Kwanzaakkahmasstice? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 03:21 PM - Thread Starter
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That post about Thanksgiving made me (again) think about how complicated the OTHER holidays are for us and how we have yet to find family traditions that meet our belief system adequately.

What do your families do for the winter holidays?

Do you celebrate any of the religious holidays or modified versions of them?

If you already have kids, do you do the whole uber-gift thing (with or without Santa)?

Do you celebrate with other, like-minded families?

Both DH & I are non-religious, and also try to live as non-materialist as we can. Additionaly, we both come from really religious backgrounds (his family practiced a form of Catholic pentacostalism in a closed community; while my birth parents are Jewish, my adopted parents are very right-wing Christian - my adopted dad is a former bishop).

So we both grew up having more or less "traditional" Christian/American holiday seasons that reflect beliefs we don't now hold. DH is loath to give up his sense of what holidays "should be like" (his mom's house looks like 'Smas town November-January every year), but acknowledges with me that there are so many things about 'smas (or hanukkah/solstice/kwanzaa/ramadan/diwali) enmeshed with those traditions that are problematic and make our current practice seem a little hypocritical and/or material. You know?

Since DS was born, we've end up having a modified 'smas (my Jewish grandmother sends us a live tree-with ornaments-every year!), presents, stockings, baking, lights, that I feel really half-assed about but try to suck it up just to help DH feel "like it's the holdiays". Every year I get more...bummed out, I guess, by how we're just going with the flow. DH in theory agrees, but then gets all misty and talks about what a big tree we can put in our new house and what he wants me to get him for 'smas, we go.

I'd like to do some more volunteer work, which is complicated with the pregnancy and toddler, and DH keeps pointing out how little time we have together as a family as it is...but I sometimes feel like I'm trapped in a car with Jingle Bells on the stereo wondering how the hell I got here!

Anyway, LONG rant, sorry, but I'd love some nice new ideas to inject into our winter holidays that make me feel more...super about what's coming.

read.gif, mom to wild.gif and dust.gif, partner to malesling.GIF
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#2 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 04:11 PM
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Despite being an atheist, I really enjoy celebrating Christmas. My parents are also atheists, so I grew up with a non-religious celebration of Christmas that focused on cultural traditions. I think it's lovely to sit around with family, eating cookies and drinking mulled cider. To burn the special incense we always use at that time of year. To decorate a tree, and put presents underneath it. To cook special foods that we only eat once or twice a year. And to sit around on Christmas morning, taking turns passing out presents and watching the joy on the recipient's face when they open a gift you picked out for them.

Incidentally, I'd be interested to learn more about why some people object so strongly to gift-giving -- it's always seemed like a lovely and joyful tradition to me. However, I didn't come from the kind of family where the kids got a great many gifts -- when I was, say, 6 or 7, I probably received gifts with a total cost in today's dollars of between $75 and $100 -- a couple of lego or playmobil sets, some kind of craft-related item, a sweater, some homemade cookies, a couple of books. Nothing outrageous, and since the only other time of year when we got any new toys or books was for our birthdays, I really don't feel like this led to any kind of excessive materialism. I do remember getting a bicycle for my birthday when I was five or six, which was a very big deal.

My husband's family is the same way, so I'm really finding myself pretty unconcerned that our daughter might be overwhelmed by lots of "stuff."

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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#3 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 04:20 PM
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I hear you. DH and I are not religious, and were not raised by traditionally religious families, but we both have always celebrated Christmas. I have become increasingly bummed out over the years about the materialism, lack of spirituality, etc. Where we've come to is this: we celebrate Christmas (tree, gifts, family, cooking, etc.), but we try to keep the materialism in check (last year we had a limit on how much we would spend, and we tried to make gifts or do donations to charities we like). We send out New Years' cards. We also try to do things that honor and celebrate the season, like have a special dinner on winter solstice, focus on planning for the upcoming year, etc.

One thing we were going to implement this year (until I found out that I would be 38 weeks pregnant on Christmas!) was to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas day after opening gifts. I hope we'll do that next year and in years to come. I do plan to make cookies for our elderly neighbors like I have in previous years. And maybe for our local fire and police stations, too.

I guess our main focus has been to keep the "holidays" (whatever they might be) all about family and giving of yourself and being good to each other and our community. I feel like that transcends religion and goes to the heart of what it means to be human.

Happy Kwanzaakkahmasstice!
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#4 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 04:37 PM
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Our families vary from very Christian to being non-spiritual. We prefer Yule, ourselves. So, we do a kind of blending. We have a private special meal on Yule (Winter Solstice), and if the budget allows, we do very small gifts for the kids that night. My family likes to do a family get-together on Christmas Eve. We missed it last year due to hubby's impending heart surgery. This year I am hoping to bow out due to being 36 weeks pregnant and having spent all weekend at the local holiday market, culminating in tearing down the booth, hauling it all out amidst the 2-300 other vendors, taking it all home and unpacking it there. I won't have time to make any food to take to a family get-together, even if I had any energy left by then.

We do like to decorate to some degree... we put up a tree, and decorate the mantel with greenery and homemade stockings. Each child's stocking is identified with a baby ornament with their name on it. Even our 15yo likes that. Christmas morning they get a few treats in the stocking, and get to open gifts from us. Presents from other family members are usually opened on Christmas Eve at the get-together... but we're all on a budget, so we don't do the huge gift giving that some families do.

