Twas the Night Before Christmas...

I can't believe it's already Christmas. We love, love, love hosting Christmas dinner at our house each year, and this year there's so much more to look forward to! So many traditions to pass on, and so many new ones yet to start. Christmas really is about Believing. Miracles. Love. It's all of those things, and so much more now.

Before we put Boo to bed for the night, we told him the story of Santa Claus. The story we haven't told him is the original, religious story of Christmas. It's a story I am quite frankly a bit apprehensive to tell him, because I am not comfortable with it myself. Religion is a touchy topic, especially these days in the U.S., and I have no doubt what I am about to write will make some of you uncomfortable, some of you angry, and will also make some of you nod in agreement. Regardless, it's my blog, and it's something that's been on my mind since Boo was born, so you can either continue reading with the understanding that these are my beliefs and my experiences, which I do not intend to impose upon anyone else, or you can stop reading right now. As always with blogs, the choice is yours.

I grew up in a heavily Roman Catholic family, but I stopped going to church sometime during college (even the obligatory midnight mass came to an end a few years back for me). Don't get me wrong, I do believe. I believe in the wonder of many religious beliefs. I am in love with the stories and the faith and the magic of them all. But I do not believe in church itself.

This disengagement, for me, began possibly as early as around 10 years old, when nobody could ever give me a serious, straight answer for my very serious 10-year-old questions about God - not the priest, not the nuns, not my parents, not my friends, not anything I read (including the Bible) - and when I wanted to find answers about anything, I read a lot. My family went to church every Sunday, and my parents have become very active in their church. I am very proud of them for their faith and their active participation in that community. It is simply not for me, and it never was. I have fond memories of the singing and the stories of hope and faith and the kindness of strangers and going out for lunch as a special treat on Sundays (like I've said before, I have always loved good food)... but I was put off by the constant sermons that attempted to make me feel guilty about living, that told horrible tales of suffering without reasonable explanation, that included hearty moral contradictions within the same sermon. That, and I could never keep still in church, nor could I keep quiet. And I also got kicked out of summer Bible school when I was of elementary school age. I think, in part, because the teacher had no answers for my constant barrage of questions. No concrete ones, anyway. But, I digress...

My husband doesn't come from a very religious background. His father is Jewish and his mother is Protestant, but he says they never really talked about religion, nor did they go to church. He attended midnight mass with me a couple of times early on in our relationship. The best part for him was the "Peace by with you" part. I always forget, but I like that part too. It's a great feeling to reach across the pew, shake hands with a stranger, and offer a greeting of peace with a smile. That gentle gesture was a nice part of church.

Anyway, we've talked about how we are going to handle religion with our baby boy. I don't think we've come to any conclusion, however. I'd like to be able to take him to priests and rabbis and ministers and so on, to have him learn about all of the different religions of the world. Catholicism. Judaism. Hinduism. It's all very, very fascinating and part of me wants him to be able to have all of the information possible so he can make a decision about religion that is right for him. I want him to see the absolute faith that people hold across the globe, in whatever their faith may be. I want him to never be afraid to question. I hope he finds faith in the good, the kind-hearted, the beauty of the world's differences.

This all comes to a climax now, of course, as Christmas approaches. I am sure we'll tell him the story of Jesus someday, but not yet. He still has to experience the wonders of his baby world, and come to understand the everyday miracles that life here on earth brings. Christmas, for us, is about Love and Family. Believing in the goodness of mankind. Helping others. Appreciating life and each other.

To anyone reading this: Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice or the simple beginning of another beautiful year on earth, I wish you and yours all the happiness in the world. May you find love, belief, and goodness this season. May you continue to share your heart, your goodwill, with others in the year to come. May you continue to blog and read blogs with an open heart and an open mind.

Happy Holidays, to one and all!


betty said...

That was very well written! I can relate to your feelings completely. When I was in college, I was curious about religion, and went to different denominational Christian churches to try to explore it. I went in with an open mind. I asked lots of questions, but ultimately made a decision that it was not for me. I just saw so much that made me feel so uncomfortable and left me with bad feelings that I eventually decided it was not for me. After I stopped going to one church, the minister actually called me and yelled and chastised me like a little kid. He tried to scare me into believing that something bad was going to happen to me because I had stopped going! I couldn't believe what I was hearing!

The only church so far that DH and I are interested in is the Unitarian one. They believe that there can be many truths in many different religions, and the only way that we can find the truth is to continue searching. They don't believe that any one religion is the right one.

Another religion that we're interested in is Buddhism.

Now that my DD is in school, she has had some experiences that we're not sure how to deal with in the best way. She has had teachers and students tell her that she MUST believe in GOD...meaning you must believe in a Christian God...or you will never get to Heaven! DH and I are upset about this, especially about teachers making these types of random comments to her. We don't think it's the place of public schools teachers to be doing this.

I have a sister who is a born-again Christian. She has tried to convert my 7-year old nephew to Christianity without the knowledge of his parents. When they found out, they were furious and that led to a shouting match between the 2 of them.

I have had a small confrontation with my sister about this issue too in relation to my DD.

We've explained to DD that people have many different religious belief systems, and that they vary from family to family. We've explained a little bit about our own beliefs, and she seems satisfied now. We just don't want to see people forcing their own beliefs onto our DD without our knowledge.

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