The Meaning of Christmas, a Quantitative Analysis

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:

  Rel Mix Sec
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[1]    
pretty, pretty lights    
Christmas bells are ringin’    

[1] 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:

  Rel Mix Sec
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    
Family get-togethers    
Vacation time    
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:

  Rel Mix Sec
giving people presents    
celebrating Christmas[2]    
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    

[2] Could be either secular, religious, or a mixture, depending how the person celebrates.


Aprille Rose at allwomenstalk writes 7 Things I Love About Christmas:

  Rel Mix Sec
The smells of Christmas[3]    
Seasonal flavors    
Christmas movies and cartoons[3]    
Christmas songs on the radio    
Stringing up lights around the house    
Decorating the tree    
Baking cookies    

[3] All the examples listed are secular.


The 25 Greatest Things About Christmas by Belinda Moreira at Arts.Mic:

  Rel Mix Sec
Christmas trees    
Chance of snow    
Vacation time    
Hot chocolate    
Christmas parties    
Ugly Christmas sweaters    
Ice skating    
Carols and music[3]    
Christmas sales    
Gingerbread houses and men    
Time of giving    
Time with friends and family    
Classic Christmas movies    
Holiday cheer    
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:

  Rel Mix Sec
Spending time with friends and family    
opening gifts    
getting away from work    
Celebrating the birth of our Savior    
Inflatable lawn ornaments[4]    
Christmas sweaters    
Claymation specials    
Family Christmas cards    
Advent calendars    
Christmas carols    
Office gift exchanges    

[4] 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.

Merry War on Christmas Eve!

I can only assume that BillDo took heed of my strategy paper on the War on Christmas™, because here‘s what he’s moaning about now:

“The latest gambit by the anti-Christmas Czars is to flood public parks with a vast array of cultural symbols. For example, at the Fort Collins Museum in Colorado, in addition to a nativity scene and a menorah, they are displaying the Indian Diwali Festival of Lights, the Thailand Buddhist celebration of Loy Krathong, the Chinese Lantern Festival, African-American Kwanzaa, Muslim Ramadan, and the Scottish Hogmanay festival.

“It is insulting to Christians and Jews to dilute their long-standing holidays in a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles by turning public areas into a junk-yard clutter of cultural artifacts, and that is why only the nativity scene and the menorah should be allowed in the same place at this time of the year. The real goal of the cultural fascists is to water down the meaning of Christmas (and to a much lesser extent Hanukkah) via contrived competition. Let the others find another spot or another time to display their symbols.”

In other words, “it’s our country, and our holiday. We’ll share with the Jews, but the rest of you can just fuck off.”

No word from the Indian, Thai, Chinese, African-American, Muslim, or Scottish communities on how they feel about their culture being dismissed as “junk-yard clutter”. (Besides, I thought Scotland was Christian, and celebrated Christmas. Maybe BillDo resents them because they’re mostly Protestant. And besides, Hogmanay is a new year celebration. Is Bill going to lay claim to New Year’s Day now as well?)

At any rate, as I sit here admiring the Christmas tree and listening to Bing Crosby, with a Christmas LOLcat on my lap helping me type (and, incidentally, preventing me from getting up and getting the glass of egg nog that I want), yes, I am diluting the True Meaning of Christmas™.

If you didn’t want other people enjoying the secular stuff that’s been glommed onto your religious holiday over the centuries, you shouldn’t have made it so much fun. So now all the kids are playing in your sandbox. Whatcha gonna do about it?

I know what I’m going to do about it: pick the cat off of my lap, get a glass of Christmas cheer, and use it to dilute Christmas some more. And maybe water the tree with Bill’s tears.

War on Christmas

Carnival of the Godless
Dear Fox News pundits and assorted wingnuts,

I assume that this year, as has become tradition, you will once again be talking up the War On Christmas™. Since I am a liberal godless atheist who supports both separation of church and state and the ACLU, presumably this makes us enemies in this war.

So I thought I’d let you know how I plan to wage war on Christmas.

Oh, I know, giving information to the enemy is usually treasonous, but Christmas is the season for giving, so what the hey. Pull up a yule log and I’ll tell you all my plans. I won’t even make you eggnog-board me.

Continue reading “War on Christmas”

Soapboxes of Morality

Americans United
that Jerry Falwell’s
Liberty Council
has nothing better to do than to go around checking which retailers have the word “Christmas” on their websites. (HT

said it best, a long time ago:

Why don’t all the people with too much time on their hands get off their soapboxes of morality and start sending me envelopes stuffed with money?

In this spirit, I’m starting my own naughty/nice list:

Naughty Nice
Jerry Falwell
Bill O’Reilly
John Gibson
(No one yet)

People on the “Naughty” list are the ones who have too much free time, and no better way to fill it than by agitating against a fictitious “war on Christmas”. The way for these people to move to the “Nice” list is to send me an envelope stuffed with money.