We are not a Christian household (DH is atheist, I'm confused ) and DD is at the age where she is more and more interested in abstract and broader issues. We have an Xmas tree, we do a family dinner and give gifts, we put up holiday lights, but that's about it. She knows and believes in Santa Claus, but has not been exposed to Christianity and the "real" reason for Xmas (not on purpose, just because it is not a part of our lives).
I know she'll be asking questions about Jesus, the nativity scene, angels, and so on. What do I tell her? How do I explain Christmas to her? I'm wondering what other non-Christian parents who celebrate the season have done. I guess this also relates to how to explain religion to kids in general...
I have no tips...only my own plans to share. I am not an atheist, but we are not a Christian household either... we do celebrate the solstice, and we do the whole secular part of the Christmas tradition...but DS1 is 7.5 and the girl next door is reading Bible stories to him...so I feel it's time to give him an explanation of the religion we are surrounded by. Both our kids have been asking about the nativity scenes and the crosses on the churches (they think if you can climb up the steeple and pull out the sword, it will have magic powers.) I think it's time for a little 411 ;)
This year, I plan to read him a beautiful book I was given by a family member, that is basically the Christmas story with lovely illustrations, and it is the words to the song "Go Tell It on the Mountain". I will read him this, and belt out the song for him. I am also planning to read him the story from the Bible and explain that while DH and I don't put much significance in this, these are the beliefs of a large portion of the world and since we are surrounded by them, he should know what they are. I am also looking for a little nativity set that is not too expensive and made of something unbreakable. (If anyone can recommend a very inexpensive one, please pm me - thanks !) When I was little I was never allowed to play with the nativity set; I want my kids to have full access to it...like a toy set we get out only this time of year, and a seasonal traditional story to go along with it. The difference between my childhood and theirs will be that DH and I will not be telling them that they should believe it is absolutely true, or that it should be a part of their spiritual considerations.
To us it is a seasonal traditional story. And in some ways it's like the birds and bees talk - at some point it takes more energy to avoid it than to just put it on the table, so this is the year. I want to fully enjoy the beautiful Christmas music with religious words without worrying about my kids being confused. As they get older, I will fill in a lot more information, and my own thoughts on the major world religions in general...but for now, I want us all to feel at peace with the season, and with everyone celebrating it in their own way, with no worries about our kids being confused or thinking they are missing out on something because they are surrounded by stuff they don't understand the significance of, KWIM ? I figure they can enjoy the religious Christmas story just like they enjoy any other story ... and this one comes with books, pictures, yard scenes, awesome music, and even action figures ;)
BTW I will go all out with the angels because I love angels :)
and 3 , in our happy secular
We're Muslim but my parents are Christians. As far as my kids are concerned (or have been up until now), Christmas is pretty much about Santa rather than Jesus. However, we have talked about how Christians are celebrating Jesus's birth. It's in the Qur'an as well--so it's not like it's foreign to them. I usually say that it's pretty much certain that Jesus's birthday wasn't December 25th--just as we're pretty much sure that our formerly homeless cat's birthday is not April 15th--but that's the day we've chosen to celebrate. They also know it as one of the days their Dad almost always works (and doesn't go with us to my parents) because he tries to help out for his Christian colleagues. So we can talk about how a true Muslim helps other people of faith, etc.
My guess is as they get older, we'll have more of a discussion about the pros and cons of Christmas. We'll also use the time to talk about the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him)... and as they get older, the differences in how Christians and Muslims view him.
Last year we talked a little about solstice and we might continue that as well. We always read the story "Sun Bread" and bake bread around that day. :)
Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1). "Kids do as well as they can."
First, we have the Playmobil Nativity and love it:
My kids enjoy hearing the story of "no room at the inn" and the three kings. I don't mind sharing this kind of cultural story.
We are not Christian, but do celebrate a secular Christmas. We do a lot of "some people believe." So, some people believe that Jesus is the son of God, and Christmas is his birthday. We also talk about the solstice and dark days of winter, because that is really why our family celebrates.
I do love Christmas music, and that has made for some really interesting discussions! The kids love Sting's version of The Angel Gabriel. Those are some tough lyrics for a 7 and 4 year old. I actually had to look them up to explain.
My kids haven't had any problems with our approach. We live in a very diverse area, so that may make it easier. DS's best friend is Jewish, so we've learned more about Chanukah, for instance, and DS knows that his friend doesn't celebrate Christmas at all.
Momma to 8 y.o. DS and 5 y.o. DD. Married to a Maker!
We live in an area where I wouldn't be surprised to find we are one of the only non-Christian homes in our small town. Ever since DS started school, he has mentioned Jesus and God to us - because he hears it at school from his classmates.
