Tell the average guy on the street - one who actually realizes there is a connection between Christ and Christmas - that some Christians don't celebrate the holiday and you'll likely get a pointed question or two. "Isn't that the biggest church-going day of the year? Not to mention that Christmas is as American as apple pie! Why wouldn't a Christian celebrate the birth of Christ?" In actuality, the reasons are varied and the legacy long, going back to the Puritans and up to present day groups such as Advent Conspiracy.

Pam Ferris stopped celebrating Christmas when she became a born-again Christian. "I didn't see in the Bible a command to remember the birthday of Jesus," she told by phone. "He never told us when to celebrate it, plus, I don't think the apostles celebrated Christ's birthday." But, the main reason is "the ghost of Christmas past."

The Philadelphia resident grew up in a Catholic family that piled up mounds of debt each December. Her brothers and sisters tried to outspend each other in an attempt to gain their mother's approval, and one sibling even took to shoplifting - just to get the perfect gift. At the annual midnight mass outing, her uncles and dad staggered down the aisle after one too many whiskeys at Christmas Eve dinner. "I was disillusioned about the farce that Christmas became in my family," says Ferris. "So, when I turned my life over to Jesus at age 22, I turned my back on Christmas."
Ferris says she might be interested in finding a church that is part of Advent Conspiracy, an international movement "restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption." The organization's mission, according to its website, is to encourage people to worship more, spend less, give more and love all. "Christmas was meant to change the world. It still can," is one of the group's mottos.

Until she takes the leap of joining Advent Conspiracy, Ferris's house is dark. There is no tree in the window and she doesn't give gifts to anyone on Dec. 25. Although her neighbors and even her own family think she is "an oddball for abstaining from Christmas revelry, I feel that if the Puritans could do it, I can too."

Christmas in mid-17th century puritanical America was outlawed by Protestant reformists as "another one of those idol-worshipping religious festivals well worth expunging," says Colgate University professor Anthony Aveni. According to Aveni, who wrote The Book of the Year: A History of Our Holidays, reformist Protestants levied fines on those individuals who dared to miss work on Christmas in 17th Century America.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English preacher of the last century, wrote, "We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas ... we find no scriptural word whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because (it's) not of divine authority ... probably the fact is that the 'holy days' (were) arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals." (Quoted from Metropolitan Pulpit Series, Pilgrim Publications: Pasadena, Texas, 1871, p. 1026).

Charles Halff, director of the Christian Jew Foundation, chooses to boycott Christmas because of the pagan connection. "Thousands of years before Jesus was born, the heathen in every country observed Dec. 25 as the birthday of a god who was called the sun god Tummuz." According to all the heathen religions of that time, writes Halff, "Tammuz had a miraculous birth; and for centuries his birthday was celebrated with feasts, revelry and drunken orgies. The heathen celebrated Tammuz's birthday according to the very example he set for them. He was the world's greatest lover of women, strong drink, dirty jokes, and other sensual fun."

But, for every person who chooses to abstain from celebrating Christmas, thousands more revere the holiday. According to the Associated Press, Gallup polls from 1994 to 2005 consistently show that more than 90 percent of adults say they celebrate Christmas, including 84 percent of non-Christians.

Some, like Claire Shipley of Orlando, downplay the commercial aspects of the holiday and focus on the joyous arrival of Christ "into a dark and sinful world." She says she knows Christmas has a "sordid history" but feels Jesus would approve of taking what once was a pagan feast day and redeeming it. "Isn't that kind of why He came?  To save what once was lost?"