It’s almost Christmas! As long as I can remember, I have loved this time of year. The anticipation, the lights, the music and the general happiness that seems to emanate from every nook and cranny… One of my favorite traditions as a kid was spending Christmas Eve with family – that evening was glorified in my child’s mind as the fanciest of nights, when magical things happened while my mother and aunt’s laughter jingled in the background.
Or jangled, more appropriately.
I knew Santa would be coming, but I was always too excited about eating shrimp cocktail and haggling over white elephant gifts to worry about going to sleep.
Now that I have my own child, I can’t wait to see the Christmas sparkle in her eyes. I can’t wait to feel the excitement roll off of her on Christmas Eve as she wiggles down into the sheets, knowing that something special happens while she struggles to close her eyes…
But there is a problem. We aren’t exactly what you would call a Christian family – at least not in the literal sense of the word. My husband and I were both raised going to church (mostly), but we do not claim a religion now. In fact, I don’t particularly like religion at all and churches even less so. Does this mean I don’t believe in God?
Yes and no. I love to believe – in fairies, dragons, elves, Santa Claus…so, yes, in a fashion. At least I want to believe in some kind of omnipotent being. Who knows – maybe the presence I believe in and the God others believe in are the same – maybe the rules aren’t as strict as everyone thinks. I’m actually pretty certain that all religions are praying to the same creator, just calling him (or her, let’s get that straight…) different names.
But I digress.
What I’m really trying to get at here is this…how do I raise my little girl during Christmas time? No matter what the department stores tell us, it is a Christian holiday after all. And as a family we do not go to church, we do not read the bible and we don’t believe in Jesus.
There – I said it. Please don’t try to save us; we are excellent swimmers, I promise.
These days we are constantly being bombarded about a ‘War on Christmas’, when really, I’d say Christmas is more popular than ever. A long time ago, even before Obama was elected into office, before 9/11 and before ‘liberal media’ was a phrase – commercialism and capitalism took hold of Christmas. Now, it is impossible to escape the holiday no matter if you are atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist… I have no idea how Jewish parents, for instance, manage to distance their children from Christmas – or if they even attempt to. Even the Disney channel has had nothing but poorly disguised Christmas episodes on for weeks. I don’t think it would be possible to raise my child in America without Christmas even if I tried.
She would see it, she would learn about it, and you can bet that she would want in on it… Sparkly lights, cheerful music, presents, jolly guy in a fur suit with fuzzy reindeer? Yeah, that’s right in her little wheelhouse. You know what? It’s in mine, too.
So, here is my plan. Yes, she will learn the reason for the season. Dear Grandma will be in charge of teaching her about Jesus’s birthday. I want my baby girl to be a worldly soul and know as much as possible about everything. She will know about Christianity and you know what? She will also know that there is a religion called Islam, one called Judaism, Buddhism – maybe even Daoism and Hinduism if I’m up for the task. She will know all of these things and she will accept it as natural that people practice them all and more. She can even decide what is right for her when she is old enough to make the decision and use her bright little brain to think brilliant thoughts.
And she will know that in our house, LOVE is our religion. We strive to be kind to others, even when it’s hard, and give to those less fortunate than ourselves. We respect everyone and love everyone equally because we are all unique and different and deserving of that respect and love. We sometimes give up things that we want for others, especially those that we love, because people are always more important than things.
And Christmas is a time that we celebrate friends and family and being together. Mommy says Happy Holidays not because she wants to exclude Christmas, but because she wants to include those who are celebrating in different ways – but it is ok to say Merry Christmas too, because it will always be Merry Christmas. But it’s also Happy Hanukkah. And Happy Kwanzaa, too. Or even Pancha Ganapati. We aren’t trying to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas…he’s still in there. You can’t spell it without him. But we are trying to broaden it’s definition to include everyone – most of all children.
Because you don’t have to believe in Jesus’s birthday to celebrate life, laughter, and love during this time of year – or to be a good person all year ’round.