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Charles T.

Christmas: Celebrate, Replace, Rename or Ignore?

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I dont think its correct to say that. Christians dont intend to give presents to a dead Jesus. Jesus is just what they want for the means for the celebration. They want the celebration of Christmas to be only because of Jesus.

I agree.

Great. And Merry Christmas to you ^_^.

The quote by konerko14 makes it seem like he agrees with Christians. Please disregard.

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When I replied (5:47pm) to your post, my words, to which your "I agree" was a response, were not included.

Oh, I see. I thought you meant that I agreed with the Christians that Christmas is a holiday to celebrate Jesus.

Happy Christmas to you too. Now I can say that guilt-free.

Edited by konerko14

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Oh, I see. I thought you meant that I agreed with the Christians that Christmas is a holiday to celebrate Jesus.

Happy Christmas to you too. Now I can say that guilt-free.

Now you're experiencing the good selfishness of Christmas---your persistence in getting at the truth has given you a gift of happiness. ^_^

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*** Mod's note: Merged into an existing thread with a similar discussion. - sN ***

 

 

I am new to Objectivism after a lifetime of religious life, and it occurred to me today that we are approaching my first Christmas as an atheist. In the past I have often marked personal history by Christmases, as in the first Christmas with each child, or the first Christmas in a new house. But this time, it is my first Christmas in which I wish to not celebrate. My husband and children have all chosen to retain their religion.

I really don't want to give unearned gifts. I'm deeply engrossed in trying to understand for myself and teach to my family what it means to have relationships in which one does not ask for or grant the unearned. Over and over I am trying to address the issue that no one has the right to start talking to me just because I'm present; they need to earn my attention by checking to see what I'm doing and if I'm up for an interruption. When everything I do is geared towards changing this behavior, why would I give an unearned gift and undermine my own point?

I take no particular pleasure in a holiday that celebrates the antithesis of everything rational. Yet the children still enjoy the "magic" of the season, focused as it is on the "magical" bestowal of the unearned.

(Come to think of it, Halloween is not dissimilar. I have a friend who, when children come to trick-or-treat at his house, demands candy of them. The first few get the shock; the subsequent ones tell each other not to go there.)

How do you deal with gift-giving holidays without bestowing the unearned? How do you deal with holidays you don't want to celebrate when everyone around you is celebrating?

Edited by softwareNerd
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How do you deal with gift-giving holidays without bestowing the unearned? How do you deal with holidays you don't want to celebrate when everyone around you is celebrating?

You give gifts to your children because you love them. They don't have to earn it. Same for your spouse. If your spouse has not earned your love, you need to get a divorce.

Why not consider Christmas a celebration of the "benevolent universe premise" and the fact that you live in a society that is happy enough to have a holiday like Christmas -- and so productive that gifts can be given? Christmas should also be a "celebration" of those you love. There have been a number of essays by Objectivist scholars in this vein. Perhaps one of the other posters can point you to one of them (I don't have any handy, but imagine they're online somewhere, or at least available.)

:)

By the way, a child who asks for candy at Halloween is not "demanding the unearned." They're participating in a harmless, but fun, cultural tradition. If you're not participating, you're just missing out on the fun and being a humbug.

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How do you deal with gift-giving holidays without bestowing the unearned?

Easy: I don't give gifts to those who I do not value, and I demand gifts from no one. I place great value in my parents, my brother, my niece, and my girlfriend, so seeing them light up when they get a thoughtful or expensive gift is pleasurable for me and in my self-interest, regardless of whether or not they've "earned" or "deserve" them (there's a good article floating around here somewhere about the topic of earning/deserving that may help to clear this up even more). On the other hand, my deadbeat, batshit crazy half-sister is of less than zero value to me because of the type of person she is and what she has done, so she won't even be getting a phone call from me...probably ever. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts to people you value, and nothing wrong with not giving gifts to people who you don't value. Just do what is in your rational self interest, and you'll be fine.

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It might be hard to imagine since it was never this way for you, but for lots of people Christmas is just a time to relax, eat good food, and see people you like who haven't been around much (or have) and exchange gifts with them. There is no reason you can't make Christmas special for those reasons, too. (Christmas is a hijacked holiday by the Christians, anyway.)

