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Atheists, agnostics, Humanists and other non-believers are sometimes asked why they celebrate at Christmas time, or are even accused of being hypocritical for doing so.

The answer, which may be surprising to many uninformed Christians, is that they celebrate at that time for the same reason as the early Christians - because everyone else was already doing so, and had been for centuries before the time of the first Christians.

The last two weeks of December had long been a time of celebration throughout the ancient world in the northern hemisphere. It was associated with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, after which one could look forward to Spring, to crops, regeneration and new life.

Almost all the customs of the Festive Season pre-date Christianity: the giving of gifts, decorating the house and tree, putting up holly and mistletoe, and eating the flaming round plum pudding - the most obvious solar symbol of all. And the familiar crib scene originated in ancient Egypt.

It was not until the 4th century that anyone claimed to know the exact birthday of Jesus. In 525 AD a claim was made by Dionysius Exiguus, a mathematician and theologian living in Rome. Christian scholars today are all agreed that Exiguus was wrong, and it is generally believed that Jesus was born between 7 BC and 4 BC. In the year 274 AD Roman Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 to be the Sun’s official birthday.

So those who have no religion and who may describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or Humanists, need have no qualms about celebrating at this time of the year.
Why Do Humanists Celebrate at Christmas?
Christmas
Brian Nicol, a member of Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists writes:-
As a Humanist I am sometimes asked why I celebrate Xmas. The answer is that, I don’t. What I celebrate is the winter solstice a time of rejoicing going back millennia when people give thanks and feast the turning of the year and the lengthening days heralding the coming Spring.
In earlier times the church took over much that passes for our modern Christmas: the two main ones were the Roman Saturnalia - a time of feasting, drinking, and exchanging gifts - and the ancient Yuletide in Northern Europe associated with the Winter Solstice.
Almost all the customs of the Festive Season pre-date Christianity: the giving of gifts, decorating the house and tree, putting up holly and mistletoe, and eating the flaming round plum pudding - the most obvious solar symbol of all. And the familiar crib scene originated in ancient Egypt.
The Christian decision to fix on the 25 December may be attributed to the fact that in the year 274 AD, at a time when the Roman Emperors were trying to replace the ancient Roman polytheism with sun-worship, the Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 to be the Sun's official birthday. So an auspicious day to use.
So whether you are religious or not you can celebrate safe in the knowledge that you are keeping up a tradition of the northern hemisphere when the seasons were of far greater import than they are today. Although we all still look forward to Spring.