Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I haven't posted a single peep about Christmas.  Well, except for the Birthankmas post, does that count?  As a daily blogger, has that absence become obvious yet?  To put it bluntly, it's because we are having a little bit of a dilemma around here.  Maybe it's just me having the dilemma, I don't think Andrew is too overly stressed about it.  But if you've got input, help me out (really, throw your opinions this way).

Andrew and I aren't Christian.  We were raised that way, and we definitely believe in the good qualities that Christianity promotes, but that's not the same as really being Christian.  We don't attend church, and we aren't people who believe in going once a year (or twice if you go at Easter).   Both of us (strongly) feel that if you believe something is true at Christmas you should practice it all year long.  No halfway commitments or doing it just when it's fun and easy.

Before Scout, we half-halfheartedly decorated for Christmas.  We gave presents to our friends and family because we care about them and giving is fun.  I could usually convince Andrew to drive around and look at lights once or twice. We got a tree a few times.  Last year, we didn't do anything on our own for Christmas.  We celebrated with our families, but I was way too sick and we were both too busy that it just seemed like extra work.

We talked about how once Scout was here, we wouldn't celebrate Christmas.  Well, we would celebrate with our families, but then we would do something different with our own little family.  Celebrate Winter Solstice or the start of the New Year or something like that.  Because what are you celebrating at Christmas if you aren't Christian?  We see too many people get caught up in all of the buying and wanting and spending ridiculous amounts of money and we definitely don't want that.  We had a plan.

Plan fail. On my part.  I realized that it made me sad to think of not celebrating with Scout.  Not having a sparkly tree in our house for a month.  Not having cheery lights on the darkest days of the year.   Not listening to Christmas songs (who can be cranky with those on?).  Not having special Christmas books and movies that you only watch once a year, but you do it ever year, so you get excited for them.  Not making tons of goodies and homemade gifts.  Not taking that time to think about the people that you love and what you could get them that would make them happy (although we still do that !).  Not having something cheery and happy and all about giving during the dreariest time of the year.
Photo from here
This year, we got a tree.  A little Norfolk pine, an indoor evergreen tree, that we decorated.  After Christmas, the decorations will go back in the box and the tree will keep on living in it's pot in our living room.  It's cute, but not the same.  We put up a few nutcrackers and simple decorations that we had.  And it's nice, but not quite the same.  We are listening to Christmas music, but I'm hesitant to buy any more Christmas CDs.  She's not going to know for this year, but we have no plan for the future.  What are we celebrating?  What are our traditions?  How will we explain what Christmas is to our kids?  We've got no plan; right now we are halfway celebrating, not committing one way or the other.  Which is unusual for us.

And that, people, is why you have seen no posts about Christmas.  Because we (or maybe just I) haven't quite come to terms with where we are on this issue.  We know we don't feel comfortable with treating Christmas as a Christian holiday, but really, that's what it is.  And without that, I don't want it to evolve into a massive spending/wanting/greedy/corporate thing...because that is just the opposite of everything that is good and worthwhile about Christmas.  Sigh.  I've got a few posts planned, but not many.

I do know that I want to buy lights after Christmas so that next year, when it gets dark so early and stays dark so late, there are bright twinkly lights on my house.


Angie said...

I think there are tons of people who celebrate Christmas that don't consider themselves Christians. I'd say you can call it "Yule" if you want to, but there's nothing wrong with celebrating the secular version of Christmas if you don't want Christ involved.

I'd say most of the time, people say "giving" is the reason for the season. So, kind of like Thanksgiving, just focus on spending time with family, giving gifts that show love, and doing charitable work. You can still have a Christmas tree, sing songs, have lights, do all that stuff, just talk about it being a season of giving. When your kids are old enough to ask about why it's called "Christmas," you can explain that Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, but others choose to celebrate for different reasons. There's no reason you can't celebrate holidays, just make them your own!

(P.S. I thought that sentence "Andrew and I aren't Christians" looked strange! Only because I'm so used to thinking of you guys at seminary every morning! Understandable, though- Christianity ain't for everyone!)

Jordan said...

