Thursday, December 8, 2011

I guess I'm keeping the X in Xmas?

I'm really excited for Christmas this year, because I think Ollie is going to start to "get it". He loves the lights, the trees, and the movies (a big treat!), and I'm sure he'll love the presents and the food and the gatherings of family. And I suppose that's what Christmas will be all about, in our house.

But of course that isn't what Christmas is about for lots of people who celebrate it, and it used to be the case that it was about more for me too. Yes, I'm talking about Baby Jesus.

I wrote a whole post about my faith and then my no faith, and it was super long. So I've shifted it to a page, because I get that maybe you aren't reading this because you're interested in my rambling nonsense (although if you aren't, I'm not exactly sure why you're here - cute pictures I'd guess). If you're interested in my religious values, or lack thereof, check out "I believe".

The gist is that I'm an atheist, but I got here after a long and deep history with Christianity, so I feel a little conflicted sometimes about removing those positive aspects of my religious upbringing from my child's life, even though I no longer value the foundation of that religion in the same way.

When you're a Christian at Christmas, you're constantly reminded that "Jesus is the reason for the season". But if you're me, an atheist who's childhood Christmases included church and reading the nativity, maybe you start to wonder how you'll explain the significance of the holiday to your child in a way that isn't confusing.

I guess when you're not, you focus on the joy of family and friends and food, and unfortunately also presents and Santa, I guess. So Christmas is pretty much Thanksgiving, but with gifts? I suppose you can add in acts of kindness to others, and sharing joy and love, if you can find ways to express that without sounding too trite, and without implying that you only need to get that done once a year.

And what do you do with all that great music? Sure there's Frosty and Rudolph, but honestly, those songs irritate me. I found myself singing Ollie to sleep in the wee hours the other day with "Oh Holy Night". Lyrically, it gives me chills even as I object to some of the central concepts, so what on earth am I singing about it I'm not singing about something I believe in?

I'm overthinking this, for sure. But these are the questions parents ask themselves, aren't they? Parenting really brings your own childhood and upbringing into the foreground, and for me, God's a major theme.

Maybe there are a lot of parents, or would be parents, or just people in general, thinking about this at this time of year too. Or anytime. Maybe you could share a little of that in the comments? Or just tell me to stick to cute pictures of Ollie. Whatever.


  1. it's me again: clearly i'm at home on a friday night reading blogs. hah.
    i just went over to your "i believe section" -- and you know, to be honest when i first saw it - i thought it was going to be the typical "i believe" that i see on many mommy blogs, and so i didn't bother reading it {is this terrible?}
    i'm completely open and accepting of other religions and other people's beliefs. i myself was baptized a Roman Catholic, but i don't go to church, i don't really believe.. or think about religion too much in general.
    when christmas comes.. i do sing songs to seba -- my favourite: "do you hear what i hear." i haven't thought about what we'll say to seba as he grows and begins to ask questions... but i definitely know what seba's family in italy will teach him!! i guess he'll learn everything openly.. and decide his religion on his own -- the way he should.
    a good friend of mine just posted a quote on Facebook: seriousness is an adult disease, please: let's not spread it to the children! -- love this. this is my approach with little people. i'll save the seriousness for later!
    great post - with, or without photos.

  2. I remember last year when you posted about xmas and you mentioned being an atheist, I actually had this moment of utter glee. I honestly was starting to feel like the only atheist mama blogger on the face of the earth. Like Lisa, I'm open and accepting of other religions and other people's beliefs, but when I see a mama blogger mention her love of jesus in her 'about me' section, I quickly close the window and never return.

    But beyond atheism, I've always loved your blog because you seem to ask critical questions and think deliberately about the way you parent. This is so refreshing and welcomed and what brings me back again and again.

    Our family struggles at this time of year. I was raised to celebrate xmas as a secular holiday, but have often found it hypocritical. If I can avoid Kale getting caught up in the consumerism of the season, I think I'd be doing him a favour. On the other hand, I had wonderful xmas's with my family - with lots and lots of gifts. For us, the key is finding a balance between old traditions and creating new ones and keeping the conversation going the whole time.

    Oh, and clearly Lisa and I need to get a life and stop hanging out on blogs on Friday nights.

  3. Ha ha.. the only reason I wasn't blog surfing along with you guys this Friday is because we have a rare weekend of parties as our friends get married and I turn 30!

    Lisa, I wasn't sure if it was a bad idea to sort of "nod" at the Mormon/Christian "I believe" blog format, but I felt like I wanted to put out an alternative.

    I do usually read those sections of other people's blogs because I'm totally fascinated by religious tradition, but I can also appreciate why those pages are a turn off. I'm also really interested in the way that certain religious communities actively promote blogging as a form of testimony in subtle and not so subtle ways. (Have you read this article?

    Randalin, I appreciate all the same things about your blog, and that you've thought about the Christmas thing too. I completely understand just wanting to enjoy the season and that's what I want for Ollie, but it is also complicated and I think being thoughtful about it is important. We have smart little guys who are going to be curious about this stuff one day.

  4. I find that most times when a blogger has an "I believe" section it usually is to promote/push their religion -- which for me, is fine...I have a love/hate approach to this... on one hand I actually admire their passion. On the other I think: why?!
    I think I took a course similar to the one you took: mine was called Bad Girls in the Bible. I too was fascinated at how male centered the bible is. How women aren't even named. I love reading articles, books, etc. that question all the beliefs that i inherited. I shouldn't even say religious centered, most of what I've read is related to Catholicism.
    I wouldn't say I'm atheist. I think non-religious is more appropriate for what I believe.
    My son will be influenced by everyone around him: his parents, grandparents, school, friends. I will try my best to have answers by the time he gets curious... but really I don't believe anyone has all the answers to questions like these... which is why I don't really put too much emphasis on them.
    I don't go to church, I don't pray... but I sure as hell called to someone higher than me during Seba's birth. Where it came from? no idea. Did it help me? Hell yeah.
    anyhow just another two cents for you. I love this post. this conversation. thanks.


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