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Anyone else celebrate Christmas secularly?


Miss Peregrine
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Not sure if secular is the right word. Growing up,my family was not religious but we always celebrated Christmas. It was most definitely about Santa and gifts(giving and receiving.) It was not until about 8-10th grade that I started hearing. "Jesus is the reason for the season."

 

I was actually annoyed, honestly. Lol.

 

I never found a way to reconcile the Christmas that I knew with the Christmas I was "supposed" to celebrate. I spent many years conflicted, joyless. Because, consumerism!

 

Last year, something shifted and I started to feel a little of that joy from my childhood. I let it become the Christmas I remembered and, honestly, longed for. This year, I am so excited to see my kids' when they open their gifts.

 

I love watching my 7 yo pick out the most random gifts for his siblings. Well, they seem random to me but his thought process is so precious and his gifts are perfect.

 

Anyway,just sitting in front of the tree, drinking tea and pondering my next steps in life. Just wondering if others celebrate Christmas in a nonreligious way?

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As a family we celebrate Solstice. I personally celebrate Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Ds comes along for the ride so that he understands the religious tennents of the holiday, what the scripture actually says, and the more conservative side of the holiday (non consumer gift giving, all out socialism). I am straight up with him that he does not need to believe and does not have to do all the Sunday Schoolish stuff. Ds personally identifies as a Socialist and says he thinks Jesus seemed like a pretty decent guy to celebrate. He's not so sure about the whole "son of God thing". That might be "pushing it."

 

My parents go the Santa route, but it makes Ds uncomfortable.

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As an atheist, I do everything secularly :)

 

It's not all about the gifts, though. It's about sharing and being with family and friends during a (very literally) dark and cold time of the year. And in NYC, we're the "humid continental - wet winter" climate zone. What little daylight we get in winter is generally overcast. So I love Christmas! Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's, my birthday - anything to get us through to springtime again, when the sun starts to shine.

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Of course I remember singing "Silent Night" and other carols but as a child they didn't really mean anything other than a song sung at Christmastime.

 

That's most of what they mean to me, and they retain the magic of midwinter festivals and family time.  We didn't get many presents: I remember getting clothes (that we needed anyway) and a book.  But the whole period was special: time off school, candles on the Christmas tree (yes, real candles), stirring Christmas pudding, having relatives over for lunch....

 

On the other hand, the Christmas story is glorious, whether you see it as the foundation of your faith or an important cultural myth.  Despite being staunchly agnostic/atheist, I read from the Gospels ever Christmas with my sons, ending with Eliot's Journey of the Magi.  It's my culture, even if it's not my religion.

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I grew up in a non religious family and we always celebrated Christmas how you described. I mean, I knew it could have Christian meaning to some people, but that wasn't what we celebrated. The same is true today. I've never had any conflict over it though or felt any need to defend it (not saying that's what you're doing!).

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The religious tradition I grew up in did not celebrate Christmas at the time. If individual members did, it was a secular celebration, not religious. Ironically, they are now moving toward being more accepting of producing religious Christmas celebrations, and I no longer believe. So, our family has always celebrated secularly, and I intend to keep it that way. We do listen to the Christmas song channel on the radio, and I've noticed that the religious songs are few and far between.

Edited by Onceuponatime
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My holiday isn't religious at all. It never has been, and Christmas has always been a magical time. Consumerism isn't so bad. I wasn't spoiled by it and didn't grow up with a sense of entitlement. My kids haven't either. Of course, as a homeschooling family, we didn't need the holidays to focus on one another. We were together all year long. Still, Christmases have always been lovely. I do miss my kids being young and getting lots of toys. They are older now and have few wants and needs so our Christmas mornings are very low key. Still, Christmas is about food, gifts, and fun.

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As a kid, we didn't really focus on Jesus and Santa at the same time.  Christmas morning was all about Santa.  We focused on the Jesus part of Christmas at [parochial] school and church, including Christmas Eve services in which we participated.  We had Nativities and other Jesus decorations, but nobody was thinking too much about that on Christmas morning.

 

It's pretty much the same with my kids.  Their school tries to connect the two, but I don't get hung up on it.

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My brother is an atheist and his wife is Jewish. They celebrate a secular Christmas. He dresses as Santa Claus at her office--she's a family therapist who serves families who can't afford much, so they have a party and pass out gifts. I think it's caring and lovely.

I don't begrudge them a minute of celebration!