We have always handled it by answering any questions he has as thoroughly as we can for him. Many of our answers have the "some people believe" phrase in there. So far, that seems to be working well with him. We'll see how it goes as he grows older.
We do a Soup and Solstice party each year. No gifts. A tiny , potted tree with sun ornaments on it. We invite the neighbors and friends still in town on the 21st. It is an awesome event that some folks have started "copying" us on.
We tell our kids that Santa is pretend but some kids get convinced by their parents that he is real. We tell our kids that xtians believe that Jesus was the most special person ever born and how we believe everyone is special.. not just one man.
we've talked about st nicholas a lot and the fact that some people believe "santa" is still living, and we just celebrate the spirit of christmas / santa claus, and we don't tell others that he's not real because that is not nice. (especially when ds1 says santa is dead, rather than not real! i mean, it's true, but . . )
jesus hasn't come up quite as much, at least not specific to christmas. we have talked about him because my kids hear about it. i explain what others believe, and what i do. so far, when i say, "i don't believe a person can be god," ds says, "well i do." and that's fine. however i have not explained christmas as jesus' birthday - but i probably should explain that some people celebrate it that way. like, uh, my family! otherwise he will just be extra confused.
Good ideas, everyone. I tried the "some people believe" thing, which led us to talk about "God", which lead to me explaining what that is and what "believe" means. I'm not sure she understands it, since to her there is no grey area (everything is black or white, you either see something and know it exists and is real and thus believe in it, or you don't...belief in something she can't see is a bit abstract). But she understood the part about everyone being different and how we have to respect other people even if we don't think the same way as they do. I guess this is the main lesson of the season.
As a funny aside, I had to explain "belief" in terms of fairies, unicorns and pegasuses (or is the plural pegasi?) which she believes in! Ah the confusion!
Have you seen the show Sid the Science Kid? We have a dvd of it, and in one episode they talk about holidays and how different families celebrate different things. We "do the talk" about family differences year round, but my 5yo just discovered Sid and this one episode was very timely!
We're a pagan family but my parents (whom we see frequently) are very conservative christians who feel strongly about sharing their faith with our children. It's caused some tension, but it does mean we've been dealing with the "some people believe" aspect for a while.
For christmas we talk about Father Christmas/Santa Clause/St Nicholas with the story about coins in the stocking and how he is a spirit that inspires people to be loving/do good. We explain that some people celebrate the birthday of Jesus on christmas, and that Jesus is also a person who inspires people to loving/do good/giving activities. (during the year we often talk about Jesus in the same way as we talk about Buddha or Harriet Tubman or Ghandi or Susan B Anthony or Jane Goodall or Dr King or Grannie D... ordinary people who did amazing things because they believed strongly and acted on that belief, inspiring others to do the same)
Oh, we found a wonderful nativity set that was made from fabric a few years ago. I've seen similar ones on etsy and at 10,000 villages. It's lasted thorugh three kiddos, two cats, and a dog! LOL
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We told DD that the "reason for the season" is the earth's 23.4 degree tilt. And that many cultures, for many thousands of years, have had a celebration on or near the Winter Solstice. Basically it boils down to the sun not going away for good - mankind saw that the sun was on the way back, and so celebrated.
We've also gone over the similarities between the Jesus stories and ancient pagan god stories, and concluded that all religions are created by humans.
DD was always very logical, and we didn't want to lie to her. So, Santa never really caught on in our household. She always knew that Santa, the Spring/Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, "monsters" and storybook witches are all fiction. Some people pretend to believe in them, some people really do believe in them (but usually outgrow that), and some people don't even profess belief.
When she was bout 5 years old, she told me "I pretend to believe in Santa because the adults around me expect it." She knew not to burst other children's bubble, but she just always knew it was pretend.
(However, the year the Spring/Easter Bunny left Actual FOOTPRINTS in some mud in our yard, it was very exciting! Not completely believable, but very exciting!)
It probably also helped that we celebrate a number of different events during those last weeks of December, including Solstice/Yule, Christmas (strictly secular), a family birthday, and more. We have about 5 gift-giving occasions that time of year, so it's more spread out and less emphasis on any one particular holiday.
Ann-Marita. I deleted my usual signature due to, oh, wait, if I say why, that might give too much away.
DS takes no notice, and luckily we live in a place that seems to be (so far at least) very low-key about it. I think it is because it is coming at summer time, and summer is way more exciting than christmas. LOL i could be wrong, though.
Aside from this, we focus more on the mythos (jungian) aspects, and i could explain it very similarly to usami and ann-marita myself. we will not be doing santa claus either, really--even though i'm also happy to tell that story, but would prefer it on St Nicholas day if we are going to do the ritual as well. we probably won't, though.
i am fine with the stories, but i just prefer things to be more . . . idk, low key.
