What Christmas Means to Me  

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas is kind of an odd thing for me. I've never been quite sure how to celebrate it. I wasn't raised with the belief in Santa Claus. My brothers and sister were, but by the time I came along my mother decided she didn't want to lie about it and never mentioned Santa to me. Santa was always a mythological figure. In fact, I don't think I really realized that anyone actually believed in him until I was much older.

Sometimes I wonder what I'll do as a parent, if I ever have kids. Is it better to tell a child straight up that it's a myth as well as all fairy tales? I feel like I missed out on something that was fundamental to childhood. And maybe it could be an exercise in critical thinking. Wait until the child asks, provides evidence, and then explain about Santa.

I also wasn't allowed to celebrate Halloween. I went trick or treating once when I was five (as a ghost with a sheet as a costume), but after that it was Satan's holiday and we celebrated by going to church. (I did occasionally get to dress as a Biblical figure though and the costumes were much better than a sheet.)

I had friends that didn't have a tree at Christmas. They celebrated by baking a birthday cake for Jesus. We didn't do that. Our Christmas was pretty traditional with a tree and gifts and family. But, we were always reminded that Christmas wasn't about evil consumerism, but about Jesus. C. L. Hanson's post about Christmas reminds me of that mix of guilt and celebration we were supposed to have. I always felt a little torn about enjoying the gifts, even as a child.

We had our traditions though. Christmas Eve we spent with my mom's extended family and we always went to my dad's parents on Christmas day for dinner. Christmas morning was for exchanging and opening gifts at home with the immediate family, and of course, playing with our toys. After my dad's parents died we stayed home on Christmas day and had candy and eggnog all day. But after I moved away from where my family lives I lost all sense of tradition.

Except for one private tradition, and that one not so much anymore. Every Christmas Eve I would wake up in the middle of the night. I'd go look at the tree and the lights and just feel at peace, thankful for my family, my friends, whatever it was in my life I had to feel thankful for. I still do that, but in a small apartment we don't have a tree, so even that has fallen by the wayside.

So I've decided that the meaning of Christmas is what I make it. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, time we normally don't have together due to busy schedules and work. I enjoy giving gifts (and I have to admit, I enjoy receiving them too). But mostly it's those quiet moments when I realize how fortunate I am.

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8 comments: to “ What Christmas Means to Me

  • tina
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 7:00:00 AM CST  

    What a beautiful sentiment, I really enjoyed it.

  • C. L. Hanson
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 8:10:00 AM CST  

    Regarding kids and Santa: I basically decided that I'd rather tell my kids that Santa is just a fun story. That's what I've tried to do.

    The funny thing is the my son Nico (6 years old) refuses to believe me -- he insists Santa is real. It's too funny: the atheist mom trying to spark his critical thinking skills ("So, are you sure Santa is a real person, or do you think maybe he's just a story?") and the kid presenting his arguments ("Of course he's real -- we saw him at the mall."). Actually, Nico brought up the question spontaneously this year ("You know, Mommy, some people think that Santa is just a dream, but he's real.") I think he's getting ideas from that song I Believe in Santa Claus. I've decided that I'm not going to push him or insist on my answer to this question -- I'll just let him decide for himself and see how it plays out.

    I also like the tradition of looking at the tree and the lights and just feeling at peace, thankful for my family, my friends, whatever it was in my life I had to feel thankful for. That's one of the reasons I like Christmas songs that are about spending the holidays with your loved ones. Now that we have kids that are old enough to want a Christmas tree, we've taken to putting up a small Christmas tree. It makes a real difference in the holiday mood, and my little Leo just loves it...

  • vjack
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 8:43:00 AM CST  

    Great post. I think you are right about the meaning of Christmas being what one makes of it. It also seems to me that this is a healthy attitude with which to approach each and every day.

  • the chaplain
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 1:47:00 PM CST  

    I like my Christmas tree too. It's nice to set aside a time to do something special, regardless of whether it has any religious meaning tied to it. I'm going to spend a quiet Christmas day at home with my family. What more could I want?

  • Mamacita Chilena
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 2:24:00 PM CST  

    if it makes you feel any better my parents did make me think santa was real but i don't even remember it. so I don't think you missed out on too much. i do, however, have vivid memories of pretending i believed in santa claus because i didn't want to make my mom feel bad that i no longer bought her little charade :)

  • Billy (A Liberal Disabled Vet)
    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 4:14:00 PM CST  

    I am an atheist (leaning towards agnosticism). This is quite new for me. Six months ago I was still an agnostic. So how do I feel about Christmas now?

    I agree with you about Christmas being a time of traditions. My tradition, since my wife and I married, is to spend Christmas with either her parents (Florida, now) or my parents (Maine).

    As far as the meaning of Christmas, I look at it as a time of rebirth and hope (via winter solstice), a time of family, a time to consider the 'teachings' of 'jesus' in terms of social liberalism, and a time to consider how to make the world a better place. We exchange gifts, eat too much, cook, bake decorate the house (my parents have a Darwin fish on their tree which has freaked out a couple of their friends) and relax.

    Your post shows a truly caring person. I wish the ones decrying the desecration of Christmas could be similarly inspired.

  • PhillyChief
    Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 3:35:00 PM CST  

    Make of it, like life, what you will.

    As for Santa, I think it is pretty good to get your kids to believe. It's like a "gateway" belief. I think it's like a trial run for seeing through the god myth. Eventually all kids get past it. Maybe once your kid figures it out, then you start encouraging such thinking towards other things, like the god myth.

  • Vistaluna
    Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 3:35:00 PM CST  

    I don't believe in Christianity, but I love Christmas. I probably refer to it as “the holidays” more often than “Christmas”, but I what I really like about Christmas is that it’s a time for stepping out of our normal routine and reality to do something different, and to do things with or for other people. It’s probably the only time I do any serious amount of frivolous shopping.

    What other time of the year has its own category of music??

    Anything that breaks up our rat-race routine, and that’s really good for us. I just wish we had a big “summer holiday” as well!!

 

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