Christmas time is a magical time in many families. Our family is no different. Yet, it is no big secret that my family is not one for religious celebrations. We do not attend any kind of religious services. I am not baptised, my children are not either. P and I didn't have a religious wedding. So why do we celebrate Christmas? Christmas is, after all, the main Christian holiday.
For our family, Christmas is all about the spirit. Not the holy spirit, but the emotions, actions and celebrations people across the world engage in during that time. Christmas is about the spirit of community, the family time, the music, the food, the lights, amongst many other things. As this article puts it, religious celebrations and religions "are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone".
In our family, we celebrate Christmas without celebrating Christmas.
We celebrate nature and winter. Our decorations are not about Jesus or angels. We have no nativity scene. Instead we decorate our house with colourful baubles, lights, snow flakes, twine, branches, chestnuts, oranges, etc. We do not have a green pine Christmas tree. We have had simple branches as trees. We currently use recycled wood shaped into a tree form. We collect things in the woods to decorate (pine cones, branches, holly) and enjoy nature at the same time despite the colder weather.
We celebrate our families and each other. Yes, we do buy each other gifts. Santa is alive in our house and he does deliver his fair share of gifts to the children. We don't go overboard but we do like to treat our families when we can. It is a way to show them our appreciation for things they may have done for us over the past year or just to share our love and humour too. When I was a child, my parents used to love playing tricks on us and our first gift was always a joke gift. I will always remember receiving a tube full of balls on a spring (no need to explain what happened when I opened it).
We celebrate food. This is what we do best. I love baking for children, friends and colleagues gatherings (more gingerbread marshmallows?). But food is at its best around the Christmas table. We cook as a family. My mother and husband do the main course. I am in charge of desert and the kids and grandpa prepare the "aperitif". We cook non-traditional Christmas food with local quality ingredients. We never have turkey. Beef Wellington, macarons and dulce de leche cookies spring to mind.
We celebrate others: this year we have taken part in a gift exchange with another child in Australia. We have swapped cards with 3 other families worldwide. I usually go on a clearing up mission just before Christmas too and give away toys and clothes that we don't need anymore.
We celebrate music: P and I will sing our hearts out to Fairytale of New York every morning during breakfast (while LJ and Baby E look on in shock). LJ will belt out Petit Papa Noël for 50th time that day on her way back from Kindergarten.
We celebrate so much more. In the run up to Christmas, we can be found in the forest, at the Christmas markets, in the woods, at the crafting table, in our kitchen, at the Post Office (expats shipping gifts) or at the dinner table with our families instead of in a church. One is not exclusive of the other, of course. But this is how we like it and Christmas is no less magical in our house.