I am Pagan and dd's bio dad is Christian. My dh is some type of spiritual/Christian Mystic(?). So far we celebrate Christmas as a light in the middle of the winter. I plan on explaining to dd that a long time ago people didn't have a way of understanding the seasons the way that we do today. They would celebrate and tell stories of the birth of a god ( Jesus, The God, etc.) which was kind of a way of encouraging the sun to come back again. We do Santa and gifts but also talk about how many cultures have a way of celebrating this time of year and emphasize giving and being nice to all fellow earthlings.
Mother to one Little Flower Child 3/08 and one little squirmy boy 4/12 , Wife to ,I am a Vegan Pagan. We , !
We are Jewish and live in the Bible Belt. I grew up with a Christmas tree and love all the secular/pagan Xmas traditions, but given our environment I tend to be more cautious that I would be if we lived in NYC. We have a metal ornament tree. Santa is filling stocking at SIL's house this year (she is Baptist). We do not give Xmas presents, but the kids get plenty from Grandma.
If I were NOT Jewish but rather agnostic/atheist/confused, I would go whole hog with all the awesome Christmas decorations, tell the baby Jesus story, and then tell the kids that I think it's just a story. We have actually gotten through 6 holiday seasons without my son learning about Jesus, but the kids in co-op have finally clued him in. So this year he gets the whole story and an explanation of why I don't believe it.
We (I am pagan-Buddhist and my ex was raised in a sorta Mormon family) just told the kids that Christmas for Christians is the celebration of the birth of a man/teacher they believe is the son of God. I also explained that for many many people Christmas is also a secular celebration of the winter season without any real religious observations. (Contrasting that with my religious observance of the winter season was helpful too. ) As they got older they learned more history about the various holiday traditions and how they came about. (ie, Christ wasn't born on Dec 25th, etc)
Embrace the learning that is happening within the things that are actually happening!
I tell my DD the Jesus birth story, highlighting the parts a 4 yr old would be most interested in, skimming over others. Then I tell her that some people believe it really happened. We do talk about Fairy Tales and about how maybe they happened, maybe they didn't. So she sees the Jesus story as the same. I told her that I believe a baby named Jesus was born, but that he was just a regular guy and the angels didn't come see him or any of that.
However, her grandparents are very religious and one of her best friends is Catholic, so I make sure to mention, "But lots of people believe this is how it really happened." And list them by name, so she realizes that people she loves think that way.
When we talk about it, I try to leave it an an open-ended question, because it is important for me to let her make up her own mind at some point and not take my own beliefs as the final word.
I came to update from my previous answer - I bought the Tales of Glory nativity set from Rainbow Resource. It is plastic, cute, and a very nice size for the price ! My only complaint is that all the human figures are caucasian, but still it's a nice little play set. I have talked about the Bible story people tell at Christmas time, and I've given them the names of the characters, and explained that many people believe this is a true story, and that Jesus was God's son, although the man Joseph was the daddy he grew up with. DS1 understands that our neighbors think of Jesus as a god. I've explained that for many people Christmas is a religious holiday and that for them, it is all about this story. They are enjoying playing with the set and I'm glad they have a little more understanding of the stuff they see in our neighborhood - lots of lit-up plastic Holy Families in front yards.
Also, OP...I love your username !!
and 3 , in our happy secular
thanks all! nativity scene seems like a great idea. going to try with DD. love the conversations many of you have had with your LOs.
thanks laundrycrisis (I too have many of those!). :D
I think it’s fine to tell them that there are a lot of religious and secular holidays around this time. Some of them have blended together. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus their God. But that you celebrate a non religious form of “christmas” or solstice or winter that centers around family, merriment and gift giving. If you want to get more specific you can tell them that Santa, the decorated tree, stockings, etc are old winter traditions from Europe that many people still celebrate today.
I always think it's good to show how people are similar, rather than different :-)
I'm an atheist (as is my child's father even tho we are not together) We have a tree and some snowman decorations around but that's it. We celebrate the original meaning of xmas, the winter solstice. It's a time for family and showing love and appreciation to those we love and cherish. My twins are 4.5 and have yet to ask any questions. Mostly b/c we keep everything religion free, including their school. I know the time will come when they ask and I plan to tell them that some people believe and some don't. My live in boyfriend is a Christian (altho not very religious) so we will have diversity in their daily lives.
To follow up with my original questions, does anyone have any book recommendations for this topic? I'm looking for kids books about winter solstice, comparative religion (age appropriate), the Christian Xmas story, etc. DD loves books.