I’m not religious, like many of my peers in the millennial generation, although I appreciate the presence of traditions. If I had to classify my belief system I would label it ‘spiritual naturalism.’ There is so much magic in the world to appreciate and enjoy. I don’t believe that a supreme being created the mountains and oceans and rivers, but that makes them no less awe inspiring. When I talk about the world with my children I talk about stewardship, informed choices, mutual responsibility and justice for our neighbors near and far. As we reflect on the holiday season, I find myself feeling the need to create an alternative to both the religious and secular versions of ‘Christmas’ also known as ‘December’ or even “basically everything between Halloween and New Years”.
When my daughter asked me about the baby Jesus and how he was connected to Santa, I talked about how different people believe different things. The story of Jesus’ birth is a story some people believe and share and celebrate. Santa, also a story that some people believe, and that The Man has latched onto to force people to buy loads of stuff they don’t need and fulfill his mission of a neoliberal consumerist take over of the planet. We don’t want to buy in to that. In our house we frame our celebrations around the winter solstice and the celebration of calling the Sun back to our side of the earth to warm us.
I think its important to mention the role money plays in all this - because I know for some it is a matter of pride to give their children a special gift at the holidays, which is great. At the same time, it is a privilege to have the time to create homemade gifts, even if the materials are cheap. This is definitely not a one size fits all situation and each family needs to decide what role gifts will play in their holiday celebrations. What is important, I think, is the way we celebrate the holidays - being conscious, mindful and clearly communicating with our kids. Kids are not born expecting a pile of presents under the tree. Its easy to get caught up in the hubbub and sacrifice time that could be spent relaxing and enjoying family or friends in the ‘stress’ of the holiday.
This past December, we spent time with our children instead of at the mall. We baked cookies and drank hot buttered rum. We hung lights and put a tree in our house. We invited our loved ones to join us. We took time to remember what made us happy this year, notice how we have grown, and reflect on what challenged us. We talked about what we want to do in 2015 and how to carry the warmth and love that fills us now with us all the time.
Vincenza Kamwendo has worked in the social justice field for the last fifteen years, with a focus on community development, youth, the arts and non-profit management. She has worked with and led organizations in the U.S. and southern Africa. Currently, Vincenza writes for several social justice blogs. She is also a mother of two mostly fabulous children.