Most of Christmas Day is spent lounging around, eating leftovers, and resting while the kids play with whatever they got for gifts.
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#5 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 05:53 PM
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I grew up in a Jehovah's Witness family. We did not celebrate any holidays...not Thanksgiving, not Christmas, not birthdays. I guess my current status is considered "agnostic".
My dh grew up in an upper upper middle class Catholic family. My understanding is the holidays were quite a show in their home...massive shows of materialism and overindulgence.
Needless to say, we don't do anything for the holidays with my side of the family. I feel inclined to avoid most of his family this time of the year.
So, my current stance is that I want the holidays to be more about forming our own traditions that are centered around our closest friends/nuclear family....maybe fun food traditions coupled with family time.
I do give gifts to friends/kids but I keep the costs minimal (like maybe $20 for gifts per person). Honestly, I think I do it more out of feelings of tradition and wanting my son not to feel excluded.
We also do a gift exchange in our office. Luckily our staff is only 4 including me so I spend about $25 per person on that.
I wind up spending about $300 in gifts.
I do talk to my son about Santa since he is so exposed to it...but he understands that Santa is not real...he is a character, a story told for fun this time of year.
I also will get some books about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa this year so that he becomes aware of other traditions this time of year.
This is my dream family wakes up early and I bake super yummy treats that fill the house with a warm delicious aroma..we open our small gifts to one another and then deliver our small gifts to our closest friends/family with some baked goods. Again, the focus is on love and the spirit of giving in the name of love. The rest of the day is just spend enjoying each other's company. Maybe watch a family movie...definitely take a walk together....and a good nap or early bedtime : )
One problem I've encountered is that even though I say I want to keep it focused more on love and family....well, my closest friends' ideas of "keeping it small" are still HUGE from my perspective.
So this year, we may just make it a nuclear family event.
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#6 of 7 Old 11-16-2006, 07:17 PM
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Both my family and my BFs family are very Catholic. And for Christmas, we go all out. On my side, not so much w/ the gifts, more with the decorations and music and such. His family...more with the gifts (and I'm more than a bit concerned about how that's going to translate into our children...)

I live a home w/ my parents, but this will be my last Christmas at home : *sniffle* Every year, well the last 5 or so, my bf comes over Thanksgiving night w/ his truck and he and I go pick out a Christmas tree for home (mine, that is). We bring it home, and he, Mom, and I put up the tree, get the lights, garland, and angel put on it. (The rest of the decorating we do throughout the course of the weekend.) Then, he, Mom, my brother, and I play Aggravation or Monopoly and drink hot chocolate.

Of course, no Christmas is complete w/o an insane amount of baking and candy making

Christmas Eve, we have Oyster Stew and we open our gifts to/from each other, which translates into a gift each for my Mom and Dad, and my brother and I get to open two--one from the other and one from M and D.

Later, my Mom and I sing at Midnight Mass. (My bf comes w/'s basically the only time he ever goes to church, but he says that now it just isn't Christmas if he doesn't go.) After mass, he and Mom carry in the presents from "Santa," b/c I have issues w/ carrying in my own presents. (I mean, how can they be from Santa if I have to carry them in? )

Christmas morning, I start the bread baking to take to my Grandma's, then we open the presents from Santa. Later on, 10:30, Mom and I go sing for Christmas morn. mass. Then, we go to Grandma's, where we eat a lot (We have a huge family. Mom has 12 brothers and sisters.) After lunch, the kids sing Christmas carols while Santa changes in the garage , then Santa hands out gifts to the kids. After that, the kids open their gifts from their name-exchange. The adults do something that's kinda a home-made White Elephant exchange. Hard to explain, but a lot of fun.

I do like presents, don't get me wrong, but in my family at least, that's never really been the central point of Christmas. It's more about family.
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#7 of 7 Old 11-17-2006, 07:16 PM
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Well, since dh is an Anglican (Episcopalian) priest, we have a pretty low key Christmas at home because he is usually exhausted. Almost everyone likes to have their minister come to visit sometime close to Christmas, it seems, and if his whole family can come, all the better!

We don't have any family locally, so we usually just have a tree and a few decorations (one year we will put up lights outside -- I think we bought some last year). Since most of our family and friends live away, we hang up all the Christmas cards and family pictures on the wall so we feel connected to everyone. On Christmas eve, after the Christmas eve service we come home and have hot chocolate and open presents at midnight (my family's tradition). We usually get each other a couple of things -- one practical thing and one more splurgey thing -- and two or three fun presents for our son. But since we don't do Santa and both sets of grandparents prefer to send money, its not too over the top.

On Chrsitmas day I let him sleep in, and then we hang out until we are ready to go to Christmas dinner with whoever has invited us that year. Our parishioners like to make sure we are "taken care of" on Christmas day, which is nice.

Usually about a week after Christmas we head to Winnipeg to visit some family and friends and relax, and shop the post-season sales with our holiday money. But I don't think we'll be doing that this year, since I'll be 38 weeks, so we'll see.

One cool thing my sister did when her kids were older was that they gave all the kids the same amount of money (I think around $30 or $40) and drew names. Then each kid bought one present for someone else, and they all had some cool stuff from mom and dad in their stockings. I liked this because it still has the gift giving aspect, but the kids would really think about what they were buying for their sibling because it was their only gift.

I think I might also do an advent wreath this year, since ds is old enough (just) to enjoy it.

Dh and I both come from backgrounds with Christmases full of greif and frustration, so our main guiding principle is to focus on what we enjoy and what we think is important, and let everything else go.

Jill , mom to Andrew (09/04), Aaron(01/07), and Emma (11/09)
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