We are seven days into December, it is freeeeeezing cold and I’m thinking that it’s time to acknowledge that the winter holiday season has arrived.
Last year at this time Yogi was four months old and we were doing good to get cards in the mail. This year he’s walking and chattering and attentive to every little thing that goes on around here, so I’ve been eager to share the season with him.
But….. what does that mean?
How can two parents who are neither Christian nor Jewish nor down with rampant consumerism share the season in an authentic way? (This question is not rhetorical, if you have thoughts please share them in the comments).
Given that my wife and I were both raised in the Christian church, the first obstacle is explaining what Christmas even is. Now, I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself as Yogi is not asking these kinds of questions yet, but he will and I want to be ready. So, what to say? Here’s how I’m imagining the exchange:
Yogi: Mama, what is Christmas?
Me: Well Yogi, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Yogi: Who is Jesus again?
Me: He’s that really great guy that we talk about sometimes, usually at church.
Yogi: Like Buddha or Martin Luther King?
Me: Yes, kind of like that.
Yogi: So everybody has a birthday party for him?
Me: Yes, many people do.
Yogi: Are we going to put up a tree for Martin Luther King’s birthday?
And this is where I imagine the conversation breaking down. How to explain that? No, we don’t put up trees and spend a months time celebrating any of the other “really great people”. It seems impossible to avoid the assumption that we don’t do those things because those other folks aren’t quite as great. They did good stuff, but they just aren’t really that big of a deal. Arghh.
This is not what I want to communicate (even implicitly), but I don’t see a way around it. I do want to use rituals that are associated with Christianity both because they were significant in my own childhood and because I want Yogi to see his family experiences mirrored in the world around him. There are plenty of other ways in which his family is not the norm and perhaps this is why our participation in these facets of the dominant culture (doesn’t that sound menacing?) are important to me.
The next obstacle is Santa. What to do about Santa? I know that I only have so much control, but I want Santa to be about magic and wonder and surprise, not stuff, stuff, and more stuff. We haven’t talked at all about Santa (beyond naming him when he shows up in books), but what will we say when we do? I don’t think that the idea of him is inherently bad, but I’m not sure what role I want him to have in our family celebration. Anybody have ideas about this?
And then there is obvious fact that there is a lot more than just Christmas going on this time of year. Although I want Yogi to know about other religious traditions, there is something about actively celebrating a religious holiday that no one in your family has any connection to that rings more than a little false to me. So, we won’t be lighting the menorah either.
But…… I have always thought that celebrating the winter solstice sounded like an awfully nice idea. Does anyone do this or know of any rituals associated with solstice?
I know I’ve got a little time yet with Yogi being 16 months at Christmas this year, but I want to start getting my story together, working out the kinks in the winter holiday system.