Questions about Christmas. What if you "don't do" Jesus? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 04:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I hope my title doesn't sound harsh.  There's always a thread on here at Christmas time about whether or not to "do" Santa.  I'm cool with Santa, but I'm not so sure how to handle the religious aspect of Christmas.  I was raised Catholic, but am now agnostic bordering on atheist.  But...I still think that the religious story of Christmas is as (more?) important as the Santa aspect, and I want my daughter (now 2.5) to have a good understanding of it.  If I could, I would want her to see it as a myth, or a fable - a literature that has much to teach us, and value in and of itself.  (I guess I must add here, that I put a lot of stock in the values that are imparted through literature.  I take none of this lightly.)  But I'm not sure how to present it that way, or if it even matters at an age where she'll just as easily believe in Santa and the Elves as she will in God and Jesus. 

 

Also, my family is concerned for her religious upbringing.  I allowed them to buy her a book called "The Story of Christmas", and a Little People nativity.  She has thus far had fun making pizza for Jesus.  There's still a part of me that feels like this is all so sacrosanct.  And the book glosses over so much that I'm not sure how to handle that either. 

 

Anyone have advice to offer here?

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#2 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 05:02 PM
 
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Well, you opened this can and I bet you'll get a lot of responses that arent supportive of a non-jesus christmas.

 

Im an atheist, and I celebrate Christmas. DD hasnt reallly gotten old enough for me to explain the whole jesus thing, but Im sure soon enough it will become a problem for us. I intend to tell her that a lot of people celebrate it because they believe it is jesus' birthday, and that we celebrate it because that is what all of our family believes and its a convienent time to show our appreciation for them and exchange gifts. 

 

As she gets older I will likely explain that Christmas has a lot of pagan origins. We celebrate the summer solstice and the two equinoxes as well, but no where near as extragavantly  as we celebrate Christmas, mainly because our family celebrates Christmas. Plus, its something to look forward to in the cold months. 

 

I stopped believing in jesus very early in childhood, and it was actually when I was told about santa not being real. Its pretty hard for a little girl to think, "Ok, so the guy with the white beard and red suit is just pretend, but the guy in the dress with long hair is still real" after being told that both of them are watching over me, and both were real and I just couldnt see them. 

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#3 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 05:08 PM
 
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Christmas has always been about family for DS.  Yes we do a tree, yes it was fun to believe in 'santa' when he was growing up. Christmas is a special magical time of year in our house.   A time when everyone gets to be a kid.  We do NOT have a religious ounce to any of it.  And I'm ok with that.  (Just as I'm ok with Easter being about colored eggs and a big white oversized bunny that leaves a basket!)


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#4 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 06:53 PM
 
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We also do not do Jesus in our house. But we do celebrate christmas.

I grew up celebrating Christmas as a family holiday. The relatives that did do Jesus went to midnight mass or church on Christmas morning. Then everyone got together for dome turkey, presents and family time.

 

We plan to do the same with our kids.

It is about lights, trees, presents, Santa Clause (because we do him), ginger bread houses, Christmas Carols and family get-togethers.

 

My in-laws do Jesus (they are catholic). And when we are there for Christmas we do go to evening mass with them. As our kids get older we will either skip mass for a few years when they are very impressionable, or just tell them that some people believe in Jesus and God, and for them Christmas is also about celebrating the birthday of Jesus.

We do hope to introduce our kids to the diversity of beliefs out there. And Christmas/Jesus/God etc will be one of them. We live in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world and believe that they should have a respect and understanding for the different diverse lives of the people who are their neighbours.


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#5 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 10:26 PM
 
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We don't do jesus or xmas. I feel the two are too intertwined for me. Yes, xmas is full of pagan symbols but it's still supposed to be about the birth of the most special person in the universe. Since I don't believe that... I take a pass.

We created winter solstice traditions for our family which is mostly a celebration of "the return of light" from winter's darkness. We honor the season and our friends with a big soup and solstice party. A small potted tree trimmed with sun symbols and no gifts for us.
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#6 of 24 Old 12-04-2012, 10:58 PM
 
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#7 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 05:57 AM
 
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we also do without the Christianity part, as we feel it has nothing to do with it!