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This is probably going to be a mess of jumbled thoughts. Sorry, but my thoughts on this subject and many others get jumbled between my emotions/feelings and what I'm taught to think by the church. Maybe it would be better to say people in the church.

 

We separate this season between a Christian understanding and a secular celebration. I'm a fairly conservative Christian, but I've been bothered by how we celebrate Christmas as a church for years.

 

As soon as we had kids I was always trying to reconcile why we gave gifts at Christmas. I was told it was because of the fact that Jesus was our gift, and because of the gifts given to Jesus. I never could feel good about that reasoning. Why are we giving each other toys, jewelry, money, etc... to imitate gifts to Jesus. I'd have friends that would go with the 3 gifts rule (for the 3 gifts Jesus received), but stuff each box with 5 things.  That bugged me. My dh also dislike trying to combine the two traditions. He especially dislikes the Santa pictures bowing to baby Jesus.

 

I began teaching the kids that we really needed to be giving gifts to those who are vulnerable, in need, because to me that was what Jesus' situation was. Young family, poor, in danger, soon to be refugees, etc... I also decided that celebrating Jesus' birth for a Christian should be secondary to his death and ressurrection.

 

We make a list of ways we can celebrate Jesus all year by giving money, gifts, time, service to others. That is our Christian celebration.

 

Our secular celebration consists of the tree, the lights, the presents, and Christmas music. We also take 2 days and spend them in Des Moines at a hotel, where it is just the5 of us hanging out, playing games, swimming, watching movies, talking, laughing...together.  We have no cleaning to do, no bedrooms to hide in, no cooking, no laundry, no stress.

 

Hopefully, this makes sense. My computer is extremely slow today, and I don't want to keep trying to edit it. I'm blaming all punctuation and spelling errors on the slow computer :)

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We are a non-believing family and we celebrate it as a mix. Both dh and I grew up conservative Christian and celebrated religiously until we stopped believing a few years ago. The rest of our family is still religious and we share the holidays with them so that influences things. We never did Santa as a real thing when the kids were younger, not because of religion but just because it seemed weird to us.

 

It's funny because just the other day my dd 14 asked me why I put out our nativity scene if we don't believe that. I told her that there are parts of the story I find very moving and I want to honor those. We talked about the message it sends about what is important when a deity decides to be born in the most humble of circumstances rather than as a VIP. We talked about how counter cultural that is when being rich and famous seems to matter so much. I mentioned that it is good to have a time set aside to think about gifts for others and what makes others happy.

 

I will almost certainly still attend our old church's breath-taking candle light concert with extended family late Christmas Eve. I love it, even though I don't believe most or any of the events they are celebrating actually happened. It is still beautiful music celebrating concepts I can appreciate in my own atheist heart!

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I was raised in a denomination that didn't believe in celebrating Christmas in a religious way. I'm no longer part of that group, and we are a part of a church that pushes celebrating the religious aspect. We do Christmas Eve church (love it!) and we attend all the special Christmas services at church throughout the month. Other than that, we celebrate it very secularly. I have tried before to do more religious stuff, but it became a lot of stress and so I decided to knock it off. :) I don't think Jesus is mad over that.

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Hmm - I've never thought of the traditional part(gifts and holly, say) as being really opposed to the religious part.  I mean, I realize it is possible to do either without the other, but I don't quite understand why doing the traditional bits would be especially opposed to the religious bits?

 

I do get that the consumerist aspect does have a certain tension with some of the principles of the religious aspect, but TBH it would have that for me even I was comlpetely irreligious. 

 

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Yes, and without Santa, too. We are all about dem mysticals, 365, so actually we take the time between Yule and Christmas to get more grounded, literally, and celebrate the goodness of this world. "This world" meaning the actual planet (Yule), and the people on it (Christmas).

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As an atheist, I do everything secularly :)

 

It's not all about the gifts, though. It's about sharing and being with family and friends 

 

^^Yes, this^^^. We celebrate it as a season of giving and togetherness. 

 

As for climate, I'm in Florida so the only White Christmas I ever get is if I go to a beach that has white sand (and my local ones don't). It doesn't bother me at all. We in Florida have our own traditions, including picking fresh oranges or grapefruits from the back yard tree to have at breakfast, and kids riding their new Santa-brought bikes on Christmas afternoon. And while I "used to know" White Christmases, my son never has. It hasn't affected his love for Christmas. He's 18 and still loves it.

