Christmas is Still Magical (Even Without Religion)

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year since I was a small child. The magic of believing in Santa Claus during my youngest years slowly melted away with age into an emphasis on the birth of Jesus during my teenage years. Christmastime, for about a decade of my life, was a season of deep reflection and worship as a devoted follower of Jesus.

When I walked away from my Christian faith in my mid twenties, I had to redefine the meaning of everything, including the meaning and purpose of Christmas. Even now with my celebration of Christmas stripped of all religious components (with the exception of some classic religious Christmas music), Christmas is still my favorite time of year. The magic and wonder still exist even without belief in neither a mythological gift-giving figure or the birth story of Jesus found in the Bible.

The magic of Christmas, for me, resides in the new sense of purpose it infuses my life with for a few short weeks at the end of each year. The monotony of everyday tasks shifts into an excitement to dive into the sparkle of the season with the rest of the world: the music, the decorating, the food, the movies, the lights. I replace my usual piano-playing song list with a stack of Christmas sheet music (and almost always with the goal to record and upload something new to share before December 25, but rarely manage the time to achieve it).

Perhaps the most magical part of Christmas for me is finding and giving gifts that will bring as much joy to my loved ones as possible. There is no other time of year comparable to Christmas morning—everyone passing around presents and peeling away paper to see what someone else has given them. Christmas is the ultimate opportunity each year to show loved ones what they mean to you, whether it be through a gift that brings smiles, a gift that fulfills a desire, or a gift that meets a need.

Christmas connects me with traditions I’ve had my entire life and offers the chance to create new ones. Nothing has compared to introducing my young son to the special ways my family and I have celebrated this season for decades. Simultaneously, the excitement and joy I feel is indescribable when I think about creating unique Christmas traditions he will grow up with. This year, that looked like knitting our family of three individual stockings to hang by our fireplace for years to come. It’s the experience of both reengaging with the familiar rhythms of my past and creating new ways to enjoy this season together.

You do not need faith in religious beliefs to still find meaning and magic in Christmas. I find myself freer to enjoy the history, myths, practices, and symbols surrounding Christmas. After all, Christianity does not hold the market on generosity, hope, love, or “correct” ways to celebrate Christmas. Further, I no longer feel a sense of guilt for not worshiping or devoting myself enough to the God of Christianity this time of year. I also choose not to subject myself to potential triggers by attending Christmas church services. I do still enjoy attending festive concerts and performances, whether religious or not.

However you celebrate it, the magic of Christmas simply is what YOU make it. Even religious aspects aside, there is still magic and wonder to be found and meaning that can be made. You’re allowed to still love Christmas whatever you believe.

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