 

it's mostly a pagan celebration for us (with Santa throw in) we celebrate from solstice to New Year- a winter celebration for us, we do give gifts (because we care and want to), we do winter decoration, winter foods, etc- we have no problem with the Santa thing either- we do not view it as harm, it's fun for us, my DS is my second and I had no problem raising my older DD- she had no problem having Santa and no religion and is a well adjusted, non resentful adult

 

we have many people in our lives that are non-Christian and those that are we do not allow it brought into our home 

 

we also do not feel young children need any indoctrination towards any religion, so we do not present a Christian version of "Christmas" - we talk far more about the symbols and the pagan connection, we are a science/history with folklore presented in the historic context type family and it just does not play into what we want in our home 

 

teaching age appropriate response to what others do and why is important to us- we talk about what others do and why we don't in our home 

 

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#8 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 07:58 AM
 
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Newmamaliizzy I could have written the same post you did. Others have given such good advice. We talk about the story of Christmasa and how the story developed etc. The thing that my younger kids seem to have the hardest time understanding is that not everyone sees it as a story. Hopeflly that will come with time. I want them to understand that there are many different stories and beliefs and we might look at them as stories but that it's not our place to debate these stories with those that do believe in their veracity. We need to let others believe and celebrate in their own way and we do our own thing. Right now I think that they think everyone looks at religion the way we do as a sort of interesting cultural phenomena. They haven't really been exposed to anything different. I have told them they must respect others beliefs bit I'm just not sure they get it. My older kids did so I guess my younger ones will too.
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#9 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 07:59 AM
 
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It has worked out OK for us. We make the entire month of December special with getting a tree in the national forest. Making lots of home made gifts, decorating the house with lights etc. The only ways religion seems to find its way into it all is at family gatherings, someone might say a prayer and some of the chirstmas songs are religious, so we usually skip to the next song. 

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#10 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 09:18 AM
 
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We celebrate a secular Christmas as well. We do the tree, stockings, make special crafts and treats, and have a major focus on spending time with family and being kind/generous to others. We do have a few "Story of Christmas" type books that we read whenever the kids request it (at least a few times per Christmas season), and I present it as, "This is the origin of Christmas," and I'll usually also talk a bit about the origins of winter holidays from other faiths/cultures.

 

In fact, just this morning on the way to school DS asked if there are any continents that don't celebrate Christmas, so we had a talk (in more age-appropriate terminology) about globalization enabling people who celebrate Christmas to live on all populated continents, but that the dominant culture of some continents isn't Christian, so in those places most people have different holidays. It was a nice discussion! 

 

That said, I looooove the religious Christmas songs -- they're just so beautiful! I tear up every single time I hear O Holy Night, during the "faaaaaaaall on your kneeeeeees" part. Achingly beautiful. But again, for us they're part of the story of the origins of the holiday, and the events that happen in those songs are just that: part of the story, like the story in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We take the religious aspect seriously and treat it with respect, but we don't "do" that part of the holiday in our house except to give historical context to the holiday. 


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#11 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 10:12 AM
 
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We also celebrate what I consider a non-religious, cultural Christmas (with Santa and all that).  Myself identifying as atheist and dh as humanist agnostic.

 

 

I've always emphasized the gathering and being thoughtful of our friends and extended family, working at handmade things, and having good foods and sharing them with other people.   

 

We've explained the religious story people associate with the holiday, and also have friends who are practicing pagans and do meaningful solstice celebrations (and are also in a location with a significant Jewish population) so we're around a lot of different ways to celebrate in December.  I've always sorta grouped all that in my explanations for the dd's, as an "everyone believes different things but look how we're all getting together with friends/family and making our own wintertime fun".  And I think that's been fine (at least once, dd's let someone know who was telling her the whole baby Jesus story that "Yeah, but I don't really believe in that.  Thanks anyway.")

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#12 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 10:55 AM
 
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Originally Posted by jgallagher66 View Post

Right now I think that they think everyone looks at religion the way we do as a sort of interesting cultural phenomena. They haven't really been exposed to anything different. I have told them they must respect others beliefs bit I'm just not sure they get it. My older kids did so I guess my younger ones will too.

 

 

Yes, that's kids. Children raised Christian think the Christmas story is true. They haven't really been exposed to anything different. Now, if only everyone would teach their children they must respect other's beliefs!! Including respecting atheists' beliefs. The world would be a very different place.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by newmamalizzy View Post

I hope my title doesn't sound harsh.  There's always a thread on here at Christmas time about whether or not to "do" Santa.  I'm cool with Santa, but I'm not so sure how to handle the religious aspect of Christmas.  I was raised Catholic, but am now agnostic bordering on atheist.  But...I still think that the religious story of Christmas is as (more?) important as the Santa aspect, and I want my daughter (now 2.5) to have a good understanding of it.  If I could, I would want her to see it as a myth, or a fable - a literature that has much to teach us, and value in and of itself.  (I guess I must add here, that I put a lot of stock in the values that are imparted through literature.  I take none of this lightly.)  But I'm not sure how to present it that way, or if it even matters at an age where she'll just as easily believe in Santa and the Elves as she will in God and Jesus. 