 

Here is my absolute favorite secular Christmas song.

 

Edited by Lady Florida
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I have an idea, I think, of what you mean. Often it seems people think if you are "religious" then you can't have all the secular stuff, and vice versa. 

 

But we've always celebrated the religious through means of the secular. Just like our bodies and souls are united, so are the various aspects of Christmas...outwards signs of our joy. We give presents because it is Jesus's birthday, and he loves us enough that of course he'd be happy to see us giving people gifts on his birthday! Most birthdays only the birthday child gets a gift, but Jesus is so wonderful and his birthday SO important EVERYONE gets gifts! It's a feast day, in the true sense of the word. Joy, happiness, fun, food, presents, love....all of those are GOOD and God is GOOD and the Incarnation is GOOD! 

 

And Santa brings presents to boys and girls, through no action or merit, just like God sent us Jesus, through no action or merit of our own. It's a metaphor that young children can understand, and later in life they can play the part for their children, giving gifts with no recognition or thanks, yet another important Christian lesson.

 

Now, do we sit and think all this all day long? Of course not! But it's there, in the background. And God is love and joy and happiness, and spending a season on those things is to his Glory. So I fully embrace Santa, presents (a multitude...nearly embarrassing really), stockings, cookies, pies, eggnog, mulled wine, decorations, etc and know it is all to His Glory. 

 

 

 

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I have an idea, I think, of what you mean. Often it seems people think if you are "religious" then you can't have all the secular stuff, and vice versa. 

 

But we've always celebrated the religious through means of the secular. Just like our bodies and souls are united, so are the various aspects of Christmas...outwards signs of our joy. We give presents because it is Jesus's birthday, and he loves us enough that of course he'd be happy to see us giving people gifts on his birthday! Most birthdays only the birthday child gets a gift, but Jesus is so wonderful and his birthday SO important EVERYONE gets gifts! It's a feast day, in the true sense of the word. Joy, happiness, fun, food, presents, love....all of those are GOOD and God is GOOD and the Incarnation is GOOD! 

 

And Santa brings presents to boys and girls, through no action or merit, just like God sent us Jesus, through no action or merit of our own. It's a metaphor that young children can understand, and later in life they can play the part for their children, giving gifts with no recognition or thanks, yet another important Christian lesson.

 

Now, do we sit and think all this all day long? Of course not! But it's there, in the background. And God is love and joy and happiness, and spending a season on those things is to his Glory. So I fully embrace Santa, presents (a multitude...nearly embarrassing really), stockings, cookies, pies, eggnog, mulled wine, decorations, etc and know it is all to His Glory. 

 

My only quibble is that Santa seems more focused on merit--be good or you get coal, and I'm watching to see who's naughty or nice!

But we cover Santa by emphasizing St. Nicholas, so no real quibble here.

 

Carry on. Nothing to see here.

 

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My only quibble is that Santa seems more focused on merit--be good or you get coal, and I'm watching to see who's naughty or nice!

But we cover Santa by emphasizing St. Nicholas, so no real quibble here.

 

Carry on. Nothing to see here.

 

 

True...we've ended up saying that Santa probably brings gifts even to naughty children here, because he loves everyone :)

 

We don't do coal or discuss it, other than as gag gifts. 

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My only quibble is that Santa seems more focused on merit--be good or you get coal, and I'm watching to see who's naughty or nice!

But we cover Santa by emphasizing St. Nicholas, so no real quibble here.

 

Carry on. Nothing to see here.

 

 

 

True...we've ended up saying that Santa probably brings gifts even to naughty children here, because he loves everyone :)

 

We don't do coal or discuss it, other than as gag gifts. 

 

I agree. I grew up with the idea that Santa will pass you by if you weren't good. It didn't scar me and I don't resent it but I don't like it. I'm surprised it didn't scar my younger brother. One year when he was particularly a handful my grandmother talked my mother into putting coal in his stocking (my grandparents house used coal). She actually thought it would be funny, and though my mother wasn't keen on the idea she bowed to the pressure from her mother. He was so distraught that morning and just couldn't believe that Santa would do that to him. I couldn't stand it and since I was already past the Santa stage I told him it wasn't Santa. I told him Grandma took the Santa presents out of his stocking and put coal in it, and that Santa would never do that to him. They weren't happy with me, but oh well. 