As a hard core atheist and intense Christmas lover: We have told Aima it is just a time to celebrate life and love with the community. I really love that people (strangers) are all of a sudden sharing something in common (not everyone, obviously) but like you said: the lights, music, decorations, home-made gifts, seasonal snacks, etc. It's just fun to look at how different we can all celebrate something. We have also talked about how everyone celebrates holidays for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

I'm Christian and we actually don't celebrate Christmas at all. It actually didn't start out as a Christian holiday and I don't think there is much about Christmas that has to do with Jesus anyways (he wasn't born on Dec 25th, he wasn't even born in Winter according to the Biblical account), there weren't 3 "wisemen" at his birth and as a Christian I celebrate the real gift that Jesus gave us, his life, and do so on a daily basis. We give gifts but at other times of the year as a spontaneous thing and not under compulsion. We also spend time with our family but not under the guise of a holiday that has become so commercial and about overindulgances that are the opposite of some very core Christian values.

Anonymous said...

This is a dilemma that we share in so many ways. For one thing, I agree with those who have mentioned how commercial and over the top Christmas has become, and I do not ever want that for my children. We do celebrate Christmas and it is a time of giving to each other and those in need as well as spending TIME with and for each other. Most of our gifts are handmade and our gift giving is *very* modest. Not fancy electronics and no jewelry or cars. We want our girls to have a strong sense of tradition, so that is our focus. Even with our modest version of Christmas I still feel like it's too much. I hope I am making the right choice with my girls by talking to them often about how we give the gift of ourselves at Christmas time. They are both busily working on hand made gifts as we speak. There is a sparkling tree in our living room. Christmas music is played. The house is all decked out in so many handmade things and there is Santa. Why Santa? Because I like the idea of fairy tales. I like magic and wonder and anticipation. It only happens for a few years and then Christmas has to become something else.

We also celebrate Solstice. I've spent a great deal of time reading about what Solstice really is and that is what I identify with as an adult. Solstice is a celebration of light and the natural world and its gifts (for me) so that is what the tree and the lights are for. So many of the Christian traditions stem from Pagan rituals that it's not that much of a stretch to combine the two holidays.

Now, to sum up this diatribe (cause you asked) Here is what I think is most important: tradition. I think tradition bonds a family and gives them something to depend upon with each other. In my opinion the tradition can be whatever you deem appropriate, but give your children the gift of belonging to a family with traditions and I believe you will intensify your bond as a family. So, let it evolve. Do what feels right and add things as you go along. Pretty soon your little Scout will be 9.5 (GASP!!) and your family traditions will start to feel very rewarding and fun.

Good luck, cousins. You are excellent people and parents. You'll find your way.

stefanie said...

Well, I'm a secular Jew so Christmas is theoretically just about as far from my "values" as one can get. But my partner grew up Catholic (though he's an athiest, now) and really likes Christmas, so we get a tree, listen to the music a little, go for at least one drive to see lights, and do the whole Christmas morning thing with our son. I feel a lot like Jordan does. Christmas, to my family, is just a fun time of year when everything's decorated and sort of magical, the community does cool stuff like concerts, and the whole thing culminates in a morning when you get to eat treatsy food and open presents (which I am cool with -- I don't mind wanting, as long as it goes along with gratitude and giving and not just in the month of December).
We do Hanukkah as well, but Hanukkah isn't much of a holiday, at least by Christmas' standards. We pack in a lot of family time in those 8 nights, and get our old world traditions out of the way to make room for guilt-free Bing Crosby listening, Elf watching and all of the other commercial trappings an athiest and a Jew might enjoy.

Carolyn said...

Thank you for sharing on this topic. It is something my (atheist) family has been contemplating a lot this year too. My DH and I have spent the last 11 years trying to figure out how we feel as a couple about celebrating, getting off the grid and not celebrating, trying to please everyone and observing only in certain circles, etc... We now want to find a way to build tradition for our baby girl and we keep finding ourselves coming back to a celebration of light during the dark winter days. A general celebration of winter solstice and feeling of respect for the reverence that people of all creeds feel during this time of year. Since so many of us have forced time off from work for Christmas we are going to focus on getting back to nature, appreciating the light during the dark days, and breaking bread with the people we love. We will continue to reserve gift giving for the spontaneous times of year that we feel are more important that the commercialized ones... the times that come unprovoked from the heart.