I'm just generally curious, and if it's not too personal a question, I'd love to hear about your family's spiritual or religious background and how that relates to your relationship with Waldorf Education.
 People interested in Waldorf are a diverse mix, so I was wondering if anyone else has mixed feelings about the celebration of Christmas [in their at-home life], and if their religion or spirituality has any impact at all. [Like, do you celebrate Christmas just as a secular cultural holiday of peace?] Also, maybe more importantly- how do you handle the commercial / consumer aspects of Christmas in our society with your children?
 My husband is Atheist, but believes in the good of people, and the possibility of peace. I am more spiritual. I believe that everything has energy that should be respected. I believe in reincarnation. We live according to some Taoist principles, and as a family we celebrate each solstice and equinox to remind ourselves of our relationship with the Earth. I feel like Waldorf is not completely in-line with our family beliefs, but not so far off, either!
 Personally, I have reservations about celebrating Christmas. Even though I was raised a "Convenient Catholic" [only going to mass for major events, but never studying any of the religion at home], I never was very interested in Christmas. Even as a Child. We celebrated the Epiphany each January until I was in grade school and our family traditions became Americanized, so my family did the whole tree and Santa thing. So.. I feel no connection to it, no excitement about Santa, and getting a tree to decorate seems very "forced" because it doesn't mean much to me. And my husband feels the same- no connection to it.
But.. there's the expectation of Christmas because we are non-Jewish Americans! It's like.. if you don't have a Holiday you celebrate, it is expected that you celebrate Christmas out of a secular cultural tradition. Bah. And we're fairly minimalist. We don't need gifts and don't want our child to be bombarded with excess. Last year we did all handmade gifts, or things we needed. [Kiddo got a little potty, playsilks, wool, handmade slippers, and a Waldorf Doll.] and I guess I'm just trying to balance our "family identity" within our community and families.
We are so not religious.
Both DH and I were raised "sort of" Catholic but don't practice any set religion with the babes. We believe firmly in nature and treating all living things with love and respect but that's about it. My DD is if anything, a little Pagan going around asking Mother Nature if she can pick a few berries, or talking to her seeds before she plants them. That just comes naturally for her --- we do a lot of blessings and have a lot of stories all which center around Mother Nature and the earth and seasons...
As far as Christmas goes, I'm a little bit of a holiday nut. I love making it magical for the kids but for us it's not about consumerism or religion at all, it's about celebrating the coming of winter, family, friends, and Santa of course (who both my kids firmly believe in..) We do Advent (again not religious but I have a small ruffled calendar I got) and each day has a special adventure, craft or treasure in it. We have a "good deed" calendar and it has things like feed the birds, plant bulbs etc that DD especially loves. We make homemade presents (this year we decided last minute to make beeswax candles for everyone) but we also buy presents. There's a balance - I love buying people thoughtful gifts and I love combining that + some homemade stuff. Both kids get presents also but they aren't super consumers or anything -- I think the presents we get are thoughtful and go with our sort of Waldorf-inspired lifestyle. I think the holidays can be what you want them to be!
I've also made a point of telling my family my kids don't need-need-need. They are the only Grandchildren so both sets of G-parents and everyone else would go insane if I let them. One year they did and I was left with a lot of plastic and just plain junk I didn't want the kids to have and that we didn't NEED so I gave a lot of it away. This year we asked for certain things (or I did) and everyone was very understanding. I also try to avoid taking the kids into mainstream stores during the holidays and we find a lot of local things to do that are nature or history inspired. Like an old fashion day at the farm or something -- I'm babbling. I hope I answered your question because I feel like I rambled forever!
Oh, no, that was great! I really appreciate the insight!
We're still trying to find our family traditions and comfort levels concerning the holidays, and confidence as parents too, in the ability to set limits for grandparents, and family. We've always just treated Christmas as a mandatory travel day to visit family. It was nice, but it wasn't "ours" you know?
Since our little'n was born, I'm actually excited about things like Christmas now! There's a reason for it! It means something to me to celebrate this holiday in the name of peace, and good will toward all living things. But I feel there is a delicate balance in celebrating it and making it "ours" and becoming inundated with the MIC plastic that grandparents seem to be so fond of.
We do celebrate each solstice and equinox with a hike and picnic, and some stories. We also have a nature altar in our dining room.
Now I feel like I'm just blabbering. haha! Last year was kiddo's first Christmas and even though we said he needed nothing [for his birthday, too!] we still got a lot of gifts. I think this year I might make a suggestion list since people will be buying him things either way.
I guess for me it's just that I don't want to even do that and be so mentally "gift-centric". ::sigh:: I just want a special peaceful holiday with my non-religious family and make handmade items for those I love, without having to worry about all the junk that will be gifted our way. Bah!
 Our family lives in a very conservative Christian area, but we are very liberal Christians. We actually hesitate to use that term as it carries many connotations that simply don't apply to my husband or myself. My husband is very much influenced by Eastern thought, but we have attended Methodist churches in the past (and a lot of conservative ones on my part, due to the demographics here).