 

We did Santa with ds but never made behavior a contingency for him leaving gifts. We did however, say that Santa won't bring you anything your parents don't want you to have and that sometimes he substitutes your requests for something else he knows you'd really like.

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We do.  I think most people celebrate it that way, tbh.  I know far, far too many people who only attend church on Christmas, and then only due to a sense of obligation, to see them as anything but secular.

 

I have a small nativity scene that I put out so that my kids are familiar with the myth surrounding the birth of Jesus and they know why the holiday is celebrated. We also acknowledge the Solstice, but don't put much effort into it.

 

 

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Growing up my family was very religious but we even celebrated Christmas as a mostly secular occasion at home, at church was another thing entirely.  At my mom's, Christmas is definitely secular though she believes in a Christian God she just isn't religious. 

Since at my house we're all agnostics to atheists, plus we never did Santa, it's more about hanging out and doing traditional things (we really like to sing Christmas songs and such).

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I have a small nativity scene that I put out so that my kids are familiar with the myth surrounding the birth of Jesus and they know why the holiday is celebrated.

 

Same here, more or less, but the most important reason I put out the nativity scene is that my dad made it.  To me, it highlights the strength of our family relationships.  Neither DH nor DS ever met my dad, but his nativity adds another touch of connection to the stories I have told about him.

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Almost everyone I know personally now does. The most vocal atheist I know makes a huge deal about doing Christmas. 

 

I find it interesting: when in the US when I said I don't do Christmas I was most often asked why not in a way that felt like I needed a very good reason and my not doing so challenged something [i was in very-Christian-Bible Belt territory], but in the UK when I say it, almost everyone responds with how they only do it because their family does it/it means a lot to certain family member/it's a good time off with family when everyone is so busy the rest of the time sort of remarks. The UK is very Christmas crazy even compared to the US [it is *everywhere* - there is no escape unless one never goes out and watches no TV and so on] but it's cultural tradition to blow of steam and be with people rather than anything religious as others here have said. People are happy as long as we're going to blow off stress at some point vaguely around the same time [we make a big deal of New Years in our home] and are happy to generally have fun with them. 

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We definitely do (we are not at all religious), apparently too well. Today we were packing food for kids in very poor countries, and my daughter asked if it would probably get there right before Christmas, and I said, "Maybe, but I don't know if the people receiving it are Christians anyway," and she responded, "Why does that matter?"  :lol:

She does know the Christmas story/religious aspect of the holiday, but I guess figured everyone everywhere celebrated it anyway, just in a secular manner if they're not Christian.

Edited by MASHomeschooler
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We do. Our religious celebration is technically 12 days long, but it's mostly focused on the Solstice and the day before, and then a small ritual on New Year's. Christmas is the day during Yule when Santa comes.

 

I do prefer to spend the time with friends and my own immediate family, rather than my family of origin, to avoid religious differences issues. Next year I hope to go visit family for the holidays--at Thanksgiving.

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As an atheist, I do everything secularly :)

 

It's not all about the gifts, though. It's about sharing and being with family and friends during a (very literally) dark and cold time of the year.

 

:lol:

 

This is how we approach it too. We do read about the "reason for the season" as we read our holiday books, so my kids know the religious basis for the holiday. But I approach it as more a time for being with family and friends and reminding ourselves how important it is to consider and give to others. DH considers himself Christian, so he'll speak up with his beliefs when he feels it necessary, but he considers the holiday pretty much the same way.

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We celebrate mainly the secular parts of Christmas - Santa (kids still believe but we don't do the behavior part of it), tree, gifts, etc.  For years the only religious aspect was that we had the Little People Nativity set. :laugh:

 

A couple of years ago dh said he missed going to church so we started attending for the first time since younger dd was born.  I've kind of settled into a "progressive Christian" kind of place after struggling for a while, which works fine at our relaxed liberal UMC congregation.  The kids go to Sunday School, I teach ds's class on a rotating basis, and they are involved in the choir - which has led us to celebrating some of the more religious aspects of Christmas.  They were in the Christmas pageant last year and are in it again this year.  They are also singing at a nursing home with the choir, then singing at the Christmas Eve service. 

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My only quibble is that Santa seems more focused on merit--be good or you get coal, and I'm watching to see who's naughty or nice!

But we cover Santa by emphasizing St. Nicholas, so no real quibble here.

