Photo by alicepopkorn
I’ve been thinking about Christmas a ton this year, and its meaning in my life and for our new family. I suspect this is not unusual—there seems to be an abundance of opportunity for reflection as a new parent. The thing is, we are not a religious family. And we are not planning on raising Sadie in any religious way. (Unless, of course, she requests it at any time.) We also do not plan to introduce Sadie to the concept of Santa. (Again, if she wants to participate in Santa traditions when she’s old enough to know about it, we will support her and play along.) We haven’t come to this decision lightly, so I hope you won’t think I’m being flippant about any of this. But, if you don’t do the Jesus part of Christmas, and you don’t do the Santa part of Christmas, what’s the point of the holiday?
I’m a family person. Sometimes I’m a little surprised at this, considering my early childhood. But other times, I think it makes perfect sense. There was so much uncertainty when I was little, so much instability, that when I (along with my one biological brother) was welcomed into my aunt’s family (complete with five cousin-siblings and a family dog), I was hooked. I’ve tried to move away, but I just keep coming back. I love my family, both adopted and formed. And for me, that’s what the “Holiday Season” is all about. My family does Christmas pretty big. Big meals, big gatherings, decorating the tree, hanging stockings, the Alabama Christmas album (okay, gag on that one), decorating sugar cookies, Christmas Eve pajamas, mistletoe, Christmas breakfast, lots of presents. Honestly, though, Mass on Christmas Eve, Nativity scene décor and praying before meals are the only religious pieces to the Christmas puzzle for my family.
If you do a little Googling on the origins of Christmas traditions, most of them have nothing to do with Christianity. Yet, they have become adopted in various forms by different cultures all over. I don’t want to get into the whole mess of it all, but it seems to me that the traditions are there for the pickin. So here’s what we’re doing this year, and likely ever year from now on:
- Tree. The three of went to cut down our tree at a local Christmas tree farm. Trevor and I discovered it last year, and we went there this fall for their pumpkin patch. It was lovely, and this is probably my #1 favorite tradition of the season. I mean, bringing a tree into the house? For a month? Awesome. We got one that was modestly sized, in case Sadie decided to try to pull it down (so far, so good). Each year, we pick out an ornament together, and this year we picked one out on behalf of Sadie, too.
- Stockings. I like stockings, for whatever reason. We probably won’t bother stuffing them this year, but maybe we will when Sadie gets older. Trevor and I are both kind of candy fiends, but we’ll have to temper that with some fruit and nuts, I suppose. And lip gloss. We’re actually still on the hunt for a stocking for Sadie. My aunt did needlepoint stockings for each of us kids, and they are amazingly personal and special. I hope that one day I can knit stockings for each of us. Maybe when I’m not taking care of an eight-month-old.
- Parties and other festivities. Getting together with our friends is a ton of fun, and it’s no exception around the holidays. Our holiday party schedule is (for the best, I’m sure) somewhat light this year. I’m excited to be seeing two of my nieces and one of my nephews perform in the Nutcracker Ballet this weekend!
- Food. The food! (And candy.) It’s already begun. Trevor’s uncle passed through town, baring gifts of homemade sweets from one of Trevor’s aunts. We are almost through our first bottle of eggnog. If I can get my act together, I’ll do a bunch of holiday baking like I did last year. I think a new tradition I want to start for our little family is to try a new international breakfast item every year on Christmas morning. We tend to go to my aunt and uncle’s house for breakfast, so it might be something we make beforehand (because it’s not like Sadie lets us sleep in anyway) and take to share. To start us off, I think we’ll try Belgian sugar waffles this year.
- Gifts. This year Trevor and I are taking a break from gift-giving for each other, and we have to limit what gift-giving we do for others (having a baby and quitting your job will do that). But this is fine with me, because I’ve been honing my gift-giving philosophy; and for me, less is more. Sadie doesn’t even know that today is Thursday, so she’s definitely not going to know when it’s Christmas this year. We might get her a little something, if we come across something she might like. But we’re not too fussed with it this year. But we do plan on any gifts coming from us, her parents, and not Santa.
- Helping. This year, my book club adopted two single mothers and their babies from the homeless shelter where Sadie attends daycare. My family used to do this through our church, and this tradition of helping others is something I’d like to stick with and instill in Sadie.
- Family. Like I said, my family does Christmas BIG. Unfortunately, my family and Trevor’s family live many many miles apart, and we will likely miss the festivities of my extended family. We will, of course, still do everything with my family while we are still in town. But! What this does mean is that we are FINALLY spending Christmas with Trevor’s family. Well, almost Christmas. Trevor has to work the day after (a big day for retail…unless you’re a small local bike shop—don’t get me started), so we will hit the road for the very Northeastern corner of Tennessee at about 7:00 on the evening of the 26th.
I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to say what we’re celebrating is “Christmas.” Whether maybe we should call what we’re doing by some other name (Solstice? Festivus? Krismas?). And the best I can come up with is that it’s a huge part of our Anglo-American culture. Even if the name is particular to Christianity, the traditions and practices are already largely secular. I know we’re going to catch a lot of flack about not doing Santa—Trevor already is from a young coworker. And I know some of our family is probably worried about us not raising Sadie in a religion. But I promise, Aunt Margie, we’re not doing this just to be different, to be contrary. This is just who we are.