Why I Don't Celebrate Christmas
by Shirley Wilkes Johnson
The article below was originally printed in the Gazette in 1990. My friend Shirley Wilkes Johnson lives in West Columbia, TX, near Houston. She is a renowned vegetarian cook with a special passion for vegetarian chili. She is also a sincere and sensitive human being who has been a long-time friend to non-human animals. It is with pride that we reprint her article about Christmas.
The year was 1972. People were dying in a senseless war in Vietnam. There didn't seem to be much to celebrate. On Christmas Day, out of sympathy for those people, we ate beans and rice and spent a quiet day at home. In a search for a more meaningful lifestyle we decided to give up celebrating Christmas for many reasons. The world seemed more concerned about all forms of pollution, wastefulness and the energy problem then. The tons of wrapping paper, boxes and bows, the cutting of millions of trees, not to mention the enormous amount of electricity used nation-wide at this time of year, seemed wasteful to me. Then there are the countless gifts, given and received, that are unwanted and go unused. It seemed that all that money and effort could be put to so much better use. We have so many unsolved problems.
The increasing commercialism of Christmas bothered me, as it does many people. I read a newspaper article that said that there are many more depressed people, drunks, automobile accidents, family feuds and suicides at this time of year. The ``good will toward men'' that is supposed to prevail is not very apparent.
To lie to children about a fat man in a red suit may seem harmless to some people, but I question whether there is ever a reason to lie to our children.
As for gift giving, I prefer to choose to whom and when I give gifts. I don't like the feeling of being expected to buy gifts for my hairdresser, mailman, etc.
December 25 is not Jesus' birthday. In fact, during Biblical times only pagans celebrated birthdays. The date of December 25 was selected by the Christians as a way to bring pagans into Christianity: it was a concession to the pagan celebration of winter solstice.
I have read that 10% of the people do the thinking for the other 90% We all think we think for ourselves, don't we? Someone once said, ``A life unexamined is a life not worth living.'' As I pondered these two ideas, I began to examine everything I did and asked myself, ``Why do I do this? Is it because I want to, because I believe in it, or is it because I have been taught to do it?''
As my husband and I decided to quit celebrating Christmas, we decided it was important to celebrate LIFE--365 days a year. I wrote these thoughts in a letter to the Houston Post. They printed it on Christmas Day of that year. I braced myself, expecting to get letters calling me ``Scrooge'' and worse. But instead my mailbox was filled with letters from people thanking me for writing the letter.
I write this letter now, not to convince anyone to give up the celebration of Christmas, but to ask you to make a decision for yourself, whatever it might be. It is difficult to go against what everyone else is doing, as those of us who are vegetarians know. I hear a lot of people say they are tired of participating in the Christmas ritual. My purpose is to give them the moral support to give it up if they so choose.