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Should Objectivists celebrate Christmas? Isn't Christmas a religious holiday?

asked Nov 16 '10 at 15:46

Sandi%20Trixx's gravatar image

Sandi Trixx

edited Nov 16 '10 at 17:29

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

In the United States, Christmas is two distinct holidays celebrated on the same day. One is the religious celebration of the alleged birth of Christ, with one set of iconography and ritual -- Jesus on the cross, Christmas mass and so on. The other holiday is an essentially secular celebration of life and productivity, with a different set of iconography and ritual -- the tree, the lights, the presents, Santa Claus, etc.

Objectivists do not celebrate the first Christmas. Why would we? We don't believe in the divinity of Christ and we reject the Christian belief system as false and life-harming. But the second Christmas, the secular gift-giving one, is a wholly different affair. Why wouldn't we want to celebrate that? It's a hell of a lot of fun.

And yes, I say "Merry Christmas".

answered Nov 17 '10 at 12:31

Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

Kyle Haight ♦

Absolutely. I grew up in an Objectivist household, and we celebrate Christmas every year. It was a family tradition to cut down our own tree at a farm and decorate it—sometimes with a gold dollar sign on top. I love Christmas.

Christmas today is not essentially a religious holiday, but a secular one. Its theme is benevolence, joy, and the celebration of beauty and pleasure in material things.

Further, as Dr. Peikoff described in one of his radio shows many years ago, Christmas as we know it is a 19th-century American invention. Everything we associate with Christmas—Christmas trees, Christmas lights, presents, cards, wrapping paper, carols, Rudolph, Santa—was created or popularized in that period.

I'll let Ayn Rand herself weigh in here:

[In answer to the question of whether it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas:]

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

(From The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976., quoted under "Christmas" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

answered Nov 20 '10 at 04:48

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦

Personally speaking, for my friends and immediate family, as well as for a general trend in North America, Christmas has become a holiday of total commercialization. It is a celebration of civilization shown through the giving of gifts. If you neglect to go to church, and merely put up a tree, see your loved ones and give gifts then there is nothing religious about celebrating Christmas. Personally I see Christmas as a celebration of our capitalist society.

answered Nov 16 '10 at 16:02

Colin%20MacDonald's gravatar image

Colin MacDonald ♦


In support of this, note that the most important holiday in Christianity is Easter. But it has been far less commercialized, and so it is a much less significant holiday in American culture.

(Nov 16 '10 at 16:45) Andrew Dalton ♦ Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Leonard Peikoff has a classic op-ed on this: Christmas Should be More Commercial

(Nov 16 '10 at 17:36) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Plenty of rituals associated with Christmas were started by other cultures, like Pagans! Show me the Bible passage that mentions an evergreen tree! So one needs to separate, and distinguish between, the secular and Christian aspects of Christmas. There are multiple components, and many of them can be honored, respected, and enjoyed in good conscience I believe. Of course you need to be aware of, and be concerned about the self-sacrificial and religious aspects of the holiday as well.

(Nov 16 '10 at 23:02) QEDbyBrett ♦ QEDbyBrett's gravatar image

Nothing wrong with Christmas, it's a perfectly valid celebration of, first and foremost, the triumph of the Pagan way of life over the Christian and, more recently, the triumph of global commerce over sacrifices to supernatural nonsense.

By giving material presents and heartily opening the ones you receive, on the birthday of the champion of self-sacrifice, you celebrate the triumph of Earth over Heaven, of Man over God, of Reason over Faith, of Life over Death. A good reason to celebrate.

(Nov 17 '10 at 01:20) Cog Cog's gravatar image
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Asked: Nov 16 '10 at 15:46

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Last updated: Nov 20 '10 at 04:48