ACA Blog

Diana Pitaru
Dec 29, 2010

Holidays For Nonbelievers

I can see how Christmas -and the holidays in general- can overwhelm us and make us focus entirely on our families and friends. I can see how some celebrate Christmas from a religious perspective, while others celebrate it as a family secular tradition where they have the chance to be with their loved ones, share gifts, and just enjoy the day. There is, though, a third category. Not too many speak of them maybe because they are too busy to notice or maybe because they are unaware. Well, this blog is for you… for all of you who choose not to celebrate the winter holidays because of lack of belief, resistance to how commercial winter holidays have become, or maybe because your family and friends are too far away…I am one of you, thinking of you.

This blog is not a rant, but will contain a series of personal observations gathered throughout the years.

I stopped celebrating Christmas for a number of reasons which are not really relevant for the point I am trying to make. Truth is, I (and many of those who share my views) don’t feel I need to be part of the Christmas movement to show my love, share, or be with family. What I did notice is a general assumption that everyone ought to celebrate the holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc); this assumption is enforced by our work places, colleagues, even businesses. I think it is somewhat unfair to want to go to eat out on Thanksgiving or Christmas (like I would on any other day) and not be able to because everything is closed. I also don’t particularly enjoy the “aww” looks I get every time someone (including my therapist) asks me about my plans for Christmas to which I reply “I have no plans, I don’t celebrate it”. All these experiences make me think about counseling clients with views similar as mine. How do you answer to a client who doesn’t celebrate holidays? Are you able stay away from making assumptions and not enforce the “holiday spirit”? Are you able to honor that client’s autonomy by not secretly judging him/her and feeling sorry for them?

I had a therapist once who felt so bad for my not celebrating Christmas that she offered me the contact information of a church that was open for Christmas and ran a program for “the lonely”. Way to make an assumption and hurt my feelings! What other options aside from churches are there for those of us –nonbelievers- who want to be out during everyone else’s holidays?

Look, my intention here is not to make anyone feel guilty, or bad for choosing to celebrate the holidays; I feel though that the minority of us who don’t, get overlooked as if our beliefs and life choices are unimportant, irrelevant and everyone else is sweeping us under the carpet as if they are ashamed of us. It almost feels as if everyone is choosing not to acknowledge us, because we are different and don’t fit the norm. As counselors, we made a commitment to our counseling profession and our clients to respect their autonomy and values regardless of what these might be and if they match our own. This is my acknowledgment to all those different; I respect and value you regardless of your holiday convictions.

Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor-in-training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.

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