My First Secular Christmas


Photo Credit: Holly Anissa Photography

A beautifully lit Christmas Tree is all you really need for the Christmas spirit, right?

Ayden Terry, Reporter

For most of my life Christmas came hand in hand with guilt and seasonal depression. The seasonal depression is easily explained, given the fact that it’s now winter, Idaho gets bad inversions, and the cold makes it hard to go outside. The guilt, however, comes from the way we celebrated Christmas. Short answer: not good enough. 

My family was part of a religion that really emphasized the importance of the Christ part in Christmas. There were programs and videos and expectations. I have probably watched some variation of the Nativity scene over 20 times. If I was especially unlucky, I saw the same video of the nativity scene multiple times in a row in one year. 

Most families in our religion seemed good at this aspect in their lives. Christmas was entirely about Jesus’s birthday. Assuming Jesus was actually born on the 25th, which I don’t believe he was. 

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with that way of celebrating. There’s nothing wrong with any way of celebrating or even not celebrating. But I still felt like I was doing it wrong. As a child I cared about the presents more than doing service, I hated watching the Nativity videos, I dreaded Christmas Sunday, and disliked the religious Christmas songs we had to sing. None of that was acceptable.

My church taught that the secular form of celebrating was allowed, as long as you emphasized on the religious version more. I always felt as a family and as an individual, the balance was off, and for that, I was a bad person. 

However, this year marks the first year that I no longer have to celebrate Christmas in a religious manner. When my family went through a faith transition, there were a lot of things we didn’t expect to be different. Christmas was one of the things I didn’t even consider. As the holiday season approaches though, it has occurred to me that my position as a celebrator has completely shifted. 

I don’t believe in Santa or Jesus anymore, so what does that leave me with? Well, I’ve decided that leaves me with whatever I want. As much as I wished for it as a child, I still don’t believe Christmas should be all about the gifts. Or at least just receiving them. And I don’t think I need to be a good person for the sake of exaltation. Instead I want this Christmas to be about reexamination. About my place in the world. 

And that means I’ll spend time with my family, and I’ll try to serve others, and I’ll be grateful for the year we just finished. I’m also planning on eating a whole bunch of cranberry coffee cake which is a family tradition I don’t ever plan on leaving behind. 

I guess it turns out that not much has changed at all. I still get to celebrate Christmas in similar ways, but finally, it’s because it’s my choice. It has become the definition that I chose and not one that was put on me. 

So Merry Christmas to a guilt-free me!