Why I Celebrate Christmas: An Atheist Perspective

Today we begin 12 Days of Sundaze on a bit of a personal note…

I was born in a small suburb west of Copenhagen, the first born child to my two loving parents. Like all Danish children, I was baptized when I was a few months old in the Danske Folkekirke (Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church). The vast majority of Danes identify as Lutheran Christians – about three-quarters of the population are members of the Folkekirke. However, religion is not a big part of Danish culture at all. Most Danes have a very casual relationship with religion, identifying more often as “spiritual” rather than devoted Lutherans. But we do love the traditions that our religion comes along with, perhaps more than the religion itself.

In Danish culture, Christmas is huge. I grew up with all the typical Danish traditions (that’s a whole other blog post in itself), and have continued them as much as possible after moving to California. My grandmother has always loved Christmas and all its traditions, and is a major reason why I hold on to it so dearly in my adult life.

I consider myself an atheist, but I still celebrate Christmas. As a teenager I struggled with this idea, feeling like a hypocrite for celebrating a holiday I didn’t even believe in. But since then, I have come to better understand my family, my culture, and myself.

While I don’t believe in a god, or that that Jesus was the son of god, or that he was resurrected from the dead, I do believe that he was a real person. I do believe that Jesus was a humble, normal guy like the rest of us. I do believe he was a kind soul, who had a compassion for humanity, who forgave people that made mistakes, and who helped those in need.

Christmas to me is a celebration of this deep and unwavering compassion. And by celebrating it, we end up generating more of it, like a wonderfully contagious laughter. It is a warm and fuzzy time at the end of the year when we reconvene with our friends and family to celebrate love, joy and peace. We exchange gifts to show our appreciation for one another. We cook delicious feasts to celebrate our love and togetherness. We light candles and sing carols to escape from our daily lives at work or school and focus on what matters most.

There is a rainbow of people from countless different religions and non-religions that participate in Christmas, but I have a feeling that at the core we all have the same reasons for celebrating.

May your holiday season be merry and bright this year and every year after.

Glædelig jul!

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