When We Don’t Celebrate Christmas


Last December, my son came home with stories full of wonder about a man named Santa, how he’s coming to our house and bringing us presents. He even talked about how we needed to get a Christmas tree so that Santa could put all the wrapped gifts there. My heart fell into a million pieces trying to decide how to tell this little five-year-old the stories he was telling weren’t completely true or that our family just doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Group of presents wrapped in kraft paper, with ornaments and leaves around giftsI know what you’re thinking; Christmas is just a holiday (with religious roots) and why not just join the fun and celebrate? If I am being really honest, I feel conflicted about giving in, buying the tree, putting up the lights, and getting the gifts. But, I just can’t.

Growing up, my immigrant parents worked hard to give us a good life. In their own personal struggles to hold on to their culture and values, they didn’t celebrate holidays like Christmas. It was important for them to teach us about our own heritage and values so that we would continue to hold on to who we are. I have always had my own identity crisis, but now that I feel confident in who I am, I no longer feel the desire to assimilate. I want to be me and I want to help my kids be proud of who they are without feeling left out. This means that it’s not a big deal to us that we don’t celebrate Christmas, and we can still participate in activities like tree lightings, making gingerbread houses, and eating candy canes (peppermint bark is my favorite)!

It’s difficult, however, when my kids come home feeling excluded from daily activities because so much in December has become Christmas-centered. I certainly enjoy the lights and joy that come with this holiday, but I wish that instead of the focus on Christmas, that we say things like “Happy holidays” or “Happy winter break.” We do, after all, LOVE celebrating the New Year!

So, fellow readers, in order to be inclusive and respectful of other cultures and beliefs, do you think that instead of saying “Merry Christmas” to my family and others, can you try a different phrase? And, when winter break ends, can you be mindful and check with the kids about whether they celebrate this holiday before asking them what presents they received? If you want to take it a step further, ask them what they celebrate so they can share a little of their own culture with you.

In the spirit of the season, let’s strive to be inclusive so everyone can feel welcome. 


  1. Nadia- What holidays do you celebrate? Have you ever considered answering “Merry Christmas” with “Happy _______?”. I would not be offended if someone wished me a happy holiday that I didn’t celebrate and it is a good opportunity for me to teach my child who may hear your good wishes to learn about another cultures holiday. We may not celebrate that holiday in our house but it is not hurtful for someone to wish us happiness during their holiday celebration. What are your thoughts on this?

    • I am all for saying Happy Holidays when people wish us Merry Christmas. I think I just struggle with how much Merry Christmas my kids hear when we don’t celebrate it. Part of me wants to just for them so they don’t feel so left out but I feel like I’m compromising my own identity by doing so. It’s really an internal struggle. I do LOVE wishing everyone a happy holiday and hope my piece doesn’t make people feel like they shouldn’t spread joy – my goal is simply to ask for more understanding and awareness regarding phrases like Merry Christmas or what did Santa get you for Christmas? That may not always be inclusive to everyone and I hate for my kids to feel left out.

  2. You are saying about being respectful to your culture, but you also can be respectful to those cultures who loves to celebrate Christmas. I am also immigrant. And Christmas is our tradition. 50 years ago in my country you could go in jail for just having a Christmas tree in your house. Christmas is our tradition, our history and our culture.

  3. She is being respectful. She says Happy Holidays. But what is disrespectful is someone who does celebrate Christmas assumes all people do and start asking your child what Santa brought them for Christmas. She is being mindful but others are not.

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