 We observe Advent and the Twelve Days along with the Winter Solstice. Christmas is a terribly complex holiday, carrying with it so much baggage I often wonder about doing gifts at all. My family would be very extravagant with gifts that do not fit our values if left unchecked. It's extremely difficult to make it through some gift exchanges, but that is more of a family issue than a Christmas one. We do few, simple gifts, often homemade. We recycle watercolor papers into lanterns and silhouettes. We can things through the summer and give them. We bake a lot. I would much rather it be a spiritual season exclusively. This is due in part to our anti-consumerist feelings and the simple reality that we don't have a lot of money. I do very much enjoying making gifts and giving them, but I balk at the agendas that often accompany gifts from others. We try to guide family by offering suggestions, sending catalogs their way and threatening to run over Barbies with the car.
Joyful Toddlers! has a great link about holiday traditions with little ones: http://joyfultoddlers.com/2012/11/holiday-celebrations-with-toddlers/
Mothering an Autumn (08) , a Spring (11) , and another Autumn! (Nov. 2013)
Taking what works and leaving the rest
I love Christmas. My family has always celebrated in the sort of Norman Rockwell standard: tree, candles, lots of church, some presents, and always a big meal with extended family.
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Here's another helpful link from the Parenting Passageway. There are other good links found within the post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/11/25/celebrating-the-first-week-of-advent/
Mothering an Autumn (08) , a Spring (11) , and another Autumn! (Nov. 2013)
Taking what works and leaving the rest
I'm a single mom living in a liberal pocket of NC. I grew up Lutheran, came out in my early 20's and struggled with how many organized religions handled gay issues. Now in my late 40's I've found a comfortable place in my life that is much more like Waldorf thinking. I consider myself spiritual, intuitive and open. My tween is the same. We honor all people. My daughter would prefer to honor only animals!!
We are very, very new to Waldorf education. After an unsuccessful entry into a public Montessori Middle School, we were fortunate enough to be accepted into the 6th grade class at a well established Waldorf school. The last month and a half have been shear joy!!
Regarding holidays, I've never been one to love any holiday but having a kid really changes that! My daughter loves the festivity and decorations of Christmas. My former partner, her other mom, was Jewish and before she passed away 5 years ago(on Winter Solstice) we also celebrated Hanukkah. This year I've struggled with what sort of gifts to give her. We've never been big screen time people, although she does have a Wii and DS for games. Her TV/Movie choices have always been animal/old school cartoons(Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, etc.) so I don't have to worry about the Disney factor!! We've talked about her want of another video game and how that's just not necessary and she already has one, so I've decided I'm going to replace her old and nearly worn out trampoline. (Also trying to gauge if she still believes in Santa...she's hard to read on that one!!) We're also becoming more crafty and homey!
Thanks for the inquisitive question!
What an interesting question and what thoughtful answers so far! We're a mixed family (Jewish-Christian) and have long felt the pressures related to being a mixed marriage. The whole thing was rather a big deal until one day we just looked at each other and decided to stop listening to everyone else and their belief that we had to pick a side, so to speak. We decided that we love each other, were never leaving each other and must have been brought together by some higher power to make this life together. Now that our outlook has changed, I can see that there are many people out there (and on this thread!) that for various reasons struggle with religious labels and expectations even if they are working within the parameters of only one religion. There are so many people who are searching for a thoughtful way to explore our spirituality, raise our children with a solid moral foundation and avoid crass commercialism. I too am seeking that balance between beautiful traditions and living a life more in accordance with my own authentic self. Talk about the postmodern condition!!
My fiance and I are both atheists. I find my ecstasy and joy in nature; I believe in spirits but not God or a heaven/hell dichotomy. We are both happy living a secular life - I often come across people who assume atheists must be amoral but actually it is possible to just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do :) So, my version of Waldorf is largely secular. We have cherry-picked the aspects for us and largely ignored the rest.
We do celebrate Christmas. For us it is about gratitude, giving, friends and family. We do buy presents but we also make presents, especially for other family members. We don't do Santa, at least not as a real person - more like a game. I'm big on being authentic and it falls too close to the line of lying to tell my daughter he is actually a real person, personally. We limit presents so that they're actually appreciated. Regarding toys we try to buy natural materials (ends up being a lot of wooden stuff), avoid gender stereotyped stuff and we also avoid brands/merchandise. We don't watch any tv with ads and don't get junk mail, so for now my daughter is reasonably sheltered from excessive consumerism. We live in New Zealand where everyone is pretty relaxed and laid back about holidays, so I don't think there is quite as much consumerism to start with as in the US (but don't get me wrong, we still have it). Oh and regarding Christmas trees - this year I am making a giant fabric wall hanging with a tree on it - my solution to the dilemma over chopping down a tree or getting a fake plastic one. Also works well with our tight budget and limited space ;)
We chose NOT to apply to the Waldorf school in our city or get a Waldorf curriculum because of the strong ties to Christianity.
We are not Christians. We are agnostic/atheists. We are environmental humanists probably more accurately. So some of the Waldorf 'stuff' and ideas appeal to us but the religious stuff is a huge turn off.
We celebrate Xmas with dp's family. We do not give one another presents though. We do not decorate our home of anything. We go to their house and are part of their celebration the same way we go to a close friend's house for haunkkah.
My mother and i celebrated the new year when I was a kid and now we do that in our home. I didn't want to really do anything or give any gifts etc but do pointed out that if *we* didn't do something then ds would probably latch onto Xmas as his winter celebration and we didn't want that.