I am a non-Christian who celebrates Xmas.*
There are many aspects of Christmas that I enjoy, which are not related to Christ, viz., spending time with family and friends, the lights and decorations, the festivities, the gifts, the music, etc. It’s a joyous and exciting time, and despite what many people believe, it’s mostly secular! Most of these traditions and festivities originate from pagan festivals that predate Christ’s birth by thousands of years. The actual Christian aspects of the holiday, which I don’t celebrate, were integrated with these festivals and rituals at a later time.
Contrary to the cliches you’ll see on church signs, the birth of Jesus Christ is not the reason for the season. Not only did most traditions pre-date the birth of Jesus, but biblical scholars overwhelmingly believe that Jesus was not born on December 25 or even during the winter for that matter. Most Christmas traditions contain elements of other ancient midwinter traditions. For example, the decorations and feast comes from Yule-log traditions and gift-giving comes from Saturnalia. In the past, Christians opposed these rituals. Early devout Christian sects refused to celebrate Christmas because it was not Biblical nor respectful of their faith. The bible itself even condemns them as heathen:
Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
-Jeremiah 10: 2-4
Some Christian denominations today still do not celebrate Christmas for similar reasons though by now most Christians have adopted these customs and absorbed them into their own celebration of Christ’s birth. It was Pope Julius the First who declared in the year 350 CE that December 25 was the official Christmas date. It had previously been used by the Romans to celebrate the birth of the sun. Shortly after the name Christmas was substituted.
If you’re a Christian, I do not intend to discourage you from celebrating your beliefs. There are many reasons to celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate the birth of Jesus, and that’s fine. People are free to celebrate whatever they want. But to claim that Christ is the reason for the season is just simply not accurate and it ignores the other aspects of the holiday that not only predated Christ, but were also at odds with most Christians at one time. I am simply stating why I celebrate the holidays. When I say I celebrate Christmas, I am not saying I participate in the Christian traditions. I don’t celebrate the birth or the nativity. I don’t pray (I also don’t celebrate Easter because unlike Christmas, it is mostly a Christian holiday.). I simply engage in the dinners and gift-giving and decorations. These are all customs that have nothing to do with Christ.
*Fun fact: Xmas is not a secular term or an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. X is simply a Greek abbreviation for Christ. Likewise, holidays is derived from “holy days” and isn’t disrespectful toward Christians. And while I’m at it, there isn’t a war on Christmas (but that’s for a different post). That is, with exception of the time American Puritans tried to ban Christmas because they viewed it as pagan idolatry that had nothing to do with Christianity. Hmmm.