I’m the boy who never celebrated Christmas.
My upbringing was the collision of two worlds, my faith and my culture. I was brought up in a deeply religious and conservative Seventh-day Adventist Christian home, but I was also raised in a deeply Haitian home. Everything we did revolved around one or both of those identities. I learned to look through and interpret life through those two cultural and religious lenses.
One of the first things I realized growing up was that my parents didn’t celebrate Christmas. I later learned that this was a sentiment amongst a lot of Caribbean Adventists though not shared by all.
It was kindergarten, and I was attending a private Baptist church school. My kind, long haired teacher Mrs. Harvey was teaching us Christmas songs in preparation for a school concert.
When I told my parents how my class was going to sing Christmas carols I remember their faces frown in confusion.
They didn’t say I couldn’t participate in the event but the message I received from them was simple “We don’t celebrate Christmas.” Over the next few years I learned from my parents that Christmas has pagan roots that went back to idols and false gods and so therefore holidays like Christmas ought not be celebrated by real Christians. Every holiday that had some sort of pagan history was off limits not just Christmas. It included Father’s Day, Mother’s Day too. (Thanksgiving had a pass).
[I’m not gonna go into the supposed pagan history of each of Holiday. A simple google search would be enough.]
And so for a long time in my life I was cool with the idea of not celebrating Christmas. My parents made it a tradition of giving us gifts on New Years to celebrate Haitian Independence so it wasn’t like I was missing out on gifts.
And so of course, since I wasn’t raised celebrating or participating in Christmas activities, I also had to give a reason why to my friends. When Christmas time came around I was locked and loaded to tell anybody why I didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was pagan. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. It was simply a commercialized holiday designed to take money from people. That was my usual list of reasons. I was ready. You could even say I was legalistic and judgemental of other Christians who did celebrate Christmas. Smh
Until one day, in a conversation with a few friends, someone overheard me say that I didn’t celebrate Christmas. With a confused look on her face she asked me “Aren’t you a Christian?” For some reason this question really hit me hard. I tried going through my usual reasons but at that moment the reasons felt weak and hollow. This girl didn’t care about “pagan history” or if Jesus was really born on that day. She was confused on how a professed Christian could say that he doesn’t celebrate a holiday that most of today’s culture acknowledges is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. So I went back to study. I discovered that Aunty Ellen was so down with Christmas that she even wrote that churches could have Christmas trees in church! In researching some Haitian history I discovered that our uprising against the French and the creation of our flag has Voodoo tradition attached to it. Trust me, no Haitians are giving up their Soup Joumou and Haitian Flag Days as they shouldn’t. In my opinion, it’s kind of hypocritical to shut out one tradition for their pagan history yet the tradition you keep was based off of pagan history. How can one pick and choose which tradition is right and which one is wrong? This is where my faith and culture collided big time. I was taught to denounce Christmas as a result of my faith while at the same time being told to respect and uphold certain holidays as a sign of respect for my culture.
Summary: I don’t have an issue with Christians celebrating Christmas. If you’re interested in my view of Christmas and pagan holidays and whether Christians should celebrate them check this video out. I think she expresses my sentiments and the Bible’s view of pagan holidays well.
But lately I’ve been exploring what impact this has had on me, if at all. And I’ve come up with a couple things I feel like I’ve been missing out on due to my family’s boycott of Christmas.
1. Lack of Family Tradition
In high school I had a best friend that invited me over to his house for Christmas two years in a row. What I noticed was that his family no matter how many times they fought, argued, or disagreed with each other always made it a point to gather on this day. Christmas was the band-aid they needed in order to gather and reconcile even if it was only for 1 day. As I look back on my childhood I’m wondering if my family needed something like a Christmas holiday to bring us at the same table despite our differences. Maybe this is what my family and extended family needed to bring us at the same table. But with my family not really celebrating Christmas I didn’t feel bad just staying here in Baltimore until just before New Years Day when I’ll be flying down to Florida (Soup Joumou is just that good). Besides Thanksgiving and New Years Soup, there aren’t really that many family traditions I can point to that have kept us together and that makes me sad sometimes.
2.) Christ-less Christmas
Another negative effect that ignoring Christmas had on me is that I experienced a lot Christ-less Christmas’s. Growing up I don’t remember hearing many Christmas sermons or messages if at all. Instead of preaching something about the advent of Jesus into the world, I was more likely to hear a sermon from the book of Job. JOB. Have you read the book of Job lately?! Not really a holiday read. My home church would regularly preach the Second Coming of Christ while ignoring the first advent of Christ. What an Adventist thing to do.
We consistently celebrate the fact that Jesus died but never take the time to appreciate that He was born. For Christians this ought to be a time when we remember that Jesus entered into this dark world and became the Light of the World. Jesus didn’t have to come but like a good Father God loves to give us gifts to his children.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” | John 3:16
I’m the boy who never celebrated Christmas. That changes this year.
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