The recent column, “An atheist’s ode to Christmas,” concludes, in part, this way: “Christmas was never entirely a Christian holiday. At its best, it is an exercise in tolerance, multiculturalism and the ability to lay down our differences and bridge the no man’s land that sometimes seems to stretch out between us.” So much in the article is true and valid — the day of Christmas’s celebration based in pagan Roman beliefs, its current celebration informed by Germanic traditions, among other points. I don’t disagree with the author’s understanding of Christmas in the first sense as a shallow and temporarily powerful unifying force in our culture, a gaudy and tinsel-wrapped thing — but Christmas is not, at its best and at its core, a celebration of cultures and a way to avoid conflict until January. I have two points of disagreement with the writer. Christmas is important to many practicing Christians. And an attachment to religion is not inherently divisive. 

The season brings people together, it does promote good cheer, and in a trivial way can motivate people to lay down their arguments for a while and enjoy time with their loved ones. But the celebration of Christ’s birth itself is truly the “reason for the season,” for many people — despite becoming something different entirely on a societal level, and even though he probably wasn’t born on Dec. 25.

Christmas is sacred to Christians, not only because they believe that Jesus is God but also because it identifies Jesus with humanity. Quaint Nativity scenes aside, the Christmas story is as follows: Jesus was born to a very young and terrified woman with her worried husband, in a filthy stable, in a violent time period under an oppressive Roman regime and yet another threatening ruler — Herod the Great. That is a rough summary of The Gospel of Matthew, 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2. Christians believe he is the Son of God, and his birth into a broken world sends a hopeful message: Jesus desires to be in the midst of broken people – ultimately for the salvation of all people. This season is a time for Christians to remember that — and worship God for it. The uniting element of Christmas is the fact that humanity has one representative to God through Jesus, not merely the trappings of a festive time. There’s a deep hope in God that inspires the joy of this season.

Christmas, at its core, is simply not about multiculturalism. The unspoken and spoken values of the Christmas season aren’t broadly concerned with highlighting other religious or cultural celebrations like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa — it’s about capitalism more than anything. The American Christmas culture cares more about selling stuff than promoting global citizenship and cultural awareness. Isn’t that true across the board in America, outside of the Christmas season? Nearly everything America gets its hands on turns into a “multicultural capitalist extravaganza,” and is molded and adapted to the cultural moment. Apart from contemporary religious and cultural traditions outside of Christianity, people simply don’t take this time to emphasize Christmas’s roots in the pagan worship of Saturn or Germanic tradition. Those are certainly interesting, but not at all central. Moreover, the author themself champions a multicultural and tolerant emphasis — then goes on to discount Christianity, with its 2,000 years of spiritual and intellectual traditions, as a legitimate reason to celebrate Christmas. 

In addition, I understand that the author doesn’t care for the Christian message and wants to engage in the super-fun and comforting season of Christmas without acknowledging its namesake. There’s nothing wrong with that on an individual level. To talk about the essence of the holiday itself as though it were empty of that meaning for everyone, however, is wrong, as is the suggestion that recognizing the birth of Christ during Christmas strips the season of its joy and inspires conflict. For Christians, the unifying force of Christmas is built on the celebration of Christ as the divine representative for everyone, of all backgrounds. Christianity, more in core teaching than its current widespread practice, is all about unity. 

Christmas as a cultural practice isn’t about Jesus. Christmas as a religious practice is about Jesus. The fact that the holiday is equally celebrated in a nonreligious manner does not subtract from its meaning to Christians on a theological level. Moreover, it doesn’t impose on non-Christians by simply existing. 

Like the author, I also want peace, harmony and cooperation in what feels like a no-man’s-land of opinions — but I think there is a unity stronger and deeper than a temporary ceasefire.


MITCHELL TYLER is a junior in Grace Hopper College. He can be reached at