I’ve often heard atheists say that the things people associate with Christmas are mostly secular, and so in a real sense Christmas has stopped being a religious holiday, if it was. But I’ve never seen anyone try to quantify that. Aha! A lacuna that I can fill!
Originally, I was going to google “What Christmas means to me”, see what people come up with, and sort that into “Religious”, “Secular”, and “Mixed” (or “could go either way, depending”). But then What Christmas Means to Me turned out to be a Stevie Wonder song, and I couldn’t be bothered to find the posts that didn’t refer to that song.
But what the hell. In the spirit of Christmas, let’s see what Stevie lists, and whether it’s religious:
|Candles burnin’ low||✓|
|Lots of mistletoe||✓|
|Lots of snow and ice||✓|
|Choirs singin’ carols||✓|
|little cards you give me||✓|
|runnin’ wild, as anxious as a little child||✓|
|Greet you neath the mistletoe||✓|
|Wish you a Merry Christmas baby||✓|
|happiness in the comin’ year||✓|
|deck the halls with holly||✓|
|Sing sweet silent night||✓|
|Fill the tree with angel hair||✓|
|pretty, pretty lights||✓|
|Christmas bells are ringin’||✓|
 A note says that “angel hair” means tinsel, so I’m counting it as secular.
After that, I googled “What I like about Christmas”.
Rozario Fernandes, Express Tribune, 8 Things I Love About Christmas:
|Listening to Christmas carols||✓|
|Fairy lights and pretty decorations||✓|
|Buying gifts for your loved ones||✓|
|Keeping a secret stash of holiday sweets||✓|
|Another reason to stay out late||✓|
|Attending the midnight prayer service||✓|
Next on the list was a Yahoo! Answers entry, which I didn’t pick because honestly, it’s a discussion thread, so it’s not clear where it ends, or how the entries were chosen.
What Do You Like About Christmas by Carey Kinsolving is an explicitly-religious piece, a list of children’s answers to the titular question interspersed with Bible verses. The site was down when I tried accessing it, so I had to rely on Google’s cache. But let’s see how it fares:
|giving people presents||✓|
|donees’ faces lighting up with joy||✓|
|celebrating Christ’s birth||✓|
|the lights, because of the light in the sky when Jesus was born||✓|
|spending time with family||✓|
|share Christ’s love||✓|
 Could be either secular, religious, or a mixture, depending how the person celebrates.
Aprille Rose at allwomenstalk writes 7 Things I Love About Christmas:
|The smells of Christmas||✓|
|Christmas movies and cartoons||✓|
|Christmas songs on the radio||✓|
|Stringing up lights around the house||✓|
|Decorating the tree||✓|
 All the examples listed are secular.
The 25 Greatest Things About Christmas by Belinda Moreira at Arts.Mic:
|Chance of snow||✓|
|Ugly Christmas sweaters||✓|
|Carols and music||✓|
|Gingerbread houses and men||✓|
|Time of giving||✓|
|Time with friends and family||✓|
|Classic Christmas movies||✓|
|The chance to feel like a kid again||✓|
I skipped this page at Amazon’s Askville, for the same reasons as the Yahoo! Answers one.
Jesse Carey at Relevant Magazine lists 7 Reasons Why We Still Love Christmas:
|Spending time with friends and family||✓|
|getting away from work||✓|
|Celebrating the birth of our Savior||✓|
|Inflatable lawn ornaments||✓|
|Family Christmas cards||✓|
|Office gift exchanges||✓|
 I’m counting this as secular because I have yet to see an inflatable Jesus.
I count 6 religious, 11 mixed, and 56 secular things to love about Christmas. I think we can confidently say that you can give up religion without giving up the things that make Christmas special. Numbers don’t lie.