Top Ten Tips for a Humanist Christmas
As I state in my ‘about’ post, our family identifies as Humanist.
What is Humanism?
Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) define a Humanist as someone who:
- trusts in the scientific method in understanding how the world works and rejects the idea of the supernatural
- makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
- believes that human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.
There are a number of other definitions, as well as an informative video, on this page.
I find Humanism best summed up by the phrase, ‘good without God’.
Christmas for us is still the ‘main’ festival of the year, even though we are secular in outlook. Whilst some people who identify as Humanists feel a conflict with celebrating a largely Christian festival and their own beliefs, I personally don’t find Christmas (or Easter, Hallowe’en, Eid, Diwali, Chanukah, Solstice etc.) incompatible with my brand of Humanism. Festivals offer a wonderful opportunity to get together with family and friends and enjoy their company.
We’ve recently had some terrible snow in our part of the UK and me, Lefty Husband and Lefty Baby found ourselves snowed in at my mom and dad’s. In fact, I’m typing this at their dining table where we’ve spent the past few evenings eating family dinners, playing board games and enjoying the open fire. Being cut off from my own home and the duties I have there, being surrounded by family members to help with LB and having some time to myself to read, write and relax generally, has been wonderfully restorative. It’s made me look forward to the upcoming Christmas period even more, as I find few things better for the soul than quality time with loved ones.
Here are some ideas for a Christmas/festive period focused on having happy times with the other humans in your life.
1. Simplify. Select a few, thoughtful presents rather than spending lots on things that nobody really needs or wants. I’m still working hard at this, as I enjoy ‘spoiling’ people, but I am trying to be more ethical and less consumerist in my approach. Lots of people will say that giving friends and family a wish list or telling one another exactly what you want takes the fun out of gift-giving, but we always do this in our family. I’m much happier knowing that I’ve bought someone a present they will use and get joy out of rather than buying something I thought was a nice idea but ultimately isn’t useful or enjoyable for the recipient. Not to mention, as LB gets older, I’d rather he had a small number of carefully chosen presents with good play value than become overwhelmed by a small mountain of gifts.
2. Play. We’re huge board game fans in our house. All too often, people leave board games solely for Christmas get-togethers, but they’re at least a weekly occurrence in our household, usually initiated by Lefty Husband. Gaming together gives you a chance to connect, chat and enjoy a bit of friendly competition. Some excellent alternatives to Monopoly and Cluedo include 7 Wonders, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Tokaido.
3. Eat. Growing up, we always had a bowl of Christmas nuts on the table at my Nana’s house, sometimes interspersed with chocolate chips. Obviously, my sister and I would dig through the nuts to eat the chocolate. Whether it’s Christmas nuts, a turkey dinner or mince pies, festive food makes the time of year seem extra special and can create wonderful memories. I’m excited to introduce LB to the wonderful world of food when he starts his weaning journey in a few months, and hope that he’ll have fond memories of food eaten at particular times of year.
4. Make. One of my goals for maternity leave is to become a better baker. I’m a pretty solid cook and can turn my hand to a range of crafts but my baking is frankly a bit shit. Similar to ‘eat’, I’m aiming to bake some Christmassy treats for family, friends and neighbours to enjoy. Of course, ‘make’ doesn’t have to just be about the kitchen; you could have a go at making pomanders, sewing a decoration for the tree as my Mom does every year or creating your own cards or wrapping paper to send – a particularly fun activity for toddlