January 07, 2016

Atheist Mama: Building secular holiday traditions

This year was our first holiday in our new home. Somewhat amazingly, every time we've set up a new home, it's been our year to have my stepdaughters for Christmas. We alternate holidays with their mother and her family, so it's exciting to be able to share that first Christmas with them.

It also left us with a small conundrum: it's not our first holiday since my deconversion, but it is our first with our entire family together. We wanted to celebrate it in ways that were special to us, that created memories for all of us, but that didn't have a religious element.

We also compounded this by hosting my side of the family's annual Christmas Eve get together.

So I started by thinking about things that interested us. A clear front runner initially was Star Wars, because, well, Star Wars. But in the end, I wound up going with Harry Potter. Why?


The illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

We have a couple of traditions that we've always had. One is that the kids open a pair of pajamas each and a book for read alouds on Christmas Eve. When I saw this book back in October, I knew I had to have it. My spouse teased me because every time we went into a bookstore, I was drawn to it.

So I decided that it would be our Christmas Eve book.

Then I remembered that I had a whole Pinterest board of Harry Potter themed recipes.

We made the decision to do a Very Harry Christmas Eve. I tried my hand at a few of my recipes....

Chocolate frogs, snitch cakepops, and sugar cookies shaped like lightning bolts, hats, and owls. Not as pretty as I'd have liked, but it tasted good, and the kids had a blast.

If I could go back, I think that the one thing I'd have done differently is to get together some board games and things for the theme to entertain us--although the sangria was pretty entertaining in and of itself. ;-)

For other secular families looking to create meaningful holiday traditions, I'd say my advice is pretty simple:

  • Think of what matters to you.
  • Pick a few traditions that stay the same from year to year, but then don't be afraid to mix up other things.
  • Don't be afraid to include religious family members.
  • Have fun with it.

I think next year, we may very well do Star Wars...or perhaps Doctor Who!

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