I’ve been reading “Raising Freethinkers” by Dale McGowan (and others), and it’s inspired me to approach the holidays from a secular perspective. It’s so easy to fall into the familiar Christian traditions that are so pervasive this time of year. Sometimes I have to catch myself and think about what message I want my kids to receive, and whether I want to reinforce the myths of the virgin birth.
I’ve decided to be honest with Sasha (in the spirit of freethought) about all the reasons people celebrate during the holiday season. I’ve been sharing with Sasha that “some people celebrate the birthday of a baby named Jesus, who (they think) has special powers”. I also read to her the story of Christ’s birth, as told in the illustrated new testament given to her by a close friend.
There’s really no reason to hide the nativity scene from Sasha – she’s bound to hear about it eventually. I actually think that the story of the virgin birth is an interesting myth, worth retelling, if for only the reason that it’s so ingrained in our culture anyway. Of course, as an atheist, I don’t feel compelled to hammer the message of the immaculate conception into her little mind. A simple explanation of Christ will suffice, and then an explanation of what our family believes… that this time of year is a time for family and for giving to others. We’re also going to celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, to which the Christian founders borrowed in the name of Christmas.
I’ve never celebrated Winter Solstice before. The idea has previously seemed kind of goofy, like a pagan ritual that some bearded hermit would do with his three wiccan wives. But, once I get passed that unpleasant image, it doesn’t seem any less silly than celebrating the birth of a god in which I don’t believe. The challenge is celebrating the Winter Solstice without steering my family into a bunch of oddball rituals.
If Winter Solstice still involved druid cloaks and Gregorian chants than I would seriously reconsider my involvement in it’s celebration.
The interesting thing is that the traditional Winter Solstice celebrations, such as Saturnalia and Yule, involved decorating the house with evergreens and pretty lights, giving gifts to the children, and having feasts with the family (and with servants). Yeah, OK, that sounds like all the harmless traditions of Christmas, without the trappings of faith.
So, for the first time, my family and I have decided to also celebrate Winter Solstice. I’ve decorated my house in blue lights, which I’m officially declaring as the secular hue of choice (who knew, right?). I’ve also decided that on the 21st of December I will have a fondue feast and invite my friend and his daughter, who are also secular humanists. The reason I chose meat fondue is because it’s a holiday tradition from my own childhood. Why not map an old tradition that my parents gave me onto new ones for my own family?
Being that this is my first attempt at celebrating Winter Solstice, I’d be more than happy to have some recommendations for rituals that other people do at this time. Anybody else out there celebrate the shortest day of the year? Holler back and let me know.