We Do Not Celebrate Christmas Like Most Folks


Chelsey and Katie enjoyed our annual family sleepover with movie marathons and Jim Bob the poodle bouncing from bed to bed.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | December 17, 2014

My husband grew up with his aunt and uncle who were Jehovah’s Witnesses so Christmases for us 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.

Everyone helped plan easy-to-prepare foods and Mr. Ramirez made traditional Peruvian dishes and desserts.

To compensate we put other traditions in place of Christmas so they were not deprived. Christmas became our family time and we focused on each other rather than buying and wrapping presents. We continued to give modest gifts to the girls but I think they reveled in the break from school routine and that they had our full, interrupted attention for at least two full days.

On December 24th we enjoyed our annual “Family Sleepover.” To prepare, we made special treats and snacks and my husband would make traditional Peruvian dishes and desserts. We purchased and borrowed 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.

The only things we missed out on were shopping pressures, crowded stores, higher electric bills and January credit card debt.

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.

Revised from November 28, 2012 Article

PHILANTHROPY RESOURCES

Please remember food pantries and homeless shelters when thinking about donations. Parents Anonymous is a favorite of mine, too. A cousin of mine buys a school desk for children in other countries. I have donated to help teachers buy school supplies in North Carolina. There is so much need in the world, deciding where to donate can be fun for the entire family. Below are several resources for evaluating the entities that benefit:

Non-Profit & Charity Evaluators (Lists several info resources and tips)

Charity Navigator

Charity Watch

GuideStar

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

Animal Charity Evaluators

PHOTO: Courtesy of Jolante van Hemert Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Dave O Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Richard Collinson Under Flicker/CC License.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

New Jersey 24-Hour Family Helpline: 1-800-THE-KIDS

Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686
E-mail: PANJInfo@PAofNJ.org
Website: PA-OF-NJ.org

Join the Online Support Group
Wednesdays 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. EST
Thursdays 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST

Facebook: Parent Rap

Parents Anonymous® Inc.
Phone: (909) 621-6184
Fax: (909) 621-0614
Website: ParentsAnonymous.org

National Parent Helpline
1-855-4A PARENT OR 1-855-427-2736
Hours: Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST

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.
This entry was posted in Holiday, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to We Do Not Celebrate Christmas Like Most Folks

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, my friend. Many hugs and best wishes for peace in the new year. Our relatives arrive Saturday from Peru and we are not sure when they will be leaving. ❤

      Like

  1. Sounds to me like you have a WONDERFUL christmas with your daughters, and you can do that since everyone doesn’t have to go to bed to clear out so that ‘Santa’ can do his work! You’ve given me some great ideas for this Christmasl!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      *smile* The girls loved the family sleepover so much that they began planning for it in October. Our living room was wall-to-wall mattresses and our poodle loved bouncing all over. When the topic comes up, they laugh and tell the funniest stories. Presents are forgotten but those memories last forever. Thank you, Michele. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds lovely to me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderful post!
    I agree, in our modernised societies, we’ve lost touch meaning with the true meanings behind the holidays, and everything has become too commercialised. Even here in Japan, which is not considered a ‘Christian’ country there is so much marketing hype about giving gifts on Christmas. I believe your daughters will appreciate everything even more as they get older.
    Happy Holidays 🙂
    Best wishes,
    Takami

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you so much!
      You are right about the commercialization around the holidays. I used to tell the kids that ‘we don’t buy anything that is advertised on TV.’ It worked very well for us. I truly despise advertising even now. When the TV is on through November and December, I put it on a channel with no advertisements. There is so much brainwashing that goes on. When my girls were young, I borrowed a video from the library called “Buy Me That” that was VERY helpful in teaching them how advertisements work and how they are made. YouTube has several you can watch, here is one of the current ones:

      As a result, my girls both became savvy shoppers. They are good advocates, too, in that they get their money’s worth or they get a refund. Those are great skills for children of any age.

