmas".
 • If you know that they're Serbian, like my mom's side of the family, say "Khristos se rodi" (or "Joyeux Noël" or "Felíz Navidad" or whatever the appropriate ethnicity is).
 • If you know they're Jewish, go with "Happy Hanukkah".
 • If you know they're Wiccan, say "Blessed Yule".
 • If you know they enjoy Kwanzaa, say "Joyous Kwanzaa".
 • If you know they celebrate Festivus, say "Happy Festivus".
 • If you're talking to me, “Go, Pack!" gets a big grin all year round.
 • And in all other cases (that is, when you don't know), go with "Happy Holidays" and you can't miss.

Do you detect the common theme here? It’s about spreading cheer to the other person. It’s not all about you.

Now please pick your favorite season's greeting and pretend it came from me. 8^D

Jeremy F

I completely agree, Richard. While I don't get bent out of shape from people wishing me a Merry Christmas, I do recognize it for what it is- presumptious. "Why would you assume I am Christian?" To me it seems a bit like on your birthday and wishing everyone you meet a "Happy Birthday". It is your birthday, and we are all very happy that you are enjoying it, but don't assume it is my birthday also.

RichardSRussell

A good analogy, which I will promptly expropriate and recycle. Thanks.

superman

I know, how about you just practice tolerance and forget about being offended all together!

Easy enough for you?

easy

I'm not offended. I am against taking offense at little things, like we do so often. You won't win by twisting what I say.

superman

Lol, take it Easy little buddy, and have a Merry Krismas!

easy

I meant to say this before, but missed it, so let me close by saying I offered a solution for the greeting, but I like crank's better:

* * *
Instead of being offended and finding fault with someone because they chose they 'wrong' greeting, why not try just, "Thanks! Same to you."
* * *

Thanks! Same to you. Easy, over, done.

easy

Well, I earned some feedback on this, and that's good, I can always stand to improve. But I think I'm being corrected here for I'm not sure what.

As I re-read this, it seems that if I had prefaced my initial post with something like, "It's great that Jeremy has no problem with people saying Merry Christmas," then the rest of the post could have maintained intact. Because we all know Jeremy is in a minority there, and that there have indeed been attacks on Christmas, mean-spirited ones, in recent years.

As others have said, it is a good letter, and I think Jeremy and I would probably be good friends. But he is getting his licks in at the same time, and he chose the poll that served his purpose.

I feel like I'm in an odd situation, not religious in the least, and defending Christians. But I'm really arguing against what has been happening the last few years from atheists, which at bottom is just more bullying.

But as I said, it's pretty quiet this year -- the battle may be over.

easy

Full disclosure -- I was a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for several years, joined when I say Anne Gaylor (mother of the woman who runs it now) on the Phil Donahue show in the 80's.

I thought they were fine at first, but then they turned and started getting aggressive, too aggressive by far, and I left.

I think there is a lot of bullying these days, as so many people become offended by so many things.

And have you noticed how Christianity in particular has been bashed the last few years?
It's become politically correct to do so.

And I'm not religious, but I'm defending them. Yikes. Maybe that's because I see Christian organizations right here providing food and shelter to those in need.

Where's that atheist shelter again?

superman

Habitat for Humanity

easy

Read the first line. Oops! Have you been into the Kryptonite again?

http://www.habitat.org/how/christian.aspx

superman

I quess i was wrong. And here I was about go off listing every exchange student, athletic student housing, and commune I could think of.... Thanks for the reality check.

Merry Krismas!

RichardSRussell

In the terms of the actual definition of atheism — without (a-) god (-theos-) belief (-ism) — by far the most active, widespread, and munificent atheist charities in the US are provided by various levels of government, which are prohibited by the 1st Amendment from containing any religious component or proselytizing. Individual atheists certainly do their part in those efforts.

Jeremy F

By "atheist shelter", I'm assuming you mean anything not explicitly religious. I would think secular or non-religious charity would qualify.

There are many examples here:

https://foundationbeyondbelief.org/

http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Secular_charities

And may others. For instance The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is on a mission to eradicate many diseases through massive vaccination campaigns. Bill Gates is an atheist. Warren Buffet has pledged the majority of his vast fortune to the Gates foundation. Warren Buffet is an atheist.

And like Richard indicated, I feel like these programs for the poor are too important to be left to the whim of groups like the Salvation Army. This leaves the needy at the mercy of a private group who can decide to stop helping at any time, and has a captive audience to proselytize. I prefer a more reliable and permanent solution, such as funding the govt to provide these services in a fair and reliable way.

Redwall

Ah, yes. What would Christmas at the Tribune be without the cynicism of atheists.

I'll bet it wasn't easy to write an essay promoting atheism without ever using the word; was it?

DEFresh

The age of people who come up with their own religion of godliness or spirituality but don't include God himself. The bible has many prophesies that predict that more of these lost people will arrive on the scene and also of the false teachers (pastors and priests) that will teach feel good sermons not rooted in anything divine just in sinful peoples desires.
Commandment.. thou shall not worship any gods before me
Verse Mark 7:9 ..and he said "you have a fine way of rejecting the commandments of God in order to establish your tradition".
This just in... God does not need you,he will always be God with or without you. You need to not reject him or you will end up in a lake known as Hell, a lake of fire. No one can escape a resting place of Heaven or the eternal torture of Hell. Better get some life insurance with Him, see John 3:16.Free insurance for all sinners ,which includes you and me.

superman

Excellent letter Jeremy!

descheneaux

Thoughtful, intelligent, and well written. How anyone could find fault with this piece amazes me. I patiently await the next step in the evolution of the human race, the post-religion, post-atheist, humanistic based philosophy of life. It is only a matter of time. :-)

crank

I think there will always be people who find fault with anything anyone does. Mr. Fejfar doesn't seem to have a problem with the Merry Christmas greeting yet people insist on ascribing objections of other atheists to him. To me, he seems very open-minded and tolerant.

