The Childfree Who Don’t Do Christmas

Laura Carroll, childfree choice

While many childfree people are Christian and celebrate Christmas, the flip side deserves attention too. Plenty of people with no children by choice don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional way –or at all. They may do some of what a lot of people do — have a tree, decorate, gather with and give gifts to family and loved ones, but plenty would say they don’t celebrate the holiday first and foremost as the birthday of Jesus.  Why? Because they are atheist or agnostic. What do we know about the numbers of childfree atheists and agnostics?

There sure is a lack of hard statistics here.  One of the few surveys ever formally done happened over 30 years ago. The National Alliance of Non-Parents (which turned to the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood) conducted a survey of a random sample of their members, and of the 334 who responded, the mean age was 31, and 49% reported they were either atheist or agnostic. That was a sizable percentage. But what we don’t know is if this can be reasonably extrapolated to the percentages of the childfree population as a whole at that time.

I have not found many other sound studies that with look at childfree and religious affiliation, if any. Prior to 2000 there were some trend studies that indicated the childfree “tended” to be less religious, but that does not tell us much.  However, these day I do notice a growing amount of web action on childfree atheist and agnostic topics and sites.

One interesting site is “Selfish Heathens” which is designed for liberal childfree atheists and agnostics.  You see more out there about atheism as a potential movement in our society. Last summer ABC did a provocative piece on whether atheism is a growing positive force in America. But are those with no children by choice more likely to be atheist or agnostic?

I can only tell you what I have seen over ten years engaging with hundreds of childfree. I have encountered more childfree that consider themselves christian, but not necessarily practicing christians. For example, they don’t necessarily go to church regularly or on Christmas, but have christian beliefs. The second most include people who subscribe to other major religions including judiasm, hinduism and buddhism.

Then I would say I encounter serious practicing christians and their opposite–people who describe themselves as nonreligious–atheist or agnostic. Just because I have not run into more atheist or agnostics does not mean they have not been there all along–maybe they are just becoming more vocal about their beliefs in this regard. Or maybe this just means I am talking to more of them these days!

In any case, they are the ones that will do Christmas as just another day they get off as part of our society’s christian-oriented calendar.

To childfree people reading this and who are willing to share, how would you describe your religion, spirituality, or the like?

10 thoughts on “The Childfree Who Don’t Do Christmas

  1. I think it makes sense that you haven’t encountered more non-religious childfree people, just based on American demographics. I would also hedge a guess that even religious childfree people are on average less invested in social and cultural norms (including their religion’s emphasis on procreation). It would be fascinating to look at not only religion but also political orientation among the childfree. I’d fit in perfectly with the Selfish Heathens, incidentally.

    1. Agreed that is makes sense that I would encounter more Christians at least in U.S. as that religion dominates. I too would love to look more closely at religion and political affiliation of the childfree. Plan to do a survey or two this year on this blog, but know that it will represent only those who came to the site and answered–skewed sample as they say but does give us more info in any case. ~L

  2. I am childfree and atheist. I do not celebrate Xmas. I do tend to spend the holiday period with my family (parents sisters or mother-in-law) simply because it is a time when we all get time off from work. My parents (divorced and re-married or de-facto) each celebrate Xmas with their new families which includes step-grandchildren.
    We (husband and I) do not exchange gifts with anyone, do not send cards etc.
    If family comes to visit we will have a special (as in fancy) meal with lots of wine and socialising, but then Xmas day is a holiday and everything is closed so might as well make the most of being at home.
    Work is more difficult, so much Xmassy stuff going no in the run-up to Xmas and having explain over and over that “I don’t do Xmas” get old rather quickly. If pushed I just say as an atheist it os not relevant to me and am not interested in participating, in fact I would find it hypocritical; that usually ends the pressure to particpate.
    In a former job I always volunteered to work all the days we were open in the Xmas break; this helped me not have to participate in family Xmas events during the time when my family (and husbands) were struggling to understand that we were no longer going to act like we had Xmas spirit, just to make them happy. It took quite some time for them to accept that, while they might not like it, our lack of belief was as valid as their rituals and they had no right to force us to take part.
    For us Xmas is just some time off work. My husband and I are two of the lest stressed people I know at this time of year thanks to not having to go through the ordeals of shopping,decorating, painful gift exchanges, paying religious lip-service, nor other pretenses that people seem to put themselves through.

    1. SandiSpecs–I find it interesting that it sounds like the work scene has been more difficult that dealing with family at this time of year. I also hear from lots of non-religious types who not just get the holiday pressure but double pressure because family also puts the pressure on to have kids–!

  3. I can really relate to what SandiSpecs said; when I explain that my husband and I don’t celebrate christmas, at all, I often get a reaction similar to when I explain that we’re not having kids because we don’t want any. Some people are visibly uncomfortable when hearing my explanations (not that they are owed any), but when I am pressed I will tell them how I really feel. I wish more people were open to the idea of questioning traditions and expectations, instead of just following them because it’s the done thing; I know very few people who are childfree, and I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t celebrate chiristmas in some way. I have a hard time at work too, repeating over and over (after being asked), that my christmas was just an ordinary day, then being left to feel like a bit of a freak because of their reaction. I am living my life exactly as I want to, I just wish that it was more common to live a less than conventional life.

    1. Jacinda, bravo to you for living the life you want to despite what others might think…know that there are lots of cf out there much like you ~L

  4. We’re atheists, but we do enjoy giving gifts, so we use the holiday as an excuse to do so. Luckily, Xmas isn’t a big deal with either family. We don’t go to any services, and we don’t put up a tree. If I send cards (and I don’t always do so), I send funny cards that say “happy new year” or the like. On Christmas Day, we sleep in, and then take a nice walk in the woods near our house. We visit the family for about an hour to give gifts and eat a piece of pie, then the two of us go out for sushi. In the evening, we go to see a movie. We always see an R-rated movie on Xmas Day because they aren’t full (and the others sell out). Most of the people I know who celebrate Xmas aren’t religious and are agnostic at best–they just do it because they’re supposed to or because it’s tradition. I’ve never been convinced to do anything because it’s tradition–if anything, that makes me want to examine the tradition more critically–and I’ve been that way since I was a kid. The argument that “this is just what’s done” never works with me, and I imagine that most childfree would agree, since that “argument” is used against us all the time.

    1. Ang, Thanks for writing–apologies for the delay in posting it–server hiccup–! You are so right about so many people just doing tings because “that’s is just what’s done” and the cf are more likely to question that notion~L

  5. I’m an atheist and my husband is agnostic. We’re childfree and we celebrate the more secular/pagan sides of Christmas. We believe in the spirit of the holiday — good cheer, goodwill, generosity and love — and it’s always our favorite time of year.

    As my husband recently noted: “People like to say that Christmas is about the children…without them, it’s more difficult to appreciate the season. I personally find that ironic because most parents I know consider the holidays one big stress ball. Not us. We do our best to savor the season the way we did as kids.”

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