As a person who holds no religious beliefs, Christmas is nonetheless a time of joy for me and my family. At Christmas and New Year we reflect on the year that has been and anticipate the year to come. I use the term Festive Season more often than Christmas and I embrace everything about it – trees, decorations, lights, stockings, sending cards, presents and feasting. To a religious outsider it may look very materialistic, but to me it is about taking the time and care to spoil those I love. Spoil them with gifts and food and love and song.
Holding no religious beliefs doesn’t mean that I cannot wish people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I focus on the Merry and the Happy of that sentence and mean it when I say it. As I do not deny the existence of a Christ from an historical viewpoint, I do not feel that I must avoid the mention of the word at all. I am more inclined, however, to wish people Good Cheer for the Festive Season for this is more encompassing of my beliefs.
At Christmas time I talk with my children about the story of the birth of Jesus, not as religious instruction but just as we talk about other stories likeRomeo and Juliet or the Battle of Hastings. My children believe (or have believed) in Santa. I ask them to think about why they would believe in Santa (or the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny), but not in the notion of a God; and we take this opportunity to talk about belief. They know that I am an existentialist and that as adults they will develop their own beliefs. They also know that, no matter what they believe, they will be loved.
My children also know that we have family members who are religious: their grandfather, who they spent a lot of time with, was Jewish. My father-in-law embraced the Festive Season with us – especially enjoying the extra time he spent with his grandchildren. We would still place his presents under the tree and encourage him to wear a silly paper hat, but we would also ensure that the food we served was sensitive to his beliefs. This is the first Festive Season without him and we will share stories of him at lunch on Christmas Day.
I cry over the lyrics in Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun when he sings of the seeing his dad, brother and sisters, gran and mum at Christmas; and that when his baby girl grows up although she may be far away they will all be waiting for her on Christmas to join them. I hold my children tight and look at my husband and family and know that this Festive Season is going to be a joyous one.
By Emma Bromley