Why I Stopped Saying “Merry Christmas”

Some may be surprised to hear that I am not a Christian. Others who are aware may be surprised to hear that there was a time when I was one. The topic isn’t one I talk about a lot. It isn’t because of being ostracized, which believe me, happens. Ask that an all-inclusive event not be labelled with one holiday, and you have your character attacked. Admit the fact to the woman at Einstein Brothers who is hounding you for parenting advice because your family is so peaceful and respectful, and she will run for all it is worth. Explain to your in-laws that your family celebrates something else and hear ranting and screaming with some declarations that you are solely responsible for killing baby Jesus (or is that just my in-laws?). No, the reason I don’t talk about it a lot is because it just doesn’t matter. Treating people with respect doesn’t require that we share religious (or not) beliefs. I am not out to convert anyone away from their religious philosophy.

Back to the phrase “Merry Christmas,” though. I didn’t stop saying it because I am no longer a Christian. (Please don’t try to convert me. I have studied religion in depth. I am confident with where I am in my journey.) I stopped saying “Merry Christmas” back when I was still a Christian. Why? you ask. The reason is simple. I realized that when I said those two simple words, no matter how well-meaning, the supposed happiness that I was wishing the person was contingent. It was contingent on their celebration of the holiday I was specifying. It was about my holiday and therefore about me. If you know the other person and what they believe and celebrate, that can be fine. They share the same holiday with you, and therefore it is also about them. However, said to someone whose beliefs you are unsure of or whom you know celebrates something different, that contingency makes a big difference.

So, back when I was a Christian, I stopped saying “Merry Christmas.” I began saying “Happy Holidays!” It worked for friends who celebrated other holidays, even if that was New Year’s Day or something else. It worked for strangers I knew nothing about. I genuinely was wishing the other person happiness, with no contingency, without making it about me or my beliefs. Now, I sometimes even just say “Happiness to you!”

So, during this cold winter season (in the Northern hemisphere, heat of summer in the Southern), I wish you all happiness!

Going Inside for the Winter Holidays

Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!

***

 

welcome new lightWinter abounds with holidays – days to cheer us up during the dark and gloomy days of shortened daylight and colder temperatures and less available food. For our family, the holiday season has us going inside, not just physically to avoid the color but also mentally, or you could say spiritually, as we examine where we are in our lives and where we want to be.

For us Halcyon, a time of quiet reflection and resolution, encompasses the holiday season. With the advent of cold weather and dark days, we find ourselves not only looking forward to brighter, warmer days, but also finding appreciation for what we have – food, shelter, warmth, and family (whether by blood or by choice).

We have eschewed the rushing about seen by so many in our culture for a simpler, more introspective celebration. Certainly, we give gifts to one another, but we tend to put much thought into giving authentic gifts – ones which not only fall within our values but which will also be appreciated by the recipient. Most of our gifts are handmade and planned for well in advance. We help our children make gifts for their siblings, which not only helps them to think about something which would be greatly appreciated but gives them, and us, the gift of our time together.

We drink hot apple cider and hot chocolate while playing board games or snuggling under blankets while watching a movie together. We spend time at home, appreciating one another and the chance to slow done after a busy year. We spend time thinking about how the current year has been going and what changes would be beneficial for us as individuals and as a family. We look toward the upcoming year, a blank slate of opportunities and possibilities for growth and enjoyment.

Slowing down allows us to better appreciate our lives, whether that means the opportunities and necessities afforded us or the people we embrace. Heading inside, while giving us time for introspection, reminds us who the most important people are. Spending time as a family rather than running around to programs and get togethers allows us to spend peaceful time together.

***

APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next year’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

 

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)

Hibernating During Halcyon

Welcome to the October 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Holidays

This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we simplify the holiday season. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.

***

Licht / LightIt’s getting colder out. This year there was no gradual change to speak of. It seemed that we had gone from 100 degree temperatures to freezing nights in the course of a few weeks. With it, came a feeling that my family should be hibernating, cuddled up under blankets, reading lovely books, and sipping hot cocoa. This feeling also stems from the fact that our schedule has been a bit over packed this fall. Normally we do pretty well at keeping it under control so that our family of introverts receives the time at home that we need. This fall, with extra weekly activities getting packed in last minute on top of what was a nice schedule, we are all feeling it. We are looking forward to a slower pace and more time at home to snuggle and contemplate.

Our family’s main winter holiday is Halcyon. Technically, it’s not a day and it doesn’t even occur in winter, as we celebrate Halcyon leading up to the Winter Solstice. With dropping temperatures, I think we can effectively call it a winter celebration. Typically, we celebrate Halcyon starting with Thanksgiving and culminating on the night of the Solstice. This year, however, I’m considering starting on November 1, as is typical. I’m ready to contemplate.

Halcyon is a time of peace. It’s a time of contemplation and introspection, of considering where our lives are and where we want them to be. It’s about realigning ourselves on our journey, refocusing ourselves, and taking a moment to redirect that inner compasses. Halcyon is a time of darkness and quiet as we await the return of the light. Halcyon is meditative and healing.

I think that this year, for me, Halcyon is also about hibernating and enjoying.

