I grew up attending CCD, a children’s church school, and going to church a handful of times throughout the year. However, I never felt very religious and usually was pretty unenthusiastic about the Sundays we went to mass. I always assumed these feelings were because I was a kid and as I matured I would develop a greater sense of religion, whether it was in the Catholic tradition I was raised in, or a different denomination altogether. However, that never seemed to happen and as I grew up and moved on to college, religion became a minimal aspect of my life.
My husband has a similar attitude about religion, so it’s never been a big point of discussion in our relationship. After we got engaged, we attended services at a few different churches, and it didn’t spur any new sense of faith in either of us. After a fair amount of thought, it turns out that for a variety of reasons a deep sense of religion isn’t something I personally connect with but am in no way against.
What made me take a second look at our feelings on religion was having a child–including the fact that we celebrate meaningful Christian holidays without practicing the belief. Though my husband and I aren’t religious, we both have over-the-top Christmas spirit and love everything from Christmas movie marathons to obnoxiously decorated trees to cookie exchanges. But having our daughter made us take a second look at our celebrating. Is this what we want Christmas to mean in our family?
I love the festivity and decorations and cheer, but I want to make sure that celebrating Christmas doesn’t turn into a focus on materialism or overconsumption without any greater sense of doing good. So, we created an intentional list of how we will spend our time this holiday season so we can make sure to still celebrate meaningfully if the Christian aspect of the holiday isn’t going to our focus:
We will take time away from the hustle and bustle of daily obligations so we can spend time as a family
During the holiday season, we’ll try to limit our to-do lists, tasks, and appointments as much as possible so that we can free up time to spend together. Even when it’s hard, we’ll carve out time to do something festive – like take an afternoon off work and daycare for holiday baking. We can save the annual eye exam, home maintenance project, or oil change for after the New Year.
We will take time to give back to others
I want our family to embrace our incredibly good fortune and focus on spreading joy and cheer to those in need. Personally, one of my favorite Christmas mornings was spent serving a holiday meal at a community center. This year, I’ll plan to take my daughter shopping for Toys for Tots donations and we’ll send cards to the children’s hospital, overseas troops, or a nursing home. Hopefully, we’ll find a volunteer activity she really connects with that we can continue after the holidays end.
We will take time to embrace the merriment and cheer together
I’m fully supportive of over-the-top holiday cheer – as long as it stays independent of consumerism and it’s something we enjoy together. Whether you are religious or not, there is something magical about the Christmas season that can be taken in without buying stuff. We’ll enjoy driving to see holiday light displays, watching our favorite Christmas movies, and decorating our tree. We’ll spend time with friends to celebrate the season and our friendships.
We will take time to be thankful for what we already have
We’ll focus on the joy and experience of the Christmas season and not just the gifts. Since last year I’ve been more intentional about minimizing gift giving and supporting small local businesses with my purchases. Try adopting the “four gift rule” of “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” as a way to reduce massive gift giving.
I was worried that our way of celebrating Christmas would have too shallow of a focus and would send the wrong message to our young and impressionable daughter. But with more planning around these aspects of Christmas, we can make sure we are setting an example of a purposeful holiday season focused on family, good cheer, and giving back.
I deeply respect the religious reasons for why Christmas is celebrated and everyone that fully embraces that aspect. When our daughter is a little older I intend to introduce her to religious services and explain and answer any questions she may have so she can make her own choice one day.
For now — I wish you all good fortune and cheer, no matter how you choose to celebrate!