Humanists are people who seek to live a good life without a belief in religion or superstitions. So naturally, do not have religious festivals of their own, and value the freedom to choose when and how to celebrate.
All kinds of religious festivals, not just Christmas, are increasingly becoming an opportunity for holidays and celebration, even for those who do not follow that particular religion.
Like most people, Humanists enjoy the chance to take a break from work, see their family and friends, exchange gifts and go to parties, but they also recognise the value of rituals and ceremonies in all of our lives.
People do often enquire as to what non-religious people do at the Christian festival of Christmas as it is still such a huge part of our culture, and often Humanists are criticised and accused of hypocrisy for enjoying the holiday.
But long before Christianity, people in the Northern hemisphere feasted and celebrated in the darkest days of winter in order to simply cheer themselves up or to welcome the beginning of spring or harvest.
These ancient feast days and traditions were then adopted by early Christians as good times to celebrate. Most Humanists and other non-Christians are happy to continue at least some of these traditions, though some may choose not to because they have no particular significance for them or because of their over commercialisation.
Joining in with Christmas festivities does not mean that you are a Christian or that you believe the Christian story, and Christians who complain than their festival has been ‘hijacked’ by others are usually unaware of the long history of pagan winter festivals and the relative newness of Christian ones in the calendar.
Much of the symbolism of Christmas, for example, candles, snowmen and robins, is natural and seasonal rather than specifically Christian. Some Christmas ‘traditions’ are also very recent, or imported from elsewhere, eating turkey, decorating a tree, Christmas stockings and Father Christmas with his flying reindeer . There are of course Christian elements too; the Christmas story, stars, gifts, Christmas carols, and, of course, the name of the festival – but the churches took a long time to agree on 25th December as the date to celebrate Christ’s birth, and the date seems to have been chosen largely because it was already a pagan holiday throughout the Roman Empire.
Also, Christmas has become as much of a secular festival as a religious one, with ritual television programmes, sports events, pantomimes, decorations, meals and parties.
Humanist families choose for themselves what to do at Christmas. Some prefer to celebrate ‘Winterval’ or the New Year. Some families contain both Christians and non-Christians and find a compromise that suits everyone.
Regardless of how you choose to ‘celebrate’ over the holidays, everyone at the Fuze Foundation would like to wish you all a great time over the festive period and all the very best for 2014.