It is complicated because you're not used to thinking like this, and because of your existing relationships, some of which it sounds like you don't like. But, it's not that complicated. Over time, you will come to see your relationships for what they are within the context of your new value system, and you will act accordingly. You may still find some value in some relationships, you may decide there is no value left to support a relationship of any kind, and of course you may form new relationships or find new value in existing relationships.

It is hard to give up a lifelong religion and set out on your own, especially when most of your friends and family aren't going along with you. You are very courageous! Good luck.

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It is always a little confusing when something is new, so thanks for the perspective. I guess gift-giving is more about celebrating a relationship. I can make it clear to them that I am not celebrating the religion, but our relationship. Your replies have helped me see that it is not in the same category as the day-to-day exchanges I have been evaluating.

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Just sharing my experience:

I was born into an Atheist family, my grandparents were agnostic christians and jews.

The nice part of speaking Spanish as a first language is that Christmas is called Navidad, after Nativity or Birth, but in Spanish it doesn't sound like anything recognizable, it's almost like a name or brand.

For me Navidad has always been associated with plastic conifers and presents from and to the family. It never had a religious connotation, but a rather consumerist one, for it was not only the present, it was the buying of the tree decoration, the food for the gathering, etc. Basically it's a pre- new year.

Coming to think about it, I think Christmas was the only time of the year when the bull appendix of altruist ethics was allowed to disappear, and we could all just rejoice in purchasing gifts, and expecting to unwrap goodies, eat, eat some more, and drink being under age. The general atmosphere was that of Celebration, I can't even begin to imagine Chirstmas being associated with something religious. For me Christmas means guilt-free shopping frenzy.

So, no, I'd hate it that Western Civilization "replaced" Christmas, it kinda sounds like something a Soviet would do.

Edited by volco

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I'll tag along and say I personally love Christmas time. I don't surround myself with strangers who I don't value, I am around those people I tend to value the most. It's a proper celebration of those relationships that embody the "good" in life. I even find many Christmas songs beautiful. Of course Jesus is not the focus of my celebration, but showing goodwill toward people in general and affection for those I love certainly makes my life better.

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I was born in a family that was not merely atheist, but my father actually believed the Socialist ideas he had been taught at school, and my mother even was a member of the Communist Party. And yet, we celebrated Christmas every year, just like everyone else in Hungary did. There were even official ceremonies in school on the last day before winter break. It was quite a surprise to me when, around age 10 or so, I heard my German teacher mention in class that Christmas was the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ--I had always been told that it was "the Holiday of Love."

So no, it doesn't have to have a religious tint AT ALL.

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My advice:

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Many people celebrate Christmas in a completely secular way.

I agree with the person previously who said to consider it a celebration of joy at being productive enough to be able to afford to have special foods, pretty decorations and give gifts to loved ones.

If giving a gift to your spouse and children feels like giving the unearned you need to take a look at the nature of those relationships. Love is an earned value.

As to being new to Objectivism.. it is a little easy to get carried away, before going all Hank Reardon on the people in your life take a deep breath, ok?

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I can make it clear to them that I am not celebrating the religion, but our relationship.

Hi, Scrib! Good to see you're still here! B)

If I may throw in two cents, I think the best ways to make it clear you're celebrating the relationships rather than the religion are subtle ones. Rather than telling them over & over that it's not about the religion, you can show it in a number of ways. Obviously not going to church at the various times when you used to is one way. Another way is to select non-religious Christmas cards, preferably blank ones in which you can write your own heartfelt individualized messages to each person.

I'll be interested to hear how this Christmas unfolded for you & yours.

Edited by AllMenAreIslands

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I, too, will be passing my first Christmas as an Objectivist. In years past, I had been somewhat disdainful of gift-giving because I thought it distracted from the holiday's supposedly-proper religious focus (though I was not above receiving gifts -- how hypocritical was that!). Also, I didn't recognize the value of relationships as much, and that, combined with my financial situation, made me a poor gift-giver.

Leonard Peikoff's Christmas Should Be More Commercial helped me understand the proper secular nature of the holiday.

Edited by William Parker

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Hi, Scrib! Good to see you're still here!
Thanks! I wondered what happened to you. I guess we just crossed tracks.

