My nine year old niece asked me what people who celebrate Christmas do on Christmas. I said: "Talk about the rest of us." Okay, I didn't really.
The truth is: In all my life, I don't think I've ever actually seen people celebrating the actual day. I told her they probably have big feasts and get together with family... and some people open presents that morning... and maybe throw in some football-watching later on. My description to her was a mélange of what people have told me, what I've seen on The Waltons: "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" and what we do on Thanksgiving.
None of it is from my own personal eye-witness experience. For all I know, Christians all over the world get together and play cards. It's weird to say, but I only know what people who don't celebrate Christmas do on Christmas.
When I was a kid... honestly... I don't remember doing anything. We just stayed home and watched TV and played in the snow if there was any. Our family Christmas Day ritual was me saying to my mother: "I'm so bored. Where are we going today?" To which she replied: "Where are you going? Everything's closed." And on went the TV and down I went in front of it in my pajamas with my arm submerged elbow-deep into the orange box of Cap'n Crunch. And there I sat, scooping those little sunken treasures up and raising them to my mouth as skillfully as any high-tech trench-digging equipment and then back into the box and so on for hours: A routine that would give me repetitive motion issues through February. (Occasionally you hear people say they wish Christmas could come every day. If it did, I'd be 1200 pounds and in a diabetic coma on a weekly basis....not to mention my gimpy arm.)
I can't even tell you what other non-Christians in America: Atheists, Hindus, Muslims, Shintoists, Buddhists, do on Christmas. I know there's always the joke about Jewish people eating Chinese food on Christmas. I never did that. I do remember, on the rare occasions we left the house and the cereal...(If my father would have let me eat in the car, I probably would have taken it with me)... to go for a drive just to see if anything was open, how thrilled we were to see that Chinese food was always an option. I just don't remember the car ever slowing down for us to get any. (One reason might be that when my sister was seven years old, my cousin, mind you not my sister, my cousin got sick after eating some. Although if my father really wanted Chinese food, he wouldn't have hesitated to stop just because my sister skeeved it. There's always the chance, however, he passed it by to keep from having to listen to her say how much she skeeved it while the rest of us were eating it. My sister likes Chinese food now. She decided to give it a try again when she was fifty. If my cousin ever tells me that she's ever gotten sick after eating any food in the past forty-three years, remind me not to mention it to my sister.)
One year, when I was living in NYC, my friend Stacy and I discovered that the Hayden Planetarium was open on Christmas. As we bought our tickets and walked past about a hundred people to get to the end of the sprawling ticket-holder line, we looked at each other and laughed. Every single person on the line looked like they were related to at least one of us. It was like every Hebrew school in the Country was having a field trip.
But I'll tell you. I may not know what most Christians do on Christmas Day... But I suspect some of them are sitting among us non-Christians in that crowded movie theater... Or on line at the only-one-opened-within-a-six-mile-radius jammed packed McDonald's. There may not be many non-Christians in our area... but we're never alone munching popcorn or fries.