Celebrating The Holidays, How do You do it When You're Not Religious?

Discussion on how two atheists celebrate the holiday season without losing the original meaning.



The Holiday Season is upon us and in full swing. Thanksgiving is a long forgotten memory as we get down to the nitty gritty of the season. I really like this time of year with all the decorations and general good cheer. However it also comes with it's own set issues. These can range all over the map. Some people get depressed around this time of year, others wonder how they are going to afford it, while others wonder how to celebrate.

I guess I sort of fall into the last camp. I mean we know how to celebrate the holiday in the traditional sense, but I am wondering how my little family and I are going to celebrate it in the coming years. I was brought up Roman Catholic with all the trappings surrounding this time of year. Advent, confession and a lot of masses and chapel to go to. My wife wasn't brought up in any specific religion and her family I guess could be categorized as celebrating the consumerized version of the holiday.  

Both of us now are atheists which leads us to celebrating how she's always celebrated the holiday. However I have some misgivings about this. While not religious any any sense any more I still would like to keep some of the original meaning of this season to convey to little Jack as he gets older, but not I'm not really sure how to go about it (hell, as you can see I'm trying really hard not to even say Christmas and just say holiday so I'm clearly conflicted).

I want him to know why this time of year is celebrated, but not necessarily indoctrinate him in any religion. I would like to treat this time of year like we treat the 4th of July. As an event that happened, but not something our family worships like some of his friends and family members might.

I think this is the approach we are most likely to take in the coming years. We will treat Christmas itself like a historical event, without any of the religious trappings that go along with it. I think that if we frame it this way and teach Jack that many people all over the world worship this holiday and why they do so.  At the same time I think I'll have to figure out something as to why we don't without going to esoteric for him. Religion is a weighty topic that I think should be breached slowly with little kids. There are many approaches on how to do that, and this time of year helps with that.

Then there's old Santa Clause and how he fits into the mix. There's a whole host of traditions we could follow from Sinterklaas to St. Nick. I think for sanity's sake I'll stick with good ol' Coca-Cola Santa Claus (what you didn't know our current Santa is a product of Coca-Cola marketing? Sorry Virginia).  All of the confusion has been take out of him and he's pretty safe. I can also craft a message of giving around him pretty easily that will hopefully stick as Jack gets older. Plus he's the one that's pretty much everywhere anyway. 

I want Jack to respect others beliefs without becoming bogged down in them. I want Jack to understand why people all over the world celebrate this time of year and how we can participate in the spirit of the holiday without having to be religious. I want him to be a good boy that will grow into a good man which would be the best present he could give his old man. 

So given all of the religious, non religious and cultural holiday offerings, which ones do you and your families follow? Are you traditional? Do you just do what you did when growing up or have you new traditions you are creating? I look forward to hearing about them in comments!

Last Successful Meal
Grilled cheese sandwich
Fresh blueberries in strawberry, banana, oatmeal yogurt

Current Favorite Reads
My Little Car (Mi Carrito) by Gary Soto
Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Batman: The Brave and the Bold by J. Torres
Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Annie Archer December 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Jack I understand you perfectly. You want to know if there is an electronic record of the history of edits on this blog post. The answer is yes, it is at the top of the post, Dec. 6 at 6 am is when this post was last edited. Further, if a story is changed, there is usually an editor's note that it has been done. There is nothing being hidden here, Tony never used the phrase. It was used by a commentor the day the story posted.
jon Sanders December 13, 2011 at 10:52 PM
over, and over, and over again.....
Jack Vermeulen December 13, 2011 at 11:13 PM
I never questioned that after your post Annie (as I said already). The date is NOT what I'm asking about. I'm asking about the - actual content change - that YOU can see. IOW, the actual record of the text, not just a date. That's the LOG. I'm just curious since Kat implied that you might have a record of the actual changes. That would be useful information. I take it you do not have a LOG of changes in detail. Some may not understand the significance here, but Kat will.
Shaun December 14, 2011 at 01:06 AM
There is, in fact, considerable debate on this topic of whether Jesus actually existed. If you are sufficiently curious, you should search the web for "Jesus myth." Wikipedia has an article that covers this. There is even more debate on how accurately the Bible portrays Jesus' life. If you are interested in this topic, you should search for "historicity of Jesus." All that aside, if you are already an atheist, the question of whether Jesus existed, and the question of how good a person Jesus might have been, is not going to lead someone to believe in God. Ghandi existed, and he was a good person, but I am not a Hindu.
Mike Lewis December 14, 2011 at 01:07 AM
The time stamp on the story reflects the last time it was modified and posted. So for this blog post, if a reader read it on 12/6 at 6 a.m. (or later), the post on the site right now is the post as it looked when it was published. Prior to publication blog posts -- unlike news stories -- are edited largely for punctuation and brevity. If, beyond that, it's unsuitable for publication, it's rejected outright. The blogger can resubmit if he or she wants to. How does this factor into Tony's piece? Simple. What you see now is what was published originally. Judging from the comment stream, Kat extrapolated the term (and sentiment) "recovering Catholic" based on her own experiences and how they stand in reflection to Tony's piece. Again simple. There was no post-comment-stream editing. And honestly, there didn't need to be. If Patch editors find a comment, a story, a calendar item or a blog post offensive, they eliminate it. It makes no sense whatsoever to leave it in the comment field after taking it from a story. It's fine to have a discussion about whether the term "recovering Catholic" is offensive to Catholics. (As a member of a Catholic family, I didn't find the term offensive.) What makes less sense is the assertion that an editor would modify the substance of a blog post to obviate a single, inoffensive comment. We publish the comment stream to encourage dialogue, not discourage it. And, obviously, this post got its share. (Mike Lewis, WA Patch Regional Editor)


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