Unfortunately, there are those among us who are quick to get their panties in a wad when someone says or does something they perceive as the 'wrong' thing. It doesn't matter if it's Christians freaking out because someone says "Happy Holidays" or non-Christians (e.g. Jews, pagans, atheists) freaking out because some Jesus-worshiper dared to offer a well-intentioned blessing by saying "Merry Christmas" thus imposing their beliefs and morals on them.

Mr. Fejfar correctly points out the numerous religions and holiday traditions which are all celebrated this time of year. Instead of being offended and finding fault with someone because they chose they 'wrong' greeting, why not try just, "Thanks! Same to you."

easy

Any of the holiday greetings are meant to impart friendly good cheer, are they not?

America bills itself as being proud of its diversity, does it not?

Instead of being all that concerned about offending someone, how about a Christian says Merry Christmas to her Jewish co-worker, who smiles and smiles and replies Happy Hannukkah to you, and then they quite thinking about it?

It doesn't have to be such a big deal. We are at each other's throats for everything today.

And everyone's offended about everything! Too much. A lot of it is just bullying -- PC approved.

superman

"And everyone's offended about everything!..."


Lol, especially you!

easy

Jeremy didn't link to the opinion poll he quotes from the Public Religion Research Inst. but I believe this is the one he means. Please look at its first paragraph.

JF said this:
This poll also found that half of those polled preferred a generic greeting such as “happy holidays” out of respect for people of all faiths.

But his poll says this:
Nearly half (49%) of Americans agree stores and businesses should greet their customers with “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” instead of “merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths. However, a substantial minority (43%) disagree.

49% is less than half. Small potatoes? Okay, try the Pew Research poll from the same year. Scroll down just a little to see that 57% preferred Merry Christmas.

http://publicreligion.org/research/2013/12/prri-rns-dec-2013-survey/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/12/merry-christmas-or-happy-holidays/

Besides, it seems the War is over. No major issues this year, are there?

Fran Cisco

What a messed-up life this goober has. He married someone who disagrees on his religion of attacking religion. The poor woman. Her life must be complete h3ll.

crank

I am in a similar situation as Jeremy. My wife and I do not share the same religion. It isn't a big deal when you have a marriage based on mutual respect. Jeremy seems like a pretty intelligent guy who expresses himself and his views well. This seems like it would help avoid irrational bickering. I don't know what article you read but I didn't see him attacking anyone's religion.

However, I cannot imagine being married to someone who lacks the intellectual capacity to understand how two people can coexist in a relationship despite differences. Nor can I imagine living with someone who cannot find a literary substitute for the word 'goober'.

neandros

Easy said: "...it's called Christmas, by people called Christians, so 'Christ' is in there, see that?"

Yes, easy, he saw that. Which is why he said this --
JF: "Personally, I feel no more need to remove the name Christ from Christmas than I do to remove the name Thor from Thursday."

Read more carefully before commenting next time.

easy

You read more carefully yourself (by the way, as a put-down that goes nowhere).

I said his "group" has the War on Christmas, and I didn't mean just the La Crosse Freethinkers. I meant the atheist movement coast to coast, which is also what Fejfar is referring to throughout.

(Please read more carefully -- boy, what a zinger!)

Deadwood subscriber

@easy--"please read more carefully" isn't designed to be a zinger. @neandros isn't actually trolling you.

Your defensiveness and deflection don't change the fact that Mr Fejfar didn't write what you accuse him of writing--even if that fact wasn't your main point.

easy

I'm not religious either, have not been to church except for weddings and funerals for 50 years. But this gent has it backwards when he says the poor businesses have to put up with the "ire" of some Christian group that makes onerous demands like allowing employees to say Merry Christmas. (Even If the employees WANT to!)

That all started with the "ire" of some atheist groups who demanded the businesses NOT say Merry Christmas.

It's your groups fault, Mr Fejfar, and you just have to do it at this time of year, to get in society's face.

Why don't you advertise on buses and billboards all during the year, instead of right now, when all you accomplish is making people feel bad.

Like it or not, it started with someone named Christ, and it's called Christmas, by people called Christians, so 'Christ' is in there, see that?

Changing the name is dopey, and accomplishes what? Demanding that businesses stop saying Merry Christmas or putting up a Christmas tree is too.

Peace On Earth!

Deadwood subscriber

"Like it or not, it started with someone named Christ, and it's called Christmas, by people called Christians, so 'Christ' is in there, see that? "

Or: it was started by Pagans to celebrate solstice and Romans (Saturnalia) because they love a party. And then appropriated by Christians because that's what they do.

Maybe You're Wrong

It's believed the church made 'marketing' decisions in developing their holiday traditions to attract Pagans and to replace their 'evil' festivals with Christian traditions.

December 25th (Winter Solstice) is when ancient Romans well before Christ traditionally celebrated Dies Natalis Solis Invicti the birth of Sol Invictus (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun).

The 12 Days of Christmas begin on Christmas day and end on January 6. Originally the 12 days of Yuletide began at sunset on December 20 (Mother Night) and ended on December 31 (Twelfth Night). This was celebrated the way we observe New Year's Eve.

All Saints Day (Christian) was created as an alternative to the traditionally Pagan holiday celebration of Halloween.

Christians timed Easter to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ with the Pagan observance of the Vernal Equinox and the death and resurrection of Semiramis (Goddess of Fertility). The crucifix has Pagan roots too. New has just replaced old...

superman

Yes, Peace on Earth, and on every other habitable, life sustaining planet out there with intelligent life.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe or log in to continue.