 

That's very interesting. I always thought St. Nicholas and his sidekick (either Krampus or Schwarz Piet) were very merit oriented. Kids usually get both their treats from Nicholas and their switches from Krampus because nobody is all good or all bad. I very much like that message as an adult. I loved being chased by Krampus rattling his chains as much as getting chocolate when I was little.

 

We've never done Santa because dh insists that your Christmas gifts are from the Niño Jesus and I'm firmly in the Santa camp so we never really specified who brought them. They just showed up under the tree. Of course, now the kids know that their gifts come from the magic of the warehouse workers at Amazon and the USPS.

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I've never told my kids anything about 'naughty or nice' and Santa. But, my kids are pretty nice, so I've never felt the need to threaten them with taking away their presents.  But they seem to have missed out on that aspect entirely. An older relative said something like 'you better be good or you know what will Santa will do" and the totally blank/questioning look from my kids was just priceless. 

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I love "White Wine in the Sun", and Christmas is sentimental to me.  It used to be the only time the whole family got together each year, but now it's just DH and I and the kids.  We rarely even celebrate Christmas on the 25th, but to us is about family being together to celebrate each other.  We have lots of fun with lights, cooking, baking, singing, and just being together for an entire week to finish up the year right.  

 

When the kids were little Santa used to bring the stockings.  Much my in-laws dismay he didn't get credit for all the really good presents, I mean seriously DH and I had to work hard to get those. ;)  

 

We still put up a large nativity scene every year, along with Rudolph and friends, and all our other decorations.  We have many seniors around us that aren't able to decorate and it makes them happy, so we keep doing it regardless of our beliefs.

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We celebrate the cultural American holiday of Christmas.  Even my Pastor son. LOL  He may celebrate a religious Christmas at church, but at home, it is secular.  The only thing that have any religious tones at all, are the angel on the tree (I don't think tree angels are religious, but I guess some might) and the couple of Lenox porcelain cross ornaments.  

 

Otherwise no, Jesse Tree.  No nativity. No baby Jesus.  

 

It isn't that I am anti-religious Christmas, but it isn't how we celebrate. 

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Krampus?

 

 

This is a minidocumentary about Bavaria, but Krampus is St. Nicholas' sidekick throughout the alps, Hungary and Slovakia. In Hungary, he brings you switches and Nicholas brings you chocolate.

 

http://budapestgolocal.blogspot.com/2010/12/hungarian-santa-claus-comes-earlier.html

Edited by chiguirre
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I grew up in a Jewish (atheist) family that celebrated Christmas in the time honored way of going out to Chinese food. We did  have a visit from Santa, who generally filled our stockings with useful items like crayons and tooth brushes, underwear and comic books. I remember the stockings and the Chinese food fondly.

 

Unfortunately my brother and niece died in an accident several years ago at Christmas and this made a fairly mundane holiday a terrible reminder of what we lost.

 

With my kids we follow the stocking tradition but Santa is way more creative in his gift giving to my kids than he was when I was a kid. He doesn't give any presents that don't fit in the stocking and this naturally keeps the consumerism to a minimum. We decorate a tree (not a xmas tree) that we plant after the holidays and we have a gluttonous family dinner, inviting any stragglers who don't have a place to go. My kids love holiday music (a passion I do not share) and go crazy with the snow flake making. 

 

As I am writing this, I am realizing how much the kids love of the holidays has infected me, and has taken a time of year that I don't generally love, and made it much better. 

 

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSKfdaCIuBM

 

This is a minidocumentary about Bavaria, but Krampus is St. Nicholas' sidekick throughout the alps, Hungary and Slovakia. In Hungary, he brings you switches and Nicholas brings you chocolate.

 

http://budapestgolocal.blogspot.com/2010/12/hungarian-santa-claus-comes-earlier.html

 

My dad tells stories about dressing up as Krampus, going house to house in his village in Slovakia.  Not exactly the same as in the documentary but same concept.

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My only quibble is that Santa seems more focused on merit--be good or you get coal, and I'm watching to see who's naughty or nice!

 

That's what I used to think until my kids started asking questions I had long since ignored.

 

You don't follow Santa's rules, you get coal. You don't follow Jesus' rules, you get tortured for eternity. Er, happy holidays?

 

:huh:

 

:laugh:

 

Krampus?

 

Xmas monsters are a great genre! 

 

9 Legendary Monsters of Christmas

 

My favorite summary is from tumblr.

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