Monday, December 15, 2008

the meaning of Christmas?

I'm struggling a bit with the holiday this year.

We are not religious. I guess I'd say that I believe in some kind of higher power(s), but I wouldn't specifically call myself a Christian, or any other religion. We always celebrated Christmas, but more as a family and gift-giving holiday, and not recognizing any religious meaning.

It bothers me that it has become so commercial. The meaning of the holiday now seems to be a way for the retail industry to separate consumers from their money, or further encourage them to live beyond their means and put it all on credit. I'm tired of the expectation created by society that we need to give gifts to everyone, that it's "sad" if a child doesn't get a whole pile of new toys for Christmas. When I tell her that we're really not into buying presents for each other this year, my mother is constantly insisting that everyone "needs something to open" on Christmas.

I don't want that. I don't want people expecting gifts from me. I don't want people thinking I expect gifts from them. I really don't want my children learning to expect a big pile of presents.

But without either of these now 'traditional' meanings of Christmas - either giving gifts, or a religious signficance - what should Christmas be for our family? What should it mean to me, or what should I teach my children about it?

What do you do?


Anonymous said...

We spend time together and minimize the gifts (which we give to kids only and only immediate family like nieces/nephews).

I've never been religious, but I did enjoy the atmosphere of midnight mass the few times I went (in my 20s with a boyfriend).

I'm trying to reinstitute the old tradition my husband and I had of skiing on Christmas day. I think it'll work once the kids are older. For now, we're going to teach our 3.5yo to skate.

serenity said...

There's more to the giving spirit than just toys and presents - that's what we're going to focus on with Baby O.

Time, for example. The gift of spending time with family, which personally is what I get most out of Christmas.

But also, I get a thrill of giving a gift to someone, too. Maybe that gift is homemade chocolate peppermint bark instead of a pile of presents. But making someone a gift is a way for me to recognize that person in my life, rather than an obligation to be a consumer.

Our hope is that Baby O learns through us that the "christmas spirit" is less about the consumerism around Christmas and more about giving of himself to others.

Don't know if this makes sense; it's such a fine distinction between consumerism and giving.

beagle said...

I think the very fact that stores start "selling" Christmas in October makes it hard to keep an true meaning in perspective. We struggle too with the gift giving and in a family situation it's kind of nice to have everyone on the same page (nice but unrealistic for most, I'm finding anyway) So, every year we say we'll scale down but when it's all over it still ends up feeling like there was a little too much shopping and not enough reflection.

But at home, in our immediate family of three, this year is all about lights and a tree and stockings and santa and just trying to create a festive spirit without a mountain of gifts.

How many toys does a 6 month old need anyway?

It's a good question you raise, but I'm not sure of the answer.

Sarah said...

it kind of reminds me of my wedding - i thought it was about me but it turned out to really be about the people who love me and needed to be there (my mom especially). i'm so late in catching up on blogs that this is maybe a moot point but i'm wondering how the actual holiday might have affected your feelings about this. having kids around seems to put the magic back in christmas for me, and they are able to delight in so many small wonders it doesn't seem to matter much (at least at this age) what the commercial value of the gifts are.