I'm curious to hear how everyone here gets through the holiday season each year.
For me, Christmas is the only religious holiday I really take part in; Easter always seemed a waste of time to me. But because of a happy childhood, Christmas was always dear to me. Not because of Jesus; even though I was raised Catholic I can count the times we attended Christmas mass. The most religious thing my mother would do was display her nativity scene (which she was more proud of the antiquity of it than it's meaning).
As an adult I follow most of the traditions because they meant so much to me as a child. I love the fun of Santa Claus and aside from the religious aspects of "It's a Wonderful Life", it's one of my favorite movies for its message (lol, and socialist spirit!). We put up a tree (a fake one...can't see cutting down trees for a two week long decoration) and decorated it with funny ornaments and top it with a Santa hat instead of an angel or a star. My "nativity scene" is the full display of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer characters, including the abominable snowman.
I send Christmas cards to friends and family; always something with a social message (usually from an environmental group, or last year I did Amnesty International), and I make sure the message inside says either Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays. I exchange gifts with my family, and we go to my parents' home for dinner.
I know that I'm still technically celebrating the birth of Jesus, but in my heart and my mind I'm not. I'm excited about exchanging gifts with our families, I love the turkey dinner and the days off work. I love that once a year my family can sit down at the same table and put our petty differences aside (and there are lots of those!).
ask any kid these days what Christmas is about and they will respond " it's about presents and family"
I celebrate Christmas by eating turkey and watching football i'm not in putting up the tree anymore since i live in southern California and there's no snow.
I agree that Chrifsmas is about family for my wife and me. We still buy presents and eat big meals and such. I've been trying to get my wife to let me stop putting up lights and a tree. I have gotten a 2 year break due to the fear of our cats killing themselves (given one's taste for all things plant) or climbing the tree (an annual problem with the other one which has led to near disaster). We've also had early freezes, so the outside lights haven't quite gotten up for a few years.
However, I suspect this won't last forever. She's an atheist as well, but still likes the tradition and good-time feelings from the nostalgia. I understand that, but the good-time feeling from not having to wrestle with lights and a tree (fake or otherwise) is just about as good for me.
Oh, and I now call it ChriFSMas. Most people don't notice it when you say it, and those who do either know the joke or politely ignore it.
I am an unabashed, carol-loving atheist. I even appreciate the ritualistic beauty of the Catholic mass whilst simultaneously condemning nearly everything else for which the Catholic Church stands. As one of Richard Dawkins' colleagues said, "I will not utter falsehoods, but I have no objection to uttering meaningless statements." It is, of course, actually a pagan holiday, purloined by Christianity to garner more converts, so I feel no qualms about decorating the tree and exchanging presents.
Considering there were probably a dozen other religious mid-winter celebrations before Christmas, I have no problem celebrating "Christmas". I get "Merry Christmas" cards for my parents and my boyfriend's Mom (all religious), a funny card for my brother and sometimes my boyfriend and Season's greetings or hand-made ones for my friends. We all exchange gifts, although I always ask for things I can really use but just can't fit into the everyday budget and try to get the same for my family. My boyfriend and I agree on something we need but can't normally find the money for as a gift to each other.
I still love putting up decorations to a CD of carols. It's the one aspect that's even somewhat religious (the carols at least) that I still participate in, but it brings back the memories of almost 20 Christmases of doing just that and I don't think I'll ever be able to give it up. It's still one of the few times all four members of my family can get together and actually do something together. I missed last year's decorating and my Mom saved back the ornaments from my birth year and the ones that are mine so that I could still participate even after the fact.
Luckily my family isn't overly religious and so Christmas doesn't involve church (except for the usual Sundays), prayer or anything worse than saying Happy or Merry Christmas... which I don't mind doing. I get to see my extended family which only seems to happen about twice a year anymore and I get to spend a reasonable amount of time with my parents, which also doesn't happen often.
I, as well as other's here, celebrate HNDGGD (Happy Non-Denominational Gift Giving Day). It is calibrated in much the same was as the Pagan, later stolen by the theists and renamed "Christmas", Holiday. Only without any deity.
I think it's perfectly fine to continue celebrating any and all holidays. I mean, most of them are borrowed or plagiarized anyway, right? I technically haven't celebrated Christmas as a "full" Atheist yet... and I still wanna enjoy the festivities. As religious as my family (esp my mom) is, the reality is that Jesus wasn't the center of attention at Christmas growing up. We had one tiny little manger scene amongst all the candy-canes, snowed-in mini town scenes, Santas, reindeers and snow-man displays. My mom would definitely claim Jesus is the Reason for the Season, but... you'd think she was sold out to Saint Nick by looking at the decor.
What I love about Christmas is the ambiance set by the candle lights and the warm silence of the fire... even if there isn't always one burning. There's just something really... spiritual... about it, and I don't have to believe there's any relevance to the stories told to enjoy Christmas. We all enjoy a good horror movie, or movies about fairies, X-men, or aliens... what's the difference?