      Thank you, again, Takami

      Regards,

      Jackie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Many thanks for your reply Jackie, and for the video link. I will watch it this evening.
        As you can imagine, Tokyo is like one huge advertisement board, and we’re bombarded by it – from all directions – everyday. My husband & I make it a point to not watch commercials, and not be brainwashed by all the commercials. I was fortunate too, in that my parents strongly discouraged me to watch TV (the ‘idiot box’ they called it) and they also made it a point to not buy anything shown on television. As an adult, I sincerely appreciate their wisdom 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        😀 “Idiot Box! We called it that and ‘boob tube’ as in ‘slow person’ not breasts. You are way ahead of the game. I feel sorry for you about the wall-to-wall advertisements… that is a type of pollution. With sound it is also ‘noise pollution.’ Good luck! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on àlaMuze and commented:
    The joys of a simple Christmas…

    Like

  5. saymber says:

    Reblogged this on As I see it and commented:
    This kind of Christmas celebration sounds ideal to me! I have started making gifts more and more and if it wasn’t for our extended families ideas of celebrating Christmas which includes buying gifts, we wouldn’t. Over the years gift buying for distant relatives has been reduced to gift cards anyways lol. Your family is celebrating Christmas in ways that emphasize what your children will cherish in their later years. Toys and “stuff” get used, broken and thrown away but memories made like your sleepovers….survive the test of time and comfort the soul when no more memories can be made together. AWESOME!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Saymber, you are absolutely correct, the memories – not the stuff – are what last for kids. When we first began ‘not celebrating,’ I was not too sure how it would go so I had my doubts. Each year that passed was confirmation that we were doing the right thing. One year I wanted to earn money for our next trip to NC (where I am from) so I went to work at our local Kmart on weekends as a checkout clerk. During Nov. and Dec. the attitudes of shoppers was astounding. Listening to women talk about the gifts they *had* to buy and then one conversation in particular really threw me; the woman commented to her friend that a relative would finally have to admit her size had grown… she bought a garment that she knew would be too small. How mean was that!! I went home and told my husband about the two women and that I/we wanted no part of that kind of Christmas.

      For me personally, it meant I could relax WITH my family rather than spending my time serving and cleaning. In my Parents Anonymous Group, we often talked about being a person, not just the maid or servant, and not celebrating in the traditional manner truly liberated me.

      Each year, our New Jersey Parents Anonymous office and staff holds an annual holiday gathering or get together where we meet and have foods and treats. This year my husband and I took a huge box of Monmouth Candies that everyone loved. Monmouth Candies is a family business that has been around for many years and that was our contribution to “Shop Small,” shopping locally rather than the big box stores. For me, this was fun and meaningful.

      Thank you for your lovely comment! ❤ 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • saymber says:

        Your mentioning the having more time to “be” with family vs servant/butler/maid activities really resonated with me. I would say the same about the recent trend with Black Friday going to Thanksgiving Day. People are out spending time shopping for the people they proclaim to love so much instead of spending time with them! Ah the consumer society and it’s paradoxes lol. I am really enjoying your blog – collinaclarke’s reblog got me here and I’m grateful. You and I have a lot of views in common! I hope you’ll share about your holiday sleepover etc., sounds like a blast. Love your family’s movies choices. A Christmas Story is our all time favorite! Nightmare before Christmas too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        The A Christmas Story and Elf marathons are tops on my list, never mind the kids! Another big favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.

        You may not believe it but I shop in early November and then don’t go near the stores until after the first week in January. That is how much I dislike what the merchants do to people – they only want their money. Right after the holidays people return things and the stores are busy marking down the promo merchandise that did not sell. About the 2nd week of January, it becomes safer to shop again.

        People equate money and spending with love and it is a big mistake. I once knew a woman who actually looked up prices on gifts that people gave her family. The next opportunity for gifting, she would spend that amount on a gift for them. It’s crazy… she had a huge notebook where she wrote down all that!

