Tips for Navigating the Holidays When You’re Not Judeo-Christian

For those of us blessed with secular, open-minded, and/or atheistic families, this likely won’t be an issue for you. It’s usually not for me. There was the one year my family wanted to pray to Jesus before a meal, and I told them to go ahead, I’d wait. It made for an awkward moment, but I think it made the rest of my very secular family (minus one person in the family who is religious and who was the reason for the attempted prayer) think twice about trying that again because we haven’t prayed before a meal since.

However, not everyone is nearly as lucky as I am. Some of the people reading this may have grown up in very religious households, and it may make visiting family over the holidays (if you even talk to your family) a dreaded challenge rather than an anticipated pleasure.

Here are six things to consider when it comes to navigating holiday celebrations:

  1. You get to pick and choose your battles. Which hills are you willing to die on? Is bowing your head at the table and pretending to pray worth it just to keep the family peace? Only YOU get to decide which activities you want to participate in for the sake of harmony, or which fights you want to start. It’s not just your reaction to the other person that matters, it’s your actions. As a wise person once told me about human conflict: “The other person can be mad all they want, but that doesn’t mean you have to mad right back.” Let them be mad. Let them be wrong. That’s their choice.
  2. Set FIRM boundaries. Start out by saying, “We’d love to come for a holiday meal, but [insert boundary here].” For example: “We would only come if you agreed to only non-denominational prayer and no religious sermons.” or “If you don’t mind, me and my family will be quiet during the prayer, but we won’t pray with you. If you do mind, I’m afraid we won’t be able to participate.” (Exchange we for I, etc)
  3. Politely decline invitations to church (unless you’re curious what they get up to). If you do accept an invitation to a religious ceremony, be up-front about why you’re going (curiosity, just to be around family, and so on) so there are no expectations of conversion later on. Also, be super careful the whole church thing isn’t a trap for an exorcism or some crazy shit. Only you know your own family’s level of crazy, and if you think they might try something like that – decline, decline, decline. “Oh, no thank you.” If you feel you need an excuse, add to that, “I have something going on that night that can’t be canceled.”
  4. Be very clear, precise, up-front, and unemotional about your expectations and what you will and will not put up with. The more emotional you make it, the more dramatic and emotional it will become. Be comfortable and at peace with your choices and leave the emo-bullshit to everyone else.
  5. Try to turn everyone’s focus to the food, family, and fun as opposed to religious observance. (This is the beauty of having a secular and/or jack-Christian family. It’s already about food, family, and fun at that point.)
  6. Host a secular holiday event at your place or in tandem with another family member who doesn’t want to deal with the religious aspects of it, and just be unavailable for the actual holiday. Make it a potluck, and choose a few games to play, keeping religion completely out of it.

Of course, all of this said, I do know people who refuse to celebrate any form of Christmas, secular or not, and you can do that, too. Personally, I celebrate Solstice and Yule with my Daemonolatry and Pagan families, and secular Christmas with my atheist husband and immediate family. Do what is right for you and your situation. The Daemonic won’t smote you or be pissed off because you went to a Catholic mass with your 96-year-old grandmother just to spend time with her. Daemons are not Christian “devils” and they’re not at war with the Christian God and “angels” any more than I’m a Mormon taxidermist. ::sardonic grin::

Good luck and may the odds ever be in your favor. Cheers and Happy December!

5 thoughts on “Tips for Navigating the Holidays When You’re Not Judeo-Christian

  1. Andrew Belcher

    Hi. I’m a committed demonolator.
    BUT – I’m totally able to enjoy going to church every now and then and belting out some xmas carols.
    I don’t see the problem.
    I like to watch sci – fi movies. I don’t have to believe in what I am seeing in order to enjoy it or vice versa.
    Andy

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Andy – likewise, I don’t see the issue either. But we have to remember that many new Daemonolaters may be going through an anti-Christian phase because they’ve recently left that belief system, or they have in some way been damaged by it and there’s trauma around it. Spiritual abuse in certain Christian cults runs rampant here in the US. A lot of our Christians like to preach hellfire and brimstone, and some people have family members who are all Jesus this and Jesus that. I notice you’re not from the U.S. so you may not really understand. I know quite a few folks who grew up in the bible belt of the United States. Our evangelical Christians here can be very culty and zealous. Think the Taliban, but Christian. I have heard horror stories of forced exorcisms and families shipping their high school and college aged kids to Christian “re-education” camps if they rebel in any way, or are gay, or any other non-conformity. If you want to read some really scary shit — look up the Quiverfull Movement, and also google “No longer quivering” about women who got out. So not everyone is able to go to a church just for fun and enjoyment. It can cause real anxiety and stress for some people. This article is more for those people, who have spiritual trauma or zealous religious family members who will find every opportunity to preach at them, and not for folks like you and I. In the US – we take Christianity to a whole new level of crazy. The Trump and conservative parties do shitty stuff all the time under the guise of Evangelical Christianity. We’re literally a few elections away from an evangelical theocracy/dictatorship over here. Even as I’m writing this, our religious zealots are working on taking away a woman’s rights to her own body. These people WANT the earth (and the people on it) to die because then Jesus will come. Everyone on the planet should be terrified.

      Reply
      1. Andrew Belcher

        Yes sorry I forget about that.
        I didn’t really have any religious upbringing at all.
        The churches I went to [in the UK] were beautiful old churches that would almost certainly have been built on older pagan sites.
        Last time I went the minister actually burned incense ffs!!
        On a side note – I am truly grateful for having been taught bible stuff as a five year old. It was this that first introduced me to the Devil!
        I could never understand why Jesus and the Devil didn’t just tell god to get fucked and ride off into the sunset together.
        They probably did!!

        Compliments of the season to you Stephanie.[it’s summer here so as far as my deep cultural roots go it’s midsummer]
        And – once again thank you for all of the support and feed-back that you have given us and that you continue to give to us.

        Lots and lots of love.

        Andy B

        Reply
  2. Nancy

    This is all good advice. It’s never wrong to politely decline any invitation and just say you have plans. It’s not lying because you have plans not to go to the event! And just think of all the Christmas traditions that are really Pagan – the tree, the fire or candles, food, even the “Christmas story” is pagan. The very last church service I attended (besides a funeral) was the Epiphany service at an Episcopal church and it was all Pagan! They just didn’t know it. Whenever they sang or talked about the Christ child or any of the people, I thought of the Pagan story of the God being reborn at the darkest time of the year. The imagery of the stars, animals, etc., were so beautiful. Even the five-pointed star the altar boy carried around was Pagan. Or witchy or daemonic or whatever tradition or name you want to give it.

    I don’t think it makes me dishonest to interpret those things in my own way and find beauty in them.

    Each to his own and live and let live! Cliches, perhaps, but true, and I avoid family drama as much as possible!

    Thanks for a great article!

    Reply

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