***

Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts:
SimParCarButton150x150

  • Making Halloween – JW at True Confessions of a Real Mommy says “No need to spend a lot this Halloween! Check out some easy, frugal ideas for dressing your family up!”
  • Hibernating During Halcyon – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and her family are gearing up for the Halcyon celebrations and enjoying some quiet time as a family.
  • Savoring Family Time (or, Simple Homemade Gifts) – Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM is trying to prepare for the holidays early so she can slow down and enjoy time with her family as the days grow shorter and a new baby enters their lives.
  • 7 Green Gifts for Toddlers – Shannon at GrowingSlower shares unique green gift ideas for kids this holiday season that are sure to be green mom approved.
  • Less is More: Simplifying the Holidays to Make Room for More of What Matters – Amy at Anktangle shares a few easy strategies she uses to keep the holidays manageable, stress-free, and fun!
  • buy nothing x-mas? – mama lola at bear & lion describes what christmas is all about to her and her family; treats, music, crafts and LOVE!
  • DIY holiday fun – Justine at The Lone Home Ranger revels in thrifting for and making her own holiday gifts and decorations.

Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.

Orange Pomanders

I’ve always known about orange pomanders. They were once used as air fresheners during the winter, a time when bathing was limited. I’m certain I even heard about my mother making them as a little girl. However, until recently I had never made an orange pomander.

I bought a bunch of oranges and bulk cloves for our recent Solstice Party. I had no idea how fun they would be to make. My children and I made more after our guests left. Poking an orange with a toothpick and then inserting cloves into a design is surprisingly peaceful and something that all ages can do. I believe we may have found a new tradition.

Honoring Belief and Authenticity during the Holidays

Photo by Scott Vuocolo

Before my husband and I had children, we discussed how we planned to handle various aspects of holidays. We aren’t Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, so it only seemed natural to me that we wouldn’t bring the commercial aspect of Santa Claus into our home for the Solstice.

It wasn’t something I would miss. Not only was there the overly commercial aspect and the blatant lying, but I didn’t have fond memories of the jolly old man. I have the obligatory pictures of me sitting on Santa’s lap, tears streaming down my face at having been forced to sit on a strange man’s lap. At the age of four, I informed my mother that I didn’t believe in Santa Claus. I knew she left the gifts, and I wanted to appreciate her effort and thought rather than some mythical stranger.

However, my husband did have fond memories. He enjoyed the magical aspect as a kid and actually pretended to believe in  Santa Claus long past when he actually quit believing in order to receive an extra gift.

There were discussions. In the end, we compromised. We would discuss the spirit of giving with our future children and Father Time, a representation of that spirit, would leave gifts. I was a bit unsettled by this but recognized the need to honor my husband’s wishes, too. And then we had children…

Gazing into that tiny face, so trusting of us, we knew we couldn’t lie to him. We had no desire to break the special trust held between parent and child. So, life went on. We celebrated our solstice traditions and thought nothing more of Santa Claus or Father Time for five happy years.

The year our oldest turned five years old, he brought up the topic. We had read books about what other people believed and what other holidays people celebrated. We were surrounded by the commercialism of Santa Claus every time we went out.

One fateful day the question came. “Mommy, does Santa Claus exist?” There was an internal cringe, I’m sure. I explained that some people believed he did. Others didn’t. Some people believed in other forms of a spirit of giving. And then I asked him what he believed. He told me that he thought Father Time would leave presents for him and his siblings.

The morning after the longest night of the year, as we got up to open gifts, there were three unwrapped presents sitting on the sofa. My husband and I said nothing about them. We neither claimed to have given them nor that they were from Father Time. While we wouldn’t lie to our children, we also didn’t wish to squash any magic from what they wanted to believe.

The next year, at the age of six, he asked is Father Time was really real? I told him that I could answer his question and that the answer would be one of two – either yes or no. If it was yes, life would go on as it had and he would still believe. However, if it was no, would he be happy no longer believing? I asked him a hard question. Which was more important to him: knowing for certain what the answer was or believing regardless? He chose to continue believing, knowing that at any time he could ask me and I would answer truthfully, whatever that may be. His four year old sister piped up that she didn’t believe and that she thought that when I filled everyone’s stockings, I also left the gifts on the couch. I replied that different people believe different things.

We now have four children, ages 8, 6, 3, and 7 months. Listening to their conversations about the subject is interesting. I still stick to my need to be authentic and refuse to lie. I also will not force my beliefs on someone else and tell them they are wrong. Honoring honesty and authenticity doesn’t have to conflict with honoring the magic of childhood.

Edited to add: After that first year, the gifts have all been digital media for our library – either movies or music cds. Its a tradition we plan to continue, regardless of what our children believe and one which we can feel honest about.

Halcyon

As we gather nearer to the Winter Solstice, the darkness presses in closer, leaving us with an ever decreasing amount of daylight as we go about our lives. This period of darkness is when our family celebrates Halcyon.

The word halcyon is used to depict a time of peace and quiet reflection, stemming from the mythical halcyon bird which was thought to bring calming winds to turbulent seas. It was used to describe times of peace between warring peoples.

Photo by Lel4nd

Beginning on Thanksgiving and culminating with the Winter Solstice, our family embraces and celebrates Halcyon. We light a Halcyon candle each night to remind us that the light will once again return, just as it always has. The flame serves to focus our reflection of where we are in our lives and where we want to be, of how we want to improve upon our selves, and how we resolve to live our lives more peacefully and fully. We use this time of quiet darkness to focus ourselves and prepare for the things to come in the new year, after the return of the light.