Every year, I’ve struggled with what to do with Bug for Easter. Partially, it’s because he’s feral and doing nice things always backfires spectacularly. But mostly, it’s because I have a hard time figuring out how to explain what exactly we’re celebrating or why. I had this same struggle with Christmas (which is actually much more difficult to give context outside of a religious framework), and honestly, I can’t rationalize why I love it so much beyond the togetherness and the lights. I really do love Christmas lights.
Resa, what are you talking about? These are holidays to celebrate our Lord and Savior, reason for the season, ARE YOU A PERPETUATOR OF THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!?
Here’s the thing
I don’t believe in God. Or the Bible. Or Jesus. Or Muhammad, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Xenu, whatever. I don’t believe that an external higher power exists. My personal experiences led me to question my belief in these things. Investigation, research, and deep introspection answered those questions and have brought me to a value system based on reason and rationality. While I’m always pleased to answer questions about my experiences and beliefs, that’s not what this is about.
Noooo, this is about figuring out how to navigate holidays as an atheist with a kid. And it’s not easy. Have you seen Pinterest? It’s like every other printable is for devotionals, every third craft tutorial has some kind of cutesy biblical tie-in, and everything else is way too complex for my animal of a child.
So what do we do? How do I explain these holidays to my kid? I mean, Bug notwithstanding, I’m already asked a lot of odd questions.
Do atheists celebrate holidays?
Well, we’re not Jehovah’s witnesses, sooo..
But seriously, a lot of people have asked me “If you’re an atheist, why do you celebrate Christmas or Easter?” And for a time, I struggled with the answer. Why would I celebrate holidays based in religion when I’m not a subscriber to faith? I wouldn’t celebrate Ramadan, why Christmas or Easter?
I grew up celebrating both. Yes, of course, we had nativities in the house and we went to church on Easter Sunday, but we also had a Christmas tree (a Pagan tradition adapted by the Roman Catholics who took to converting the Pagans, because fir trees are not indigenous to Bethlehem) and we did Easter egg hunts (also a Pagan adaptation – eggs? A sign of rebirth? No, fool, Easter’s origins are a celebration of fertility and baby makin’).
So why wouldn’t I keep celebrating? Easter egg hunts were so fun, and touring neighborhoods to view Christmas lights, hot chocolate in gloved hands is still a favorite winter pastime.
But then what are you celebrating?
Therein lies the rub. What exactly are we celebrating? Why am I whipping my kid and home and self into a pastel-colored, sugar coated frenzy over bunnies and eggs? Why did I scour pinterest to find different, pre-schooler-friendly ways to decorate eggs? I DON’T EVEN LIKE EGGS!
Well, I’ve chosen to approach the holidays as celebrations of the respective seasons and the feelings they evoke. Spring is a time for growth, when flowers re-emerge from the snow-packed earth (because we totally get snow in Southern California), when the weather is good enough to actually play outside and plan to go for daily runs (but really we’ll just wear yoga pants all day and not go running because we hates it). And it’s a good excuse to do big, messy crafts.
Christmas to us is a celebration of kindness, togetherness, and sharing, because winter is a perfect time to snuggle up and be good to one another. And that’s worth celebrating. Also, like I said, I like the lights.
But these celebrations aren’t exactly rational. What’s up with that?
Fun doesn’t have to be rational. It’s really that simple. We just do what we find fun.
Granted, I struggle with the Santa and Easter Bunny thing. Make-believe is fun and all, but when it’s integrated into daily life for a good month-ish, my eyebrow does this thing and my brain gets all “noooope.”
In fact, I’ve been pretty straight forward with Bug about who makes his Easter basket (mostly for behavior leverage), and his dad and I go back and forth every Christmas about Santa. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we’ll just roll with the Santa thing kinda casually – he might get one or two presents from Santa, but the rest come from us and other family members. And because the movie Elf culminates in Santa’s rescue.
In short, I’m not telling Bug either character isn’t real, but I’m definitely not making a big thing about them either. But there’s no way I’m doing the whole creepy Elf on the Shelf thing.
The Hard Part
So I suppose that this isn’t actually that great of a struggle, but it’s also a little scary to “come out” like this. There’s always a bit of a fear of being perceived (and consequently treated) differently for being “godless” (which I’ve learned isn’t synonymous with morality either way). But then again, I’ve also gotten to this point in life where I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to recognize when someone isn’t my people. And that’s okay.
How do your beliefs (theistic or non-theistic) influence your approach to holiday celebrations? Tell me in the comments!