Going secular for the holidays

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With Halloween upon us and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I find myself looking ahead to the winter holiday season with much excitement. I’m like this every year, but seemingly more-so this year. This will be our second year observing the Winter Solstice rather than the traditional Christmas.

Now that we’ve broken away from the ill-fit of the old tradition, I wonder why I waited so long to actually make the switch.  I was raised with religion, but it never really felt right to me, and so I’ve gradually left it all behind.  I feel like I’ve simply out-grown religion, much like children outgrow their blankie.  It was only natural that the last ties to the church be severed. I suppose for some people it is enough to simply omit “God” from their festivities; but for my husband and I, a clean break was needed.  Though we both come from families of the religious persuasion, I stopped going to church when I was seventeen and my husband went only once as a child, we were openly non-believers, and to participate in a religious holiday seemed hypocritical–however secular I tried to keep it.

I wonder often how many others are out there, who don’t go to church, probably don’t believe, but yet still participate in the Christmas madness?  How many people in this crazy country allow themselves to be sucked into the commercialized frenzy of buying, endebting themselves, and loosing themselves in this senseless social trap?

solstice tree

We bring in a live tree to symbolize the ancient practice of protecting the life of greenery throughout the long cold dark of winter, and decorate it with white lights to celebrate the return of light that the solstice heralds.

The ancient celebrations of the Winter Solstice were based around the idea of the renewal of light and life to the Earth.  This is the heart of all the winter celebrations that have since followed, and this is the theme behind our family’s solstice holiday.  I try to keep the focus of the season on family, simply spending time with your friends and family is the best way to show you care.  Rather than buying stuff at the stores, I make homemade gifts of crafts, artwork, and foods. I did this before we officially made “the switch”, and happily it is something that parallels the age-old solstice theme.  Bringing nature in-doors is another thing I’ve always done that adheres to the ancient practices; pine-bough are my favorite, and each year I take the kids on a hike through the forest to collect pine-boughs, pine-cones, wild grape-vines, and other bits of nature that catch our eye.  We bring them home and create all sorts of wonderful holiday decorations.  I use white lights which symbolize the return of light to our hemisphere, and we put faux-birds and fruit ornaments on the tree, last year we even put little plastic lizards and frogs from the dollar-store on the tree.

winter solsticeIt’s freeing in many ways to let go of the mainstream Christmas and the stigmas attached to that holiday.  This most ancient celebration of the Earth and of life feels more natural to me, and I can give myself up to the spirit of the season whole-heartedly.  I suppose that’s why this year I’m feeling a heightened sense of anticipation for the holiday.  Perhaps if more of us who are on the fence, could muster the courage to make the switch, there would be less of the disenchantment so many seem to have for the season.  Let go the consumerism, let go the ill-fitting religious connotation, and do something that is true to the spirit of your family.  Go secular this holiday.  Celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Sources & Resources

The Meming of Life: Winter Celebrations in a Secular Family guest column by Jane Wynne Willson Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders.

Mixed Blessings; Are secular life ceremonies the wave of the future? by Michael Kress; Slate Magazine.

We Wish You a Godless Christmas: What’s Secular and Godless About Christmas Holidays? by Austin Cline, About.com guide.

Secular Celebrate the Winter Solstice; my Squid-lens with more information regarding the science behind the solstice, facts about the history of the holiday, and lots of resources for you to check out.

Winter Solstice Advent Calendar: a FREE PDF download provided by The Scientific Homeschool.

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