If giving a gift to your spouse and children feels like giving the unearned you need to take a look at the nature of those relationships.

Appropriately, the Ayn Rand quote on the top of the page when I logged in today was that in a capitalist society, all relationships are voluntary. I think I am wrestling with two different issues here: one is about recasting the nature of the interactions I have in my relationships, and the other is about the secular/religious nature of the holiday. From what all of you have said, I think that the first is the most important, because the holiday itself is not that big a deal--I can do whatever I want. But the sense of obligation I still feel, versus the sense that my acts are all voluntary, is what I am really trying to replace, not Christmas itself.

Thanks to everyone for your input.

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Christmas should be a cultural holiday for everyone, not a religious holiday.

You think the day Jesus Christ was borne, Santa Claus rode his sleigh and magic rein deers across the sky and celebrated by giving presents to good children and left out the naughty ones?

Regarding Gift-giving, it should be a kind of acknowledgment and celebration of the values you treasure in yourself and those you hold dear. It shouldn't be altruism or giving for giving sake.

Edited by The Individual

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Leonard Peikoff's Christmas Should Be More Commercial helped me understand the proper secular nature of the holiday.

I was about to post that same link, you beat me to it. Dr. Peikoff's article is a great piece. Before I learned of Objectivism, I had already shed my Christmases of many of the religious/altruistic trappings. I love Christmas, always have. I grew up in a devout Catholic family, and as a child I found myself feeling guilty for sort of gritting my teeth through all the religious stuff. I loved Christmas not just for the gifts (what kid doesn't love to receive gifts?) but for the lavish food, the gatherings with extended family, getting time off school so I could go sledding with my cousins, all of that.

As I left religion behind in adulthood, I continued to love Christmas for lavishing gifts upon people whom I valued. I cut all obligatory gift giving out of my life, and focused upon people I truly value. The more properly selfish I made Christmas, the happier I became!

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There are only two things wrong with Christmas: people who keep bringing religion into it, and chastizing the rest of us for selfishly enjoying it, and Christmas music.

If I didn't have to hear about Jesus and "Jingle Bells" sung by various artists I actually admire, it would be the perfect holiday.

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Christmas was a pagan holiday, the pagans weren't into the whole ascetic altruist thing, they were more into having fun and getting drunk, a decidedly selfish mode of jubilation.

Since this seems to be the place where everyone discusses how their fam did Christmas, I'll share mine!

My family did christmas pretty normally. We had a big tree that we decorated while listening to Mannheim Steamroller christmas music and we'd have presents under the tree and a big meal of lechon (roast pork) rice, beans, platanos (fried bananas), and red bean soup. It's my favorite time of year, even the silly music.

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Even though I grew up in a family which would claim to be Christian, we never went to church, never mentioned Christianity, and always made Christmas about togetherness and gift giving. Because the only real love is selfish love, I think this kind of commercial Christmas which most Americans practice undermines Christian culture and promotes virtue. The immoral is the impotent. There is no need to fight against Christianity, one simply needs to fill its death void with value.

If you really want to make some sort of critical change though, you may want to gather pictures, report cards, trophies, documents and other marks of productive achievement / happy memories and try to start a tradition of celebrating the years achievements on Christmas.

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I love Christmas. I don't pray. I don't say grace or anything either. But I listen to Christmas songs (generally avoid the overtly religious ones, but even some of those are quite beautiful anyway). I love the whole holiday season. The shows on tv, the music, the decorations, the gifts. I'll just walk around the mall for hours, not really intending to buy anything (maybe get a book or knick-knack, a gift, whatever, if anything catches my eye); I just want to see all the stuff in the stores, and listen to the music, see all the people happy and shopping. Plus the weather is cold (which is awesome). My family and friends all know I'm an atheist, but it doesn't affect my love of the season or the fun we have together.

I'm going to raise my children (if I have choose to have any) "atheist" (well, teach them to use reason, and never mention deities unless they ask), but we're still going to celebrate Christmas (and maybe Easter, though I'm not sure on that one). If I didn't celebrate Christmas, it seems like December would be much less fun/enjoyable than it is now.

Oh, and Jake_Ellison, what's wrong with "Jingle Bells"? Its a fun song.

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