A few Xmases ago I bumped into an acquaintance who was busy Xmas-shopping. The acquaintance asked me if I, too, was shopping for Xmas presents and I said no, because I’m not a Christian. The acquaintance (feeling clever) countered with the thing about Xmas really being Pagan. I countered with, “But I’m not Pagan, either.” Acquaintance finished with: “Well I’m glad I’m not *your* kid!” I said: “Me too!”
A few days ago, Daughter and I were off on a little evening adventure to buy some groceries. On the way to the store we passed through a cloud of Xmas Shoppers. “Look at all these tricked people!” she said. “Exactly!” I said. I squeezed her hand. We bought our groceries. Yes, I was proud.
But I didn’t raise her to disbelieve in Xmas because I’m a Marxist (Americans need bourgeois roots for that, I think) or because I believe in Satanism (which is merely a branch of Christianity, after all). What I remember about Xmas, as a child, was looking forward to it the whole year; as soon as the day arrived, and the presents were unwrapped, a sort of mild depression slowly set in, and everything was downhill until, a year later, Xmas returned. I didn’t want my child living for one day every year.
I also didn’t want Ritualized Materialism being Trojan-Horsed into her sense of the Normal. As the Jesuits used to say: give me your child for seven years and I will give you the man. Or the woman. Someone’s going to be shaping our Daughter’s mind, either way, so I prefer that it’s her parents. It helps that we don’t keep a TV.
The tricky part is raising her to be different without raising her to be isolated. We aren’t some hippy sect. She has lots of friends, goes to a normal middle class school and has a room full of toys. We never tried to hide Xmas or Easter from her… but, in the case of Easter, for example, we came up with an alternative “holiday” to counter the Easter Bunny (who bribes kids into believing in Jesus using chocolate: brilliant): Wester. I won’t go into it in detail here but I’ll say that it’s lots more fun than Easter and happens a week *after* it. Clever, no?
Strangely, we didn’t even need to come up with an alternate festival to counter the pernicious influence of Xmas on Daughter… it just never grabbed her. Perhaps it’s the absence of Television?
The Bearded, Vaguely-Levantine, Anus-Free Sky Giant’s blessing be upon you!