Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting ready for Yule.

My son is going on four and he is already asking why we don't celebrate Christmas "like everybody else". I have had myriad answers for him:

"We are not Christians. Christians celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Yule."

"We are Witches, and we aren't like everybody else."

"We celebrate our holiday many of the same ways the Christians celebrate theirs. Everything you love about Christmas are also Yule celebrations! We will trim a tree, have a feast, invite people over, bake sweets, exchange gifts, hang lights."

It doesn't help that his grandparents (and when he's there, TV commercials) are pushing Christmas- HARD. He came home from a weekend with them talking about it incessantly. I am sure he saw lots of Christmas hype on their TV. And then he said, "I wanna celebrate Christmas."

So I said, "You are going to celebrate Christmas when we are with your grandparents. And we as a family also celebrate Yule."

Then he replied. I wanna celebrate Christmas for the right reason." (Uh oh.)

"What do you mean?", I asked.

"I don't want to tell you." (Hmmm. That isn't good and smells of deceptive indoctrination...)

"Sweetie, you can tell me anything. You know that. Please tell me why it is important to you.", I pressed.

"JESUS." (OK, confirmation of my fears.)

"Well, Christians believe that Jesus was the son of a god. And they celebrate Christmas as his birthday party (never mind it actually isn't his birthday, according biblical scholars). But WE do not believe that Jesus was anything more than a cool guy who said some important things in his day. When you are older, you will be free to seek out any or no religion at all, once you can actually understand them and what they offer. But while you are little, we do things as a family, a team. We are the Kunnings Three, remember?"

That brings a smile to his face. He loves being one of the Kunnings Three.

So now, I am getting him ready to celebrate Yule. With the media onslaught that happens this time of year, I cannot blame him for wanting to be a part of it. And I refuse to take part in the onslaught that celebrates it too early. So after Thanksgiving, we erect a tree and such.

He gets such propaganda from commercials and all his favorite shows (all kids shows feature Santa this time of year) that we need to show him that our traditions are fun and good, too. Cuz frankly, who throws a religious party better than Witches? (No one, that's who.)

He spent another weekend with the grandparents after Thanksgiving. He is coming home this evening. Then he will help us put up a tree, drink hot cocoa, and we'll start teaching him seasonal songs.

On the 1st, we will start the advent calendar (in the shape of a tree, that counts to 21). Inside each drawer is a treat or a slip of paper saying what fun thing we get to do that day. We will teach him songs, let him help cook and bake, light the yule log, and on our actual celebration, we will let him stay up and revel with us (we stay up all night to see the sunrise). I am sure he will fall asleep long before dawn, but being a part of something big and festive is important.

Only after we do our family traditions will he get Christmas, with his grandparents.

How do you celebrate the seasons, especially with little ones? How do you deal with the crass commercialism, the overwhelming Christianity, and extended family that are probably not the same religion as you (and perhaps trying to sway your kid to their point of view)?


  1. Christmas in Norway is called Jul. It's a lot more secular than in some other countries. I celebrate on the Solstice, with family on Christmas Eve, and on my own, or with a friend, on Hoggunótt (Jan 12). So I get to celebrate 3 times :) My daughter joins me in parts of the Solstice celebration. Someone at daycare tried to indoctrinate her once, but it didn't take. She seems to be going heathen all on her own.

  2. My kids are still little, 20 months and 3 years. My husband was raised Christian but doesn't practice, and likes Christmas more for Santa than Jesus. I try to mix traditions and incorporate Yule symbology along with the more traditional Santa Christmas stuff. Our tree decorations include apples and birds, and some Yule appropriate stories will accompany Twas the night before Christmas.

  3. My family is a mix of Christian, Jewish, and Pagan, so we do a lot of celebrating this time of year. For the holidays that aren't religious, we plan on teaching our son that they are family holidays of togetherness and to celebrate the things that are important to our loved ones, even if they're not beliefs we personally share. If your parents are pushing Christian beliefs hard, I think you just need to be direct and remind them that you are the parent here, and they need to tone it down.

  4. I have told my children how Christmas and Yule are basically the same thing - the birthing of the sun/son.

    That the roman catholic church put a different spin on the sun, but it amounts to the same thing - Jesus being the sun/son and the 12 disciples being the 12 houses of the zodiac. On the 25th December the sun/son - after seeming to rise in the same position on the horizon for 3 days begins again its movement through the zodiac = the birth of the sun/son.

    It's a recurring cycle that changes according to the age (Jesus=Pisces), but represents the same timeless story of the sun and its course through the heavens.

  5. You can also remind the Christians in your life that not only was it not actually Jesus' birthday on December 25, but there is nowhere in the Bible that he asked people to celebrate it! (much less celebrate by buying a bunch of crap that no one needs and going in debt in the process) We are Christians who don't celebrate Christmas in the traditional way - it's such a load of crap, and I think Jesus would have agreed!

    Our kids are 14, 11 and 3. When "we want to do Christmas like everyone else" complaints arise, we just try to get to the root of it and find some compromise. Want sugar cookies? Fine, we go watch the free screening of Elf on Christmas Eve at the local brewery/movie theater and they give out cookies and hot cocoa. Want presents from Santa? Well, that's not gonna happen since we all know that's just a silly story, but they can open some presents (mostly from those extended family members who do Christmas). We do make sure to schedule something fun for the day since there are expectations from family and society, but that fun thing is not opening piles of presents or visiting extended family - it's more like going for a snowy hike, going to watch a new movie, putting together a giant puzzle, building a big cardboard fort, etc.

    One day, I'd like to just start traveling during the holidays. Go somewhere with a beach and have drinks and let the kids run in the waves and ignore the commercialism and silliness of the holidays.


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