I grew up in a Christian home, attending church every Sunday until around 13 when I had a crisis of faith. Burdened with questions and thoughts that could never be answered, I turned away from religion. I never lost interest in it though, even studying it in university.
When my son was born, and then later my daughters, his father and I decided not to raise our children to any one religion, but instead to open their world to all different forms of religion and spirituality. Living in a large multicultural city makes it easy for my children to see people from all walks of life and allows them to be inquisitive when they like.
Despite not being religious, Christmas was always my favorite time of year, particularly given how important tradition was. So much so that when living in Chicago, I drove through a snowstorm on Christmas Eve to be home for my nephew’s first Christmas; not arriving until 3 am Christmas Day.
It is those traditions that I have passed onto my children, and new traditions that I have started just for them. I have instilled in them that above all else, above the trips to see Santa and the presents and all the yummy food, that we are with the people that we care about, the ones we love and the ones who love us in return.
One of the traditions I started my son’s first Christmas was for him to receive a Christmas package from Santa on Christmas Eve with one new book in it. When the kids are in their jammies, they carefully pry open their packages addressed to them and discover a new Christmas book, which we then cuddle altogether and read before they excitedly head to bed for the next day. It’s a moment of quiet and stillness amongst the Christmas tree lights, just the four of us excited for what the next day might bring. It is simple, yes, but that time of year is already so special that we do not have to do much to make it more so.
People often speak of the Christmas season, and to me it is more than just the one day. It is the opening of the advent calendar, the visiting of the lights, the singing of carols, the buying, the wrapping, and the eating, always so much eating, and importantly, always, together. The season is special because we take the time we don’t normally. We pick out gifts together and draw cards or bake cookies. We laugh and sing and bedtimes are pushed back. We watch the Grinch and decorate the tree and do the same things I did as a child, making them that much more special.
Christmas has always been special but once my nephews were born it became extra special, and then more so with the birth of my own children. Getting to re-experience the joy of Christmas through them has reawakened in me why I clung to Christmas, despite turning away from my religious upbringing and why the spirit seems to sweep through the city amongst those who may not even celebrate.
My parents continue to celebrate Christmas by attending church and service. When my children ask about it, I explain why they do that and why we do not. Just as I have explained to them the Hanukkah lights and what Ramadan is. I am not preventing my children from understanding or knowing the history of Christmas, in fact, I encourage them to be knowledgeable about all forms of religion and spirituality so that they can choose their own path.
As my children get older, I hope that the magic of Christmas continues, that the tradition of being near the family that we were born into and the family that we created will continue. That one day, I will get to watch as they introduce Christmas to their own children; watching as they take traditions that my parents started and make them their own while incorporating their own ideas, the traditions of their partner’s family, mixing and melding until it becomes their own special holiday that I will hopefully be a part of.
Alyssa Keel has worked as a social worker in both Canada and the U.S. for several years. Living in Toronto, Alyssa is a single mum to a rambunctious four-year- old boy and amazing two-year-old identical twin girls, one of whom has Cerebral Palsy. During her high risk mono-mono twin pregnancy, Alyssa began blogging, an extension of her love of writing. Alyssa loves taking photos and impromptu dance parties with her kids. Follow Alyssa and her family’s adventures at adventureswithmultiples.com.
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