I grew up in a lax Catholic household. We mostly went on the high holidays, if at all. My mom has an old nativity, but really, Jesus wasn’t much mentioned during the holidays. What were were giving, holiday events like our school concerts and the fantastic baking my mother and grandmother would do just that time of year.
So, now that we’re living in an atheist/secular Buddhist (which is, for all intents and purposes, atheism) household, you bet we still celebrate Christmas!
I have many friends who have stopped celebrating Christmas, because they’re not Christian. I have a Buddhist friend who has a Solstice tree. She is attempting to cultivate traditions outside of the Christmas ones.
I, however, don’t see the need to toss Christmas altogether. Why should I, when much of it was stolen from the Druids, and their own Winter Solstice celebrations, to make it easier to bring them into the Christian fold?
What we celebrate at our house is predominantly Christmas, but we acknowledge the roots of that tree and the lights. We have a menorah, and educate the kids each year about the story behind Hanukkah. We’re all about learning the traditions of all people.
Celebrating Christmas means we get to keep the best of everything, without the baggage. It’s a season that refocuses people’s thoughts towards giving. And, I hope, that might spur a few more each year to make that giving spirit a part of their life pattern year-round (I know we do, which is why I like the holiday season so much. All that good will).
And while the consumeristic aspects that seep further and further back into the year (our local store now puts out merchandise in August), the lessons of giving, and thought about what to give, and why to give are important lessons. True, while the kids were younger, it’s all about what was under the tree for them on Christmas morning. But even as far back as Kindergarten, they took pride in the adorable gifts and cards they would make for us. We have learned that we are not helpless in the face of advertising and what the big corporations want us to do. We can choose the extent to which we would like to spend. It also offers an opportunity to discuss what we really need, and how things we may want impact the earth, and the people on it who may manufacture those things in poor conditions. So, we try to make the gifts more about doing or making things, if possible.
We are trying to build the fun of the holidays around the dinner we have every year where all are invited. There’s lots of good food, laughter, tons of people crammed around our table on mismatched chairs. There’s the smell of baking and pine in the air, along with cinnamon-coated pinecones. There’s a fire in the stove. The lights are beautiful and twinkle. The fact that we don’t go to church doesn’t diminish the friendship, fun and cheer in our home during this time when people seem to get along slightly better than usual.
This year, I am going to learn to can, but each year, I have used my limited sewing skills to make homemade gifts for people near and far. I don’t purchase gifts anymore for anyone other than my own kids and my husband. Conversely, I love it when I get homemade preserves, baked goods, crocheted scarves and whatever else my friends and family come up with. We all can go to Target and buy things. For this reason, we also avoid Black Friday like the plague it is.
Making cookies, holiday crafts, school events, maybe some snow if we’re lucky, the pretty tree with the ornaments that come out like old friends year after year, those are the things that our Atheist Christmas is made of in our home. Since Christmas itself has become an amalgam of many different traditions, even those of the non-Christians, it somehow seems fitting.