As pandemic brings low-key celebrations, Manitobans who don't celebrate Christmas say pressure's off this year
'It's just another day for me': Hype around the holiday can be too much, say those who don't observe it
Pandemic restrictions are giving some Manitobans who don't celebrate Christmas a much-needed break from the pressure of the holiday season.
Autumn Crossman-Serb, 30, doesn't celebrate the holiday because she's Muslim, but for the former Starbucks barista and shift supervisor, escaping Christmas and all the decorations and non-stop carols was difficult while working at a shopping mall location.
"Christmas is all around. It's a nightmare.… It's too much," she said. "It starts, like, two months early. At least let me have Halloween."
The Winnipegger said she experienced micro-aggressions at work, where customers expected her to follow the Christian tradition and express excitement over it. When that happened, she politely told them she has her own holidays, she said.
"For years, I've had people being like, 'You don't celebrate Christmas, that is so sad.' And I'm like, OK, well, let's relax there. It's not that sad," she said.
"We have Muslim holidays that aren't anything to do with Christmas.… There are other Abrahamic religions and we do do other things."
Crossman-Serb stopped working in April because of the pandemic and she's relieved not to have to deal with the Christmas music and reminders of the holiday.
She said the only holiday tradition she follows is watching Christmas romantic comedies or A Charlie Brown Christmas, but that's pretty much it.
"It's just another day for me," she said.
Focused on other holidays
Hadass Eviatar, 58, doesn't celebrate Christmas because she's Jewish. Eviatar said it's difficult when people assume her family does.
"When my kids were little, cashiers would ask them, are they excited about Santa or whatever, but we don't do Santa," she said.
"It's not a lot of fun" when that happens, but Eviatar and her family are used to it.
They usually focus on bigger holidays during the year, such as Passover in the spring and Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — in the fall.
"We celebrate Hanukkah this time of year, but actually, Hanukkah is actually a very minor holiday and it's been seriously inflated just because of its calendar proximity to Christmas," Eviatar said.
Eventually the Christmas hype passes and they move on, she said.
"I don't have a problem with other people celebrating Christmas. It's just that we don't, and it's nice to have that acknowledged," she said.
'It causes more problems'
Cathy Herbert, 35, doesn't celebrate Christmas because she doesn't come from a religious family and doesn't believe in capitalism.
"I think it's kind of weird that we have this thing that's supposed to be a religious holiday that's become this secular thing," Herbert said.
"I don't mean to sound like a grinch, but it really causes a lot more problems."
Herbert believes Christmas has deviated from its roots of people coming together and helping others. Instead, the holiday is focused on consumerism and buying presents, she said.
"Buying a million presents for my friends just because the calendar said to," she said.
"We're spending all our money making sure that our relatives know that we love them, and there's people who are still very cold and hungry out on the street."
In addition to the spending, Herbert said the pressure to deliver and accept presents comes with a lot of stress: you have to buy the right present or pretend to love one that's not.
Herbert stopped celebrating the holiday when she was a teenager. She said her best "Christmas" was in 2009, when she was backpacking in Europe and ended up in Cyprus.
"I found these caves, so I was like, 'Oh, I'll sleep in this cave,' and it was really nice," Herbert said.
"I was looking out through this little hole in this little cave over the ocean and watching the sunset as I went to bed on Christmas Eve. It was super nice."
Herbert said despite hating Christmas, she still follows traditions for loved ones, such as her boyfriend's family.
"I care about them and I want them to know that I respect them in their traditions, so I'll go to dinner and I'll do a little gift exchange," she said, even though she won't be going to their house this year because of public health restrictions.
Herbert will be staying at home with her boyfriend.
"If he makes some cookies, I'll eat them, but we're probably not going to get each other presents because we can't go shopping," Herbert said.
WATCH | Meet Manitobans who don't celebrate Christmas:
- A previous version of this story stated Autumn Crossman-Serb was a Starbucks manager. In fact, she was a shift supervisor.Dec 21, 2020 3:04 PM CT