 

Also, my family is concerned for her religious upbringing.  I allowed them to buy her a book called "The Story of Christmas", and a Little People nativity.  She has thus far had fun making pizza for Jesus.  There's still a part of me that feels like this is all so sacrosanct.  And the book glosses over so much that I'm not sure how to handle that either. 

 

Anyone have advice to offer here?

 

It may be that the agnostic/atheist part isn't entirely natural for you yet. And that's ok! You are a developing, evolving person. 

 

IMO you are right, this doesn't matter for a 2.5 year old child. She isn't going to understand or care about the details of the baby Jesus story, yet.  It's a bit like learning history or science in school.  1st grade history class is very simple compared to 12th grade history.  However, if you're still into it and it still feels important, then I don't think it's wrong to, for example, find another children's Story of Christmas book that suits you better.

 

Winter solstice:  last year was the first time we did this; I made a nice, sunshiny yellow butternut squash soup for dinner, and lit a lot of candles. I got the idea from someone here! 

 

I like tradition and rituals. I like acknowledging the passage of the seasons. I think these sorts of rituals are really natural to humans.  For a while when I decided I'm atheist I tried to eliminate all religious aspects from my life, to be more authentic.  Well, that didn't feel right.  I decided it's ok that I like to get caught up in moving Christmas carols, that I love the smell of incense, love lighting the advent candles. That's why we color eggs at Easter.


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#13 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 12:12 PM
 
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We don't really have a religious approach to the Holiday Season, what is very important for DH and I is cultural traditions so we mix our cultures within Christmas and New Years. My oldest daughter is 5 and she still doesnt really care about the details about Christmas, she just likes the presents, the food and having fun which I think is what Christmas is supposed to be about.

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#14 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 12:38 PM
 
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I was unaware that Jesus ate pizza.  My picture bible depicted him with loaves and fishes.   orngbiggrin.gif

 

 

We are atheists, and for us, religious holidays are about family and traditions.  When she's old enough to ask what her pious extended family is up to on Christmas eve, I'll explain.  I see this as very similar to how we celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  Eventually she will be exposed to the story of St. Patrick and how he, through his faith in God and by the might of the Almighty, drove all the snakes from Ireland.  Mama will laugh and laugh as she tells the story because it's a really funny story.  I'm a little more afraid of what will happen when she wants to know why some (most) people believe in Jesus.  I hope I'll encourage her to respect others and their faith systems. 

I think the most important thing you can do for your daughter is to simply allow her access to your process of de-conversion, and of dealing with the faith of others.  I think I (and we) are less respectful of the pomp and tradition than perhaps you.  I will incline my head and lower my eyes as prayers are being spoken.  I will cover my head if required.  That's as far as I go.  And the best thing I can do for my Little Miss is to simply explain why. 

 

 

 

Ack, I'm trying to google this quote, maybe Mark Twain, says something to the effect of "Teach all religions and [a person] will follow none." or some such.  Maybe some smarter soul can give us the actual quote?

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#15 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 01:47 PM
 
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I'm Catholic and I haven't read all the responses. However, would you be comfortable taking about the fact that Jesus was person who greatly influenced a major religion and that people in that religion celebrate his birthday at this time of year?

 

My understanding has always been that no matter what your religious belief or philosophy most people accept that there was person who many people call Jesus who lived and preached at that time in history leading to the establishment of the Christian religion. They just have various interpretations of who he really was.

 

I don't need to believe what those in the Muslim faith believe to understand that their was a man named Mohammad who greatly influenced the religion and that that person is important to them. I don't need to be a practicing Mormon to understand that Joseph Smith is important to them. We celebrate non religious historical figures such as by celebrating George Washington's birthday on Presidents day because he greatly influenced our nation. I'd think you could present Jesus' birthday in much the same manner.

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#16 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, what wonderful input!  I can't respond to everything right now, but I wanted to thank everyone for the very thoughtful, helpful responses. 

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#17 of 24 Old 12-05-2012, 07:14 PM
 
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We also take the religion out of holidays. It hasn't been an issue for us yet-- my kids sometimes ask what church is, but nothing further. But then again we're surrounded by a mostly non-religious community, friends, and family. If they ever find out about Jesus and ask who he was I'll just given them a history lesson and explain that he's important to some people. Pretty simple!


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#18 of 24 Old 12-06-2012, 12:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newmamalizzy View Post

 If I could, I would want her to see it as a myth, or a fable - a literature that has much to teach us, and value in and of itself.  (I guess I must add here, that I put a lot of stock in the values that are imparted through literature.  I take none of this lightly.) 