        People think we never gave our children presents or gifts – they got plenty. The difference was that we gave throughout the year, not just on holidays. If one was interested in making ice cream, we bought her an ice cream maker. When she decided to become a chef, we bought her baking pans and all that goes along with it. When Chelsey wanted beads for a new project, we bought beads. Presents are not only for holidays, they are for any day. Surprise presents are the best ever. It may also sound like we spoiled the girls… we did not. We had them earn some things, too. Chelsey wanted a “Peach Pretty” Barbie doll once and she did many, many chores to earn the money for it. There were things we refused to buy… In my Parents Anonymous Group, some of the parents talked about the game systems that caused such strife in their families – we did not get that. Outside pressures to buy were a sure sign for me that we should think twice.

        You flatter me. *blushing* I am glad you enjoyed the article. It’s not a how-to, it is only a suggestion that another way exists. I still get the “You don’t celebrate?” But it does not bother me. They say ‘the proof is in the pudding’ and it is true. I look at my girls today and I am proud they are not materialistic. They are down-to-earth girls that appreciate everything. I say “girls” but they are now into their late to early thirties. 🙂 They will always be my babies.

        I truly hope that everyone out there has a peaceful holiday season and that includes you! ❤ Thanks for stopping by!

        Like

  6. Kev says:

    Each celebrates Christmas in their own way… it matters not what you call it or don’t call it… It is a season of giving however one finds it within themselves to give… that is the spirit of Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      You are correct, Kev, and I encourage giving not just at holidays, but throughout the year. In my volunteer work, I have learned that there is plenty around Thanksgiving and in December but the other 10 months are lean for the needy. Like with my daughters, I give to various charities all year long and sometimes help parents with my own money. The key word is giving – of yourself and to others. (Let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing.) I hope you enjoy your holiday no matter what it is or how you choose to do it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing your own experiences at Christmas and it sounds… great xxoo Happy holidays to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds very good to me! Hugs, Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, Barbara. I hope you and your sister are well in the New Year. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t go out unless it is above 25 degrees. But I am ok.how are you?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        As my father used to say, “It’s colder than a well-digger’s butt,” but I am staying indoors, too. I’ve already cancelled a dentist appointment twice but it’s only a cleaning so it’s no big deal. ❤ Brr! I'll see 'em in the spring!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie, when I feel the walls closing in I will remember that you are also inside my friend. Hugs, Barbara

        Like

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        Hi Barbara,

        As much as I try, I will never get used to being stuck indoors or seeing people. I try to keep busy learning new things like Spanish, PowerPoint, Photoshop, or my new camera – anything. Isolation is a terrible thing for many; parents can snap dealing with the stress isolation causes.

        I appreciate your reaching out to me so please accept my virtual hug in return: ((((((((BARBARA)))))))) ❤

        🙂 Jackie

        Like

  9. Sounds like a great Christmas to me.

    Like

  10. What an unusual and terrific post, Jackie!
    Amazing what happens when you drop out of the Christmas race.
    Your change was for religious reasons, which I understand; some of my relatives are Jehovah’s Witnesses as well.

    Advent has become very important to me, and each day in the the month of December becomes a special time, not just a rush to buy gifts.
    I do make or buy small gifts for close relatives, and we keep Christmas Day small and simple. Boxing Day, we celebrate with a dinner to which our extended family contributes, and it seems we have found a new rhythm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, Cynthia, I’m glad you liked it! “Drop out” is a good description for what we did. Keeping Christmas simple and intimate was really the best way for us to go, it worked well for all of us. While my adult children do not get down on the floor and giggle and our dog is no longer with us we have a deeper appreciation for the holiday.

      A Peruvian cousin visited us this past Christmas and we shared small gifts even though she grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness household. She said she exchanges small gifts with her friends but her faith is intact. Our celebrations now are more about enjoying foods and Scrabble than shopping.

      I am sorry that I do not know much about Boxing Day; I’ll have to look that up and find out more about it. We have also read about Kwanzaa, too. Hearing what other folks do truly broadens perspectives. Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts and ideas!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s