Why do non-Christians celebrate Christmas

Christmas for non-ChristiansThe children still want gifts

A mulled wine stand in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance: Erdal looks at a crib with living animals. He comes from Turkey and is a Muslim. Christmas?

"It doesn't matter to me: I'll just go to the Christmas market, drink my wine and that's it."

However: Erdal cannot and does not want to escape the hustle and bustle around Christmas. That's how he bought gifts too.

"Yes, for the son and so, for family members. My son always comes to me on the second holiday. And on the first I am with the girlfriend, with the family. You eat, talk, actually like it is with Christians is common.

And so Erdal is an example of how Christmas also includes members of other religions. Monique Scheer, Director of the Tübingen Ludwig-Uhland-Institute for Empirical Cultural Studies, states that

"That on the one hand we see at Christmas that the festival is incredibly inclusive: everyone can dock somewhere. On the other hand, it can also become a pressure to have to celebrate Christmas to show that one is integrated."

Tension between integration and demarcation

This means that "Christmas in the multicultural city", as the title of a conference at the University of Tübingen was called, is caught between integration and demarcation. Under what circumstances does integration take place, and when does Christmas start to have an exclusionary effect? Cultural scientist Monique Scheer considers one aspect to be particularly important:

"Christmas is indeed a Christian festival. But it is also a culturally shaped festival. One could even make the claim that Christmas is more of a cultural festival than a religious one."

In addition to the religious elements, Christmas consists of a wealth of secular traditions and customs: Christmas markets are part of it, Christmas cookies, Christmas parties in the company, Christmas music on the radio, on television and in public spaces, in which religious content often no longer plays a role. From the point of view of the cultural scientist, these traditions are also an offer to non-Christians to take part in the Christmas bustle without jeopardizing their own religion. Then there is the commercialization of Christmas. Monique Scheer says that it is precisely these that are also infecting members of other faiths:

"A lot also happens through the cultural channel, that the children come home and say: Everyone is celebrating Christmas - I also want presents - and the families then come into the situation and have to say and consider: Do we want to participate - or do we want to not? And so there is also a highly individual implementation of Christmas in non-Christian families. "

Many Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are not even aware of their "individual implementation of Christmas". Sophie Reimers, cultural scientist at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder, accompanied a Muslim family in Berlin for two years. She initially pretended to completely ignore Christmas.

"Then of course it came out that it is probably not completely black and white, that they already enjoy this atmosphere and that the children in school and kindergarten also take part in the respective festivities, but that they themselves have drawn the line that they do not celebrate the festival in private because they say: We are not Christians. "

When "Christmas" becomes a "winter festival"

And in this way, many non-Christians come to terms with the traditions of an early Christian festival, thereby even finding access to the Christian-dominated community. It is always different when the non-Christians are in the majority. Cultural scientist Monique Scheer gives the example of a kindergarten with predominantly Muslim children. The kindergarten sponsors have taken this into account - with a kind of "de-Christmas" Christmas.

"And then they come up with the idea of ​​naming the winter festival or the festival of lights, for example. And that is an example of how precisely these areas of tension in society come to the table and have to be negotiated at this festival.

Because where "Christmas" becomes a "winter festival", protests from the Christian majority society are inevitable.

"In this case it was about protests against the fact that you shouldn't do that: We're in Germany, it's Christmas and so on."

How far can integration go around Christmas? And where are the limits? For cultural scientist Monique Scheer, Christmas would be the ideal time for an open discourse:

"Christmas is a festival on which we are not only called to be generous. We are also asked to think about the society in which we live and want to live - and to take the opportunity to do something about it on the occasion of the festival. "