 

 

This is pretty much what we did and it all turn out fine. My kids are teens now and appropriately respectful of other's religious beliefs. When my kids were preschool/elementary age, we read a lot of mythology. I'm a big Joseph Campbell fan and believe that myths are true if understood metaphorically. They contain truths, even though they are not literally true.

 

Most of our extended family are Christians.

 

Letting kids know that some people are celebrating an important date in their religion in the midst of Christmas is pretty easy. We also have a nativity given to us by well meaning relatives, my and children always enjoyed the carved wood pieces and hearing the story.  Churches have things set up that we drive by. They've learned Christian Christmas carols varies places like girl scouts. 

 

But Christmas is mostly a cultural holiday -- not a religious one. Those trying to raise their children to respect it as a religious celebration often feel they are fighting an uphill battle. We have it easier than they do. Most of the trimming that go along with Christmas, from decorating trees to baking cookies have pagan roots. When my kids were younger, it was important to me that they learn the roots of those traditions.

 

All this was easier to do and talk about when they were a little older than your DD is.


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#19 of 24 Old 12-09-2012, 01:01 PM
 
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We are Christmas-loving Jews. None of my children asked for the lowdown on the Jesus thing until the Easter that my son was 5 and participated in a Christian homeschool co-op. I told the story with great respect and reverence, and his response was "Are you serious? They saw that the body was gone, and didn't realize that somebody else had rolled the stone away and taken it?" This is the biggest conversation that I have had with any of my children on the subject, and they are 8,8,6 and 3 and have many Christian relatives. 

 

So, if your child is 2 this year, I would not worry overmuch. Do the Santa thing. Do the Jesus thing. Answer any questions that come up honestly. 

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#20 of 24 Old 12-10-2012, 04:23 PM
 
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We also take the religion out of the holiday. We decorate the tree and the house, sing carols, give gifts, etc. The religious/Jesus aspect hasn't really come up yet. We also celebrate the Solstice and DS's birthday is on the 23rd so December is one big month of festivities. 

 

Most of the major holidays like Easter, Christmas, etc were based off of existing pagan /cultural celebrations that Christians morphed into religious holidays to help ease the conversion to Christianity. Hence the blended traditions like decorating eggs for Easter and trees/mistletoe for Christmas....

 

Eventually I'll explain all these different aspects to DS and let him come up with his own conclusions and teach him to have respect for those that believe differently. For now we're just celebrating for the fun of it :)


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#21 of 24 Old 12-10-2012, 04:25 PM
 
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I also just want to add that my son does have some little books on the Nativity and my mom always sets out a Nativity display at Christmas time so he does have some exposure to it. We just leave it at that for now and will answer any questions he has as they come up.


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#22 of 24 Old 12-12-2012, 06:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I've done a bit more reflection on this issue since I posted this, and I think I'm really butting up against the larger issue of not raising my daughter to believe in God/Jesus.  I grew into my disbelief very gradually, and still sort of cherish my Catholic upbringing.  There's a lot of nostalgia involved, particularly around holidays.  What is bugging me most is the idea of having Jesus come up at Christmas and Easter and disappear for the time in between.  Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  I am aware of the various pagan origins of the holiday, but I don't see myself being able to abandon the Jesus element of Christmas entirely. Part of the issue is that I have a particularly detail-oriented and inquisitive 2 year old.  She can find a loophole in ANY thing, and I find myself having to muddle through explanations of very complicated concepts with her, even though she cannot possible understand.  She demands that I explain why they're still talking about Hurricane Sandy on the radio; wants to know what Mitt Romney will do now that he's not going to be president; what Santa wears when he's not wearing his funny outfit; and don't the reindeer's hooves get cold???  Introducing God to her is just opening up a HUGE can of detailed questioning that I'm not sure I'm ready for...

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#23 of 24 Old 12-13-2012, 08:45 AM
 
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Are you comfortable telling her that you don't know or aren't sure of something?  Will she accept that?  I find that sort of "ignorance" was part of the foundation of my atheism.  If she sees a trusted adult in her life as a person without all the answers, willing to admit it, and interested in finding out if possible, would that be so bad?

 

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#24 of 24 Old 12-14-2012, 04:45 PM
 
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Are you comfortable telling her that you don't know or aren't sure of something?  Will she accept that?  I find that sort of "ignorance" was part of the foundation of my atheism.  If she sees a trusted adult in her life as a person without all the answers, willing to admit it, and interested in finding out if possible, would that be so bad?

 

smile.gif
 

 

Excellent point! 


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