About This Website

From Substitute Holidays
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This website started as a tongue-in-cheek response to being a non-Christian living in the United States while being inundated with Christian and culturally-problematic holidays. Once the website got started, we realized that to us, it was more than just a collection of secular and alternative holidays: it was an exploration of the cultural and religious history and meanings behind what the holidays are.

This is a fancy way of saying that we take this site seriously. Much of it is still very much tongue-in-cheek, as many holidays submitted to us over the years often lean that way.

On this website, you may see references to listed holidays being a substitute for other holidays, including religious holidays (that is the name of the website!). This is not intended to belittle or downplay the importance of those other holidays to those who practice them. This is not intended to portray holidays as something that can jokingly be discarded or swapped out at a whim.

The idea of SubstituteHolidays is for those people who don't fit in to the cultural paradigm where they may live. The neopagan in the conservative Christian town, the atheist and agnostic who feel pressure to celebrate holidays they don't believe in, the questioner trying to find something new while maintaining ties with family and friends, the person who has a moral objection to celebrating holidays that herald the onset of colonialist expansion and genocide.

In a perfect world, someone could say they don't celebrate Thanksgiving and no one would bat an eye. This is not that world. This is a world where someone may have to blend in to preserve their social and career standings. This is a world where it's easier to say "We celebrate 30 Days Hath November instead of Thanksgiving" because that can be more accepted than just not celebrating it. This is a world where people have to find other reasons to attend holiday parties and gatherings because not going isn't an option (Source: Our experiences every time we try to abstain from celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving while living in proximity to very strong-willed family members who do).

The Case of Christmas

Christmas is assumed to be the default holiday setting in December and those who do not celebrate it are often dismissed, ignored, erased, or forced to conform. Much of the trappings of Christmas are viewed by Christians as being secular if those things do not tie directly to Jesus Christ. However, not even a holly-flocked pine garland adorned with sparkly lights and a big red bow is immune from being religious imagery. Consider this: when you picture that garland, what is the first holiday that comes to mind? Hint: it's not Arbor Day.

Christmas, despite the unrelenting commercialization of it, is a religious holiday. All the decorations, Secret Santa gift exchanges, stockings, and festive lights are religious by their nature. This is the case even if when atheist celebrates Christmas.

Arguments can be made that Christians stole certain things from early pagans; the Christmas tree is one oft-quoted. While that may be true, centuries of appropriation have changed the cultural coding of that tree. When you see a tree dressed in shiny ornaments and lights, especially in December, what is the first holiday that comes to mind? Hint: it's also not Arbor Day.

What if you change the decorations? What if you decorate your tree with bats and spiderwebs and tombstones and purple lights? That cultural connection is so strong that the reaction upon seeing the tree is "Look at that interesting Halloween-themed Christmas tree!" Even if that Halloween-themed tree is put up for October 31, it is still a Halloween-themed Christmas tree.

Trying to brush off Christmas decorations, music, and imagery as secular because the pagans had it first, or Jesus isn't referenced, or the people celebrating aren't Christian does not make those things any less religious than they are. Inviting a non-Christian or non-Christmas practicing friend to your Christmas dinner does not make it less religious, even if you do not personally believe Jesus was the son of god. Think about someone from another faith inviting you to a ceremonial dinner of their religion. Would you consider that to be secular?

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