Sunday, December 8, 2013

Taking the Christ out of Christmas

One of the most difficult things to learn about while I was unknowingly shedding myself of religion was that Christmas wasn't originally Christmas. It was a Pagan holiday called Saturnalia.  I know what you are thinking, that I just made that up. (I totally thought someone out there on the internet was messing with my mind.) But I assure you, the entire December birth in Jerusalem is probably not even true. Which is also something I read on the internet that I had originally thought was anti-Mormon propaganda.

Now, maybe it wasn't a shock to you to learn that the holiday we celebrate as Christmas used to be celebrated for a similar, yet entirely different reason.  They celebrated the birth of a son as well, but it was the Sun God. Christians snagged the holiday for their own and totally ruined it. I really wish they would have let it be. (Actually, there is a ton of things I wish Christianity hadn't tainted.)

This Pagan story is totally cool and equally fictitious, but I like how it's more about family and the days getting longer after solstice. It is the re-birth of the sun. And nothing makes a holiday more enjoyable for little ones than faeries and woodland critters do.

I don't think the story of Christmas is harmful to children. (Avoiding the part where Zeus God has sex with a mortal to get a demi-god son, per Mormonism.) I have taught my children the birthing story of the Christian god, as to give them knowledge they may need at school. But I didn't tell them it was fact, mostly because biblical scholars will tell you that Jesus was born in March or maybe early April. We even have a Matryoshka doll with Joseph, Mary, a sheep and Jesus that serves as the Christian Nativity in our home. This year we will have a Pagan Nativity as well.  It's important to me to give my children as much knowledge as possible, and the Winter Holidays are perfect for teaching various wonderful lessons that have nothing to do with the supernatural. (And some that do.)

It was difficult to find Humanist or Atheist holiday traditions on-line. When I went looking during my first holiday free of religion, I couldn't find much of anything. The first thing that I came across that really made me feel like I may actually find usable ideas was this:
Instructions for an atom snowflake.

I know that may seem trite, but when you feel like you are starting something steeped in tradition from scratch, little things can really mean a lot. And that little snowflake got the snowball rolling for me. I found it difficult to truly blend my love for science with the religious muck that seemed to be everywhere at first. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important for traditions that are not ours, to be respected, understood and cherished; to me, that is important in raising children with character and compassion. Sometimes people are going to believe crazy things, that doesn't mean we can't love them. I just wanted something of my own, something of great importance to me and my family to become part of December.  It took me a while to realize that I didn't have to start from scratch, a lot of the religious traditions I grew up with could be tweaked to fit our family and my new beliefs.

Besides the atom snowflake, I have collected little ideas here and there and I figured I would share them here.

 There are a lot of things that I want for my children. I want them to be understanding, compassionate and loving. And I know that in order for me to give them the best chance at understanding those around them, is to expose them to many traditions and cultures, as well as teaching them about why science is the most awesomest thing in the entire whole of existence, not forgetting, of course, about teaching them about human rights and what truth really means.

Picture of the Fellowship Baptist Church we passed on the way home one night.

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