If you, like us, are not religious (but come from a religious Country), Christmas is a hard time to figure out.
If you, like us, opt out of consumerism, Christmas is an even harder time to figure out.
If you, like, us, also raise your children Montessori, you might have to forget about Christmas they way you know it and start making your own traditions.
Sometimes we’re stuck in the traditions we’ve been raised with because it’s hard to leave the known for the unknown, especially when it means going against the flow.
But when you don’t embrace the spiritual aspect of Christmas and don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, Christmas loses lots of its meaning. When you are on the path of being a more conscious consumer, you might feel the need to opt out of any consumeristic event — being it Christmas, Black Friday, summer sales. When on top of that, you raise you children Montessori, you might prefer not to lie to your kids about the existence of a bearded old man flying all over the world on a sleigh to deliver presents.
So what’s left of Christmas?
It might be a family reunion if you have family far away and Christmas is the only time everyone is on holiday from work and can be together under the same roof.
Alex and I, though, are both independent workers and both come from divorced families, so Christmas is no better time than any other to reunite with family.
Our Christmas — making our own traditions
There are so many (all?) aspects of Christmas that go against what we, as a family, believe and stand for, that it’s only normal that we feel like we have to make our own traditions.
Figuring out Christmas, especially after kids, has been a work-in-progress and it’ll still take a few years of trial and error to create our own traditions and make them stick, but at the moment (Oliver is 3.5 and Emily is almost 2) we decided that our Christmas is either a travel or a day like any other.
Last year, we traveled to Sweden and this year we’ll be having lunch with my mom in a chiringuito on the beach, and meet some friends in the afternoon.
I wasn’t going to decorate the house this year because we’re selling everything to leave on our world journey, but my mom surprised the kids with a Christmas treeand we accepted it as it doesn’t go against our beliefs—did you know that the Christmas tree has pagan origins that go back way before they were related to Christianity?
We still don’t have to answer questions about Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus, so we’ll handle that when we get there. Most likely, though, we’ll be straight forward with them.
We don’t do gifts for Christmas. We always buy whatever our kids need—being clothes or toys—when they need it.
Other family’s Christmas ideas
These are some other ideas from like-minded families that you might find helpful to create your own Christmas traditions.
On Santa Claus
Over Christmas, Santa Claus is everywhere. If your kids ask (we’re not there yet) and you want to be honest with them, you can tell them the truth: that it’s a beautiful story about a man who…
As Cristina from Montessori en Casa writes, being honest with them doesn’t mean they won’t want to believe in Santa Claus (her son told her: “I believe he exists because my friend saw him last year”), but believing or not will be 100% their choice, as opposed to something imposed by us adults.
On saying “Merry Christmas”
My kids’ Montessori school wishes everybody “Happy Winter Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, and I love it. I’m not sure I’ll manage to make it my own, but it resonates with me that there’s no place for “Merry Christmas” (a word that has such a strong religious connotation) when you are not Christian.
On giving gifts
A like-minded family of friends decided they each (adults and kids) can choose one gift to enjoy during the winter holidays when the kids are off school. If you want to give gifts, I find this is a great way to do it.
On reuniting with family
This is a hard one, especially if it’s the only time of the year your whole family reunites. I believe it’s all about respect: you need to respect your family’s desire to spend Christmas with you, and they need to respect your need to celebrate Christmas differently.
I find that being honest is the best way to promote respect on both sides, so you might have to have the “Christmas conversation” at some point.
You could opt out of the main meal (24th or 25th, depending on your Country’s traditions).
If you dread the dinner of the 24th because kids end up watching TV while waiting for Santa Claus to then open a mountain of unnecesary gifts, opt out of it, and ask your family to reunite again for breakfast/lunch/tea on the 25th.
If you think the lunch of the 25th would be too long for your kids and you’d rather avoid having to put them in front of the TV, you can tell your family you’ll join them for hot chocolate and panettone (that’d be me ;-) in the afternoon.
If your family lives far away, they probably give gifts to the kids every time they see them, so receiving gifts when they see grandma at Christmas would not be any different in the kids’ mind.
Whether your family lives close or far, though, it’s important you communicate (and be open about) your preferences: you can explain that “we don’t like plastic toys” and/or “our kids have plenty of clothes” and maybe compile a whish list to help them give a gift that is in line with the way you raise your children.
How do you live Christmas in your home?