We Don’t Celebrate Christmas at Our House

My husband grew up with his aunt and uncle who were Jehovah’s Witnesses so Christmases were strained at best. Finally, when my girls were two and five we decided to stop exchanging gifts and cards to celebrate the holiday. My husband had valid reasons that made sense, “Christmas is only a holiday for the retailers.” This melded easily with my religious beliefs and our holidays were made more peaceful and enjoyable. After all, I married the whole man for every day of the year and I would not let a little thing like a holiday tear our family apart. Katie and Chelsey adapted much better than my family members and friends but even they eventually accepted our decision.

To compensate we put other traditions in place of Christmas so they did not feel deprived. Christmas became ‘family time’ and we focused on each other rather than presents and parties. We still gave modest gifts to the girls but I think they reveled in the break in school routine and that they had our full, interrupted attention for at least two full days.

On December 24th we had our annual “Family Sleepover.” To prepare, we made special treats and snacks and my husband would make traditional Peruvian dishes and desserts. We purchased or rented movies from our public library making sure everyone picked favorites. We carried our mattresses into the living room and arranged them so everyone had a good view. Even Jim Bob, the family dog, loved this time and showed us by bouncing from mattress to mattress.

Family Night we donned our pajamas and warm socks and climbed in for the duration. We banned any bedtime hour saying, “The last to fall asleep turns the lights off!” To start we played everyone’s favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We watched “Waking Ned Devine” and had sandwiches then it was “Patton” and snacks and bathroom breaks. We laughed at “The Goonies and revved up for “Batteries Not Included.” “Elf” with Will Ferrell and James Caan is a favorite of mine; just because we don’t celebrate doesn’t mean I don’t like a good story! One by one we nodded off and even Jim Bob would be ready to call it a night.

The 25th would be simple and easy; foods were already prepared and there were no chores for anyone. We’d give the girls their gifts and their smiles were the only presents we could have ever wanted.

Some thought we were depriving our girls of the “joy of Christmas,” so what did we miss out on? We missed the stress of shopping for party clothing or searching for the “perfect gift” for every person on a carefully planned shopping list. We missed the aggravation of long lines in stores and heated exchanges between family members and other customers. We also missed the credit card debts and arguments over budgets and money. No tree was ever wasted for the sake of hanging a string of lights and shiny balls that break so easily. We also did not experience the let down so common after opening gifts in a frenzy. I would state unequivocally that our children were never deprived of joy. They got presents or surprises year round instead of waiting for the angst of a single day.

There is that old question bantered about, “What would Jesus do?” When put in those terms it removes any doubt I might have had about not celebrating a traditional Christmas. I believe Jesus would give approval that we didn’t lie to our children about Santa Claus and cause them to feel sadness and confusion upon learning the truth. I believe Jesus would be supportive that we did not waste money giving gifts that are not needed or wanted and might even be stored away for re-gifting next year. While we don’t celebrate the holiday, I believe Jesus knows what is in our hearts and will give a nod to our reasons and results.

People sometimes look surprised when I say, “We don’t celebrate Christmas.” They often come back with, “Oh, you are Jewish then?” It’s funny to me how some have a need to categorize everyone into a little niche they are familiar with. “Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are you agnostics?” Instead, I think being brought up in our family has taught them tolerance of others and acceptance of all beliefs and customs no matter the culture or religion. That is certainly our true and lasting legacy.

Celebrating or not is a personal decision some make and others just do for their children whatever their parents did for them. The first time the subject came up in my Parents Anonymous Group I got the usual range of comments but in the end all the other parents were very supportive. The other parents did not judge me nor I them as is written in the Parents Anonymous welcome statement. If you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or nothing at all it is your choice and right to do so.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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2 Responses to We Don’t Celebrate Christmas at Our House

  1. Why didn’t your husband continue with the faith he grow up with? If anything Jehovah’s Witnesses do teach strong family values, though like anyone else they are not perfect.


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Since this was written we have learned that he has Asperger’s Syndrome which has a huge affect on his behavior. He does not have empathy and he has the morals of a saint, really. About the religion, my husband was born to parents who were both Catholic, but their relationship was rocky and did not last; it was at that point that the father abandoned the family and the mother sent her children to live with separate family members while she went to work as a live-in maid and caretaker to the employer’s children. My husband lived with Jehovah’s Witnesses who were caring and devout. They did not force him to follow their religion, but he was a voracious reader so he read everything he could lay his hands on. It was about this time when he developed a love of history, not only of biblical times, but of the entire world. His knowledge of world history is incredible; he can tell you about the history of the world, its development, cultures and the wars and even war strategies of the leaders and their names. My husband believes that religion was created to gain and hold power over people. My husband does have strong family values and a strong sense of right and wrong. To give you an example, a few days ago a pharmacist called about one of my daughter’s medications she needed to get filled. I pretended to be my daughter to save time because she moved out of state last month and told him to fill the prescription. I asked my husband to pick up and pay for the medication and we would mail it to her. Since that day, my husband has been having sleep issues and feels very guilty even though no wrong was done. Asperger’s is an unusual condition to have; my husband cannot do anything illegal and he felt that what we did was not right.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses are good people but you are correct in saying they are not perfect, they are as human as anyone else. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, if a wrong is found out and a person is not doing as they are supposed to, they are ‘cast out’ or ‘shunned’ by the other Jehovah’s Witnesses as a means of discipline among their group. If my husband did not have this quirk about history, he might have been a very rigid Jehovah’s Witness. That would be because he has Asperger’s.

      Since we have learned he has Asperger’s, all our lives have gotten somewhat better. I talk with him different than I would have before. As an example, when my 30-year-old daughter was having a male friend come visit, I told him a month before the expected visit and again every few days until he arrived. Change in routine is difficult for my husband to deal with, but by letting him know ahead of time and reminding him, he was able to get used to the idea.

      To get back to your original question, my husband does not believe in religion since they were all invented by man. However, I stake my life on my husband’s honesty, loyalty and faithfulness. He is very industrious and driven to learn. I dare say that my husband is as good as or better than anyone in most religion.


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