I'm just curious, as an theist parent, do you celebrate Christmas? And, if so, what do you tell your kids about Christmas?
I've always told my kids (in short summary) the religious tradition of Christmas, but that we celebrate it because of tradition, not religion.
I have told everyone in my family that Xmas was not important to us, and I would rather have a nice dinner with family than anything else. My birthday is about that time, cards with large bills are always appreciated.
If it's all the same to you Blaine, I prefer Saturnalia:
In 45 B.C.E., the 25th of December was established in the Julian calendar as the winter solstice of Europe, centering upon the night of December 24th, leading into December 25th. From Roman times, in memory of the Golden Age of Man - a mythical age when Saturn was said to have ruled - a great Roman feast commemorating the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn was celebrated as the time of Saturnalia. During Saturnalia, roles of master and slave were reversed, moral restrictions loosened, and the rules of etiquette ignored, much like any given weekend at my place.
A couple of Saturnalian customs you may readily recognize, were eating human-shaped pastries (the modern-day Gingerbread Man) and going from house to house, singing naked in the streets (modern-day caroling, or again, any given weekend at my place).
The celebration was originally only one day long, taking place on December 17th, but over time, it was expanded to one week, culminating on what Western culture now knows as Christmas Eve.
The Saturnalia, however, was influenced by an even earlier tradition, having taken place in Rome's pre-empire era, while Rome was still a mere kingdom, and also included drinking and merriment. Influenced by the ancient Greek Lenaia festival, Brumalia (the name is derived from the Latin word bruma, meaning "shortest day"), ceremonies continued for a month, ending December 25th.
Many believe that Christians in the fourth century assigned December 25th as the birthday of their religion’s namesake because pagans already observed this day as special, thus sidestepping the problem of eliminating an already popular holiday, while more easily Christianizing the "pagan" population.
It's certainly no coincidence that many religious groups set aside this time as being special, with Christmas for the Christians, Chanuka, for the Jews, and Al-Hijra, the Islamic new year, for the Muslims, all occurring on or around the time of the Winter Solstice in December.
One can see how Early Man, likely fearing that the shrinking sun might continue to dwindle and never return, took a simple cosmological event - the earth, positioned at 23.5 degrees from vertical, slowly turning in it's orbit, allowing the southern hemisphere to receive a greater percentage of direct sunlight - filtered that through His fear and imagination, and buried the intellectual pursuit of the actual cause beneath impenetrable layers of superstition and religious dogma.
So always remember - the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere is the reason for the season! (That's sun, not son --)
And if you want your December greeting to be as valid as anyone else's, feel free to wish everyone a "Swingin' Saturnalia!" - it's certainly more appropriate than "Merry Christmas," and it easily beats, "Bah! Humbug!"
(Just a word of caution - I'd probably confine that whole "singing naked in the street" thing to areas that allowed for an easy and rapid exit, but maybe that's just me --)
And although I've posted this before, and likely will again around Christmas, this is dedicated specifically to Emily, who, judging by the 2011 publication date of this recycled discussion, may no longer be watching:
lol, so awesome, i have to share this.
Glad you liked it!
My husband and i dont have children yet but we do know we want to celebrate christmas with them. I guess we"ll tell them that there was a santa clause in germany a long time ago but he didnt fly around the world and he's dead now. and we celebrate it because it really has nothing to do with god or religion. Just close family time and that should be celebrated all year around.
I see nothing wrong with Santa Claus - the fable brings SO much joy to little children, and trust me, they outgrow it SO quickly - then they get the thrill of helping Mom and Dad play Santa with the next child down the line, it makes them feel grown up, part of the "in" group.
I do believe there is harm with telling kids some guy is watching them and sending them presents once a year. that man was real at one point but he's dead now. i believe that is the first big lie we are told as children and i dont believe there is a point in telling children that lie at all. why wait for your children to learn that you lied to them?
We celebrate the solstice. The christian myth has Jesus's birthday in the summer anyway, not in the winter. They moved it to take over the Pagan festival. That simple.