Christmas outside the mainstream

Rod Dreher, of Philadelphia, author of “Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots” and a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church: “Orthodoxy preserves the older Christian understanding of the weeks leading up to Christmas as a time of penance, like Lent before Easter. You can imagine how difficult this is to pull off when everybody else is chowing down on holiday party food…

David Semonian, who works at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ world headquarters, in Brooklyn Heights: “We don’t celebrate Christmas, and the primary reason is because the Bible doesn’t direct us to do so. Jesus commanded us to commemorate his death, and not his birth. We have the day off, and enjoy getting together with our families and children, but it wouldn’t be a time of giving gifts or any implication we are celebrating the holiday.”…

Janet Gyatso, professor of Buddhist studies at Harvard Divinity School: “I grew up Jewish, and my own practice is a mix of Judaism and Buddhism and being a critical intellectual and not identifying with the practice of any of it, per se. But Buddhism teaches one to be as generous and open-minded as possible. Any remaining feelings of being excluded from Christmas as a kid have simply vanished for me as an adult. One just takes pleasure from it all.”