These Heathens Still Have Christmas


I grew up in a Christian home, so we celebrated all of the typical holidays. We are a nonreligious household now, but I love the traditions of the holidays, so I want my kids to grow up with those magical moments, too. It’s easy to drop the religious aspect of most holidays, because what does Santa have to do with Christianity? When my kids are old enough to ask about Jesus I’ll explain my take on those things, but until then, remarkably little of the deeper subjects are brought into the holiday movies, the public displays, etc. My husband is a bit of a grinch, but I am holding out hope that seeing how magical and joyful the holidays can be for our kids will melt his frosty take on the commercialism and such. After all, we can make the holidays what we want them to be, it isn’t as though there are inspectors going door to door to double check that there’s a nativity scene and a maxed out string of credit cards in every home.

I have wonderful childhood memories of the holiday season. Some that spring to mind:

Singing Christmas songs with my siblings (there were six of us living in our house plus our parents, so we basically had our own little choir), sometimes we would practice in advance of showcasing our ragtag skills as if this was a big event in their lives, but often we just sang any of the songs we knew, and there is one video of us doing this that comes to mind where we kept charging into the song and then flagging and drifting off because we didn’t actually know the extended verses.

Decorating the tree with our crazy collection of homemade ornaments as well as the store-bought ones, and it took us growing older to finally realize that the big floppy paper hands and hideous lopsided craft ornaments always migrated to much less obvious places when we went to bed. Considering how many of us there were and how little tree space, I can’t blame them for wanting to highlight the better ones!

Sipping hot cocoa and stirring it with a candy-cane until it melted away and left delicious minty flavor in the cup and a small pointy shiv to play with until the fragile tip broke off.Sometimes because we started stabbing each other to see whose candy weapon was sharpest.

Also holding the warm cup in my hands and imagining that I was out in a snowy blizzard with fat flakes swirling around me and “let it snow” playing cheerfully in the background. Looking back, this is funny to me because I imagined that being in a blizzard was a fun, Christmassy thing people did in snowy places. I lived in southern California, and we had to drive up to the mountains to see snow, so I didn’t grasp that standing in a blizzard wouldn’t have been a fond, happy time, and that the memory would probably come with frostbitten toes.

Making Christmas projects: the drawings of Santa, elves, and decorated trees, and coloring pages teachers printed up, drafting wish lists and sending them to Santa Claus, counting down the days left until Christmas on paper chains and candy calendars. Cutting out snowflakes and stringing up popcorn. I loved the holiday crafts, even though we did many of them over and over each year. They never got boring!

Being allowed to open one present on Christmas eve, which was always a nice new set of pajamas to wear to bed. This was just a subtle way for my parents to get us to wear our most attractive jammies on Christmas morning, so that we were especially cute in the video of us opening gifts.

Waking up early and laying in bed until it was a reasonable hour and the parents would let us kids race out to the living room, where we could get to our presents. We always went for the Santa gifts first, because they were unwrapped and usually were the hot ticket item we wanted most; at the time I thought my parents were semi-saints for not wanting credit for the best gifts, but I suppose they knew that half of us were onto the game, and the littlest ones weren’t exactly judging them for not living up to what Santa brought.

When we were a little older, waking up and meeting my big brother in the hall where we would proceed to sneak to the living room like Christmas morning ninjas and look at the haul from Santa by the fireplace, although without touching anything in case the moved items would give us away, then creeping back to each of our rooms to get back in bed and wait excitedly to be able to race back out and grab up the gifts and play with them. This may have seemed like ruining it to our parents if they had caught us, but really this sneak peek without being able to actually get to the gift only heightened the anticipation. It was much the same as the way that seeing a commercial for something only made you want it more. Knowing it was just on the other sided of the house made me lay there imagining how amazing it was going to be to actually play with it soon.

Sitting in a big semicircle around the tree and opening gifts by turn, so that the process was drawn out, and we all had a chance to ooh and ahh over each other’s presents; having an audience while you opened your gifts made them each feel that much more important and wonderful, even when you knew that everyone got one box the exact shape which was full of new socks, so you knew what was inside wasn’t one of the “exciting” things. With a house of 8, we always each got a few fun gifts and a few necessities to bulk up the pile, but opening the plain items was somehow just a way to make the other ones that much more fun.

Those are just a few of the big ones. I could go on and on, as I’m sure most people could. And despite not believing in Christianity, I hope my kids will also grow up with a lot of wonderful memories of this time of year. As you can see from the picture below, our tree is kind of a sad Charlie Brown tree, but the kids get all giggly and excited about it anyways!

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What about your family? What are some of the memories you can’t imagine not passing on to your children? Leave me a comment, I love hearing from everyone 🙂

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5 thoughts on “These Heathens Still Have Christmas

  1. Love it! We heathens can certainly celebrate Christmas! My kids love all the decorations, buying and making gifts for everyone, and baking too many cookies. My oldest daughter has outgrown Santa, but it thrills me to see how seriously she continues to take it for the sake of her little sister.

  2. My kids are all grown up with families of their own. I’ve been encouraging them to start their own Christmas traditions mainly because I have 4 kids and 10 grand kiddies so you can imagine the mess they leave at my house on Christmas when they leave and go home. I suggested this year that we all come to their houses, tear it up and leave at the end of the day. Enjoyed reading your post!

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