Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Secular Christmas

We were living in Indiana when the issue of Christmas came up. We had finally talked to each other about our transitioning beliefs and sometime afterward I started wondering what we'd do about Christmas if we didn't believe the whole Jesus story. Now, if Gareth had been older I don't know that this question would have come up, since we would have had very ingrained traditions already, but since he was so little there was a definite ability to change how we did things. Was it hypocritical to celebrate a holiday if you didn't believe in the story that many base it on? I rather felt like it was and that if we weren't going to be believers we shouldn't be doing the holidays.

But I was loathe to deny myself and my kids all the fun memories that Christmas had brought me as a kid. I didn't want to give up cutting down the tree and decorating it and the house and all the baking. I didn't want to give up watching our traditional movies. I didn't want to give up the anticipation, the gift-wrapping, the Christmas-day food. Besides, so much of Christmas really comes from various pagan and pre-Christian cultures, none of which I'd ever believed in, so maybe it didn't matter?

And then Ryan showed me this video, which a friend of ours had posted:

Tim Minchin touches on all the reasons I wanted to keep doing Christmas. The reality is that the traditions, the baking, the carols, the decorating, the gift-giving, and most of all, the people  - these were always what made Christmas, for me anyway. Watching this video helped me realize I wasn't alone in wanting to celebrate Christmas even though I don't believe the Jesus story. It might mean something different to me than to my religious friends, but what it means to me is valuable and worth continuing to celebrate.

So, what does our secular Christmas look like? Pretty much like our religious Christmas did, just minus the Jesus. We still bake and put up a tree and give gifts. We do Santa, but not over the top (it's a good exercise in critical thinking for kids). Sometimes I put out my nativity because it's pretty, sometimes I don't. We go sing the songs, even though the "lyrics are dodgy", because we like how the music sounds. And we include our kids in these things because it's part of Christmas for us and we want to share that with them.


Alanna said...

Good for you! I've often thought that even if I weren't religious, Christmas is WAY too much fun to pass up. (I have the feeling I'd want to celebrate it even if I was some completely non-Christian religion, too, although that would probably get complicated.)

A couple of things that are neither here nor there-- I hadn't realized that you and Ryan were done with Christianity. I thought you were just done with being Mormon. So I found that interesting to learn.

Also, I'm not entirely convinced that so many of our Christmas traditions have Pagan roots. My understanding is that we know little to nothing about how Pagans celebrated/worshiped, so it's all heresy. I sort of suspect some killjoy who was trying to ruin Christmas for the rest of us of starting that rumor. But even if it turns out to be true, I'm still okay with it. That's what every culture does-- grab what you like from other cultures, twist it a bit so it works for you, and discard what you don't understand or don't like.

Now if only Mormons could grasp that and get some better music into our meetings!

Susan said...

Sounds kind of confusing to put up the Nativity and sing Christmas carols while not believing in Christ. But whatever works, right? Merry Christmas! :)

Alanna said...

This all makes me think of one of my favorite songs, "Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams. It's great-- go find it on YouTube!