I occasionally get asked why I celebrate Christmas if I don’t believe in God. Like a lot of people, I was christened when I was a baby. We weren’t a family of churchgoers, however, I was a Brownie, I attended Sunday School, took part in nativity plays, and I even sang in the church choir for a brief time, but as I turned into a teenager, my opinions grew too, and I eventually arrived at a conclusion that would label me an atheist.
So why celebrate Christmas? It’s no secret that this isn’t my favourite time of the year. For some reason, I really struggle mentally with it and get full of anxiety and sadness. It’s never really been a problem, but since having kids I’ve felt the pressure to pull some cheer out of the bag. So what do I do? I think about all the things I loved about Christmas as a child. I loved the traditions. The stocking hung on the door handle that I knew would have a satsuma stuffed in the toe and sneaking into my brothers room so we could open them together. The bacon butties that my Dad would make for our breakfast, and the feast that my Mum would prepare for the whole family with grandparents (including great-grandparent) and my uncle squished around the table on a mismatch of dining chairs, computer chairs and a piano stool. Raising a glass to absent friends and family was always poignant and important. The pulling of crackers and the telling of terrible jokes was as standard as being made to wear your paper hat for the entire day, and the adults getting tipsy before nodding off on the sofa late in the afternoon.
Our kids are 4 and 3 attending reception and nursery school. In previous years we have asked family not to go overboard, and we haven’t bought anything new for them ourselves. Second-hand sites on Facebook have served us well-bringing trains, small world play, books and a wooden garage into our home for a tiny fraction of the price they would have been new, but the introduction of school has brought greater pressures this year. We will still try and keep it low key though – there won’t be an elf on a shelf keeping an eye on my kids’ behavior and reporting back to Father Christmas, there won’t be a social media display of presents under the tree, Christmas Eve boxes will be shunned in favour of snuggling on the sofa and reading The Night Before Christmas before Mr TDF and I get tiddly and bring the presents down from the loft. Then on the morning of the 25th, our kids will be beyond excited to see all the presents appear – presents they know that although Father Christmas has delivered, they have been bought for them by family.
These are the things I will be taking forward to create traditions for my family – a celebration of family coming together with good food and wine. Perhaps taking the dog for a walk together but whatever we do, being together and having our hearts full of love and laughter. Will my kids take part in a nativity at some point in the future? I’m sure they will. Will I still enjoy singing Mary’s Boy Child at the top of my voice until the kids ask me to stop? Definitely, and that is ok. Christmas will mean different things for everyone – for us, it will be a celebration of family coming together.