Keeping Family When You Don't Keep Christmas

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MP3 Audio (5.14 MB)


Keeping Family When You Don't Keep Christmas

MP3 Audio (5.14 MB)

What do you do when your relationship with God seems to collide with your relationship with your family? Tell your family you’re giving up Christmas, and you’ll find out rather quickly.

Four years ago this Thanksgiving, I decided to stop keeping Christmas. I’d bought airline tickets months before to go home for the holidays, so I went. As best as I could, I tried not to acknowledge Christmas while still honoring everyone around me who was celebrating it. No one knew how to act, including me. It was awkward for all of us. When I was told that I didn't have to come home for Christmas the following year, it was both a relief and a punch in the gut.

Why does it sometimes feel wrong to say no to Christmas, even though you know you should? For many people, Christmas traditions are wrapped up in family. It’s often the family’s largest and most-anticipated gathering. Let’s be honest—saying no to Christmas feels like saying no to family, right? All of the intellectual knowledge about the true origins of Christmas doesn’t keep your heart from breaking when someone asks, “Don’t you want to be with your family?”

Learn more about the Feast days, and you'll see how very much family is on God's mind.

I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but the root of my struggle was, “How do I maintain relationship with my family and be true to my beliefs?” It is possible, and it doesn’t involve Christmas.

There are two points to consider. One, family relationships are about more than just a single day. And two, God has a bigger plan for family than you may realize.

How do you build a relationship with your family outside of trees, tinsel, and presents? Some people join their extended family for lunch or dinner and leave before gifts and other Christmas traditions, and that works well for them. I live many hours away from my family, so dropping in for dinner is not really practical. Since long-distance visits are usually for a few days at a time, I don't spend Christmas with my family. It's more respectful to them, so that they can observe the practices they enjoy without awkwardness, and I'm not caught in the middle of practices that I don’t want to keep. Instead, I spend that time with my Church family, because, frankly, it can be very lonely to un-keep Christmas all by yourself.

Throughout the year, I make a point to spend time with my family at other opportunities that are meaningful to all of us: Thanksgiving, birthdays, a summer family gathering, and other special events such as graduations and weddings. I make an effort to see them more often than before so they don't feel I'm pulling away from them. It's Christmas I've rejected, not them. You can keep the commandment to honor your parents and not keep their desire for Christmas.

You should be able to answer why you are choosing not to keep Christmas. My answer is, "God has spelled out His holidays in the Bible and how to keep them, so now I keep those instead."

God’s holidays, His holy festivals as described in Leviticus 23, illustrate the greatest story ever told—a story that features Jesus in the starring role. But His birth is only a small part of that story. Christmas misses most of the action and the dramatic conclusion. God has created special opportunities for you and your family to celebrate together throughout the year and remember the incredible story He is telling.

Learn more about the Feast days, and you'll see how very much family is on God's mind. God is all about family, and His days reveal more about the plan of salvation for all mankind than Christmas traditions ever could. Man’s holidays are a poor substitute for what God has in mind for you and your family: to be part of His family, together.

The first year is the hardest, but you’ll find a groove that works. You are not alone. While your journey is uniquely yours, there are many people who walk with you, all sorting out how to keep family without keeping Christmas.


  • Brandon.Brewer

    Thank you for this article. I am new to the church, but not new to the idea that Xmas isn’t a Christian holiday. Since my early 20’s I identified as an atheist, but still kept my family traditions to celebrate Dec 25 with presents, food, and family. I am having more internal conflict with turning down these traditions that I ever thought I would. I’m struggling with the idea that my family will feel like I’ve turned my back on them. I also have a unique situation in my own house. My wife was raised in the church and has no issue giving up the holiday, but our kids offer more challenges. My stepdaughter (10) will go to her dad’s house to celebrate Xmas while our son (4) will stay at home with us. Reading all of these comments made me realize that I’m not alone in this, but why does it feel like doing the right thing is going to hurt people that I love?

  • 24clorra

    Hi Brandon I think I may be able to offer insight. Your situation is hard but your eternal reward is greater. Christ said"if you love me keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another helper the spirit of truth"(John14:15-17a)The Holy Spirit can help you if you choose to be faithful to the truth of God's word. Remember satan"walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.(1 Peter5:8-9)Satan will try to resist you entering the kingdom at all costs if he can dissuade you of doing what is the will of God by stirring up your emotions then he will. You must resist satan because he is the true adversary seeking to have you deny christ. Jesus said"I am the way the truth and the life"(John14:6)If you neglect the truth then you neglect Christ. If you willingly neglect the truth and tell others to do so then Satan has won. So why does doing the right thing feel like it will hurt the ones you love? It is because Satan wants you to reject the truth. Do not deny the truth and God will not deny you. You know the truth do it.

  • Theophilus67

    "This is the day the LORD has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps 118:24 Romans 14:5 set me free on this issue long ago, and so did the book of Galatians. Love is the rule. Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Every day is the LORD's for me. And Satan is not allowed to use any single day, Christmas or otherwise, to prevent me from loving on others, including my parents, my children, strangers, you name it. I have no problem visiting someone for Christmas if they invite me. Matthew the tax collector invited Jesus to his home. Do you think Jesus checked the pagan holiday calendar before agreeing to go? I don't think so. Free yourself before you wreck yourself. The Spirit gives life, the flesh profits for nothing. Every day is a day to love the LORD and love on others. Don't put undo burdens upon yourself. There is no day in the entire calendar that enslaves me. I am free to love the LORD and others any day, any time. Read all of Galatians with "ears to hear" as Scripture teaches. Dig into Romans. Our journey is joyous, don't miss it!!

  • Gsikalos


    I’m a bit late to the conversation. The toughest part for me, in terms of giving up Christmas, is that I have two small children that absolutely love Christmas. This is my fault because I caused them to love it. I’m afraid of the let down to my immediate’s sad that I view it that way. Any suggestions and prayers are welcome.

  • Linda Merrick

    Hi Gsikalos! I think it is wonderful that you see God's truth and that you want to stop keeping Christmas! It makes sense that you are sad to stop celebrating it because you do not want to let down your children and loved ones. But something you can do is start keeping the Sabbath and God's holy days and show your children and loved ones how amazing these days are! I never celebrated Christmas as a child, but I remember absolutely loving every holy day that we kept and the weekly Sabbath! We talked about God's promises, had special meals together, sometimes my parents would give me a small gift on the holy days, we met with others at church and after church, and enjoyed wonderful fellowship with close friends! It was always a special time for me as a child. My best advice is to pray about it fervently! God will provide you and your family a way to still keep special moments together without Christmas in your life. And I do believe God will bless you with special moments you will keep with your family both on holy days and on many other days throughout the year. I will pray for you and your family in your situation. I do believe God will give you guidance in this!

  • cindy ramsey

    My husband and I have forsaken the Christmas celebrations and have been spending this time together as both of our families continue to celebrate it. I have also decided, after much prayer and teachings to no longer attend Sunday worship meetings. However, my husband pastors a small IPH church and he continues in the denomination worship time. We do together obey and follow God's Sabbath and keep it Holy because He made it a Holy day unto Him. My husband does continue to hold Sunday services and that includes Easter Sunday service as well. I know the Lord wants our obedience to Him, not to man's traditions and teachings. I ask that anyone who reads this will pray for wisdom, direction and God's truth only in our lives...blessings in the Name of Yeshua...cindy

  • cklockhart

    Thank you for sharing Cindy. I, too, will remember you and your husband in my prayers today. May our Father and His Son, Yeshua, give you peace with this transition.

  • Copperridgemama

    I will keep you and your husband held up in prayer. This decision is life-changing and will demand every bit of strength and resolve that you have. I have been reading in Luke at Mary's response to the news that she would bear the Christ. She rejoiced! But Simeon reminded her "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." This is a walk of faith! I will pray for you both to be diligent to walk in faith!

  • Sabrina Peabody

    Hi Cindy, I have prayed for you and your husband. It takes a lot of courage to break away from and forsake traditions that you had believed to be in accordance with God's will. But you are doing the right thing - seeking to worship God in spirit and in TRUTH. I pray God bless you as you read the Bible and seek His will in your lives.

  • jmparkhill

    Great Article Melanie, it's so good to have a balanced way of handling things like this. We know that it isn't up to us to force our ideas but to just state what we believe and let God take care of it. We also know that our families are not pagans. They are honest in what they believe. It will be great to see my parents in God's Kingdom of these days and they will be taught the truth about things. We need to be an example of God's truth not judges. God will take care of this in his own time.

  • cklockhart

    Thank you Jim for these valuable comments. I appreciate your words and find them wise, helpful and balanced. Melanie, this is a great article, and we thank you for writing it!

  • EvanToledo

    What amazes me is how the majority of people live the way they please all year, completely ignoring what Jesus Christ taught and is all about, THEN have the hypocrisy to honor His supposed birthday! In our modern liberal society, where there is so much "legalized sin" it is also hypocrisy to say "they are in our prayers" to victims of tragedies! God doesn't hear
    those who don't want to obey Him! His TRUE Holy Days are so deep in significance, one who keep them recognize God's rule in their lives.

  • Sis

    "frankly, it can be very lonely to un-keep Christmas all by yourself." This is so true. I feel "called" to un-keep Christmas and I've been "un-keeping" it for many years altho' the rest of my family AND my church family continue to keep it. It's a very lonely feeling and I'm sometimes tempted to join in.

  • david from tx

    I know this is an older comment but I want to encourage you to stay in there. There are congregations that keep the seventh-day Sabbath and do not keep xmas. You're not alone in this. Above all else, remember that God is there for you and ready and willing to help you through this.

  • Lorelei Nettles

    I had to face a lot of this almost 30 years ago. It is hard to explain let alone figure out how to handle family. For us it meant making Thanksgiving a much bigger event for our family. Thanks for this article Melanie!

  • Linda Keeney

    Thank you for the balanced article on dealing with family at this time of the year. Most of my family that does celebrate Christmas, it isn't about Christ. It's just a fun day because of the get together and of course the presents. I have joined them later in the day, especially when my older sister was alive. They know that I don't celebrate and and why. I am sure they think it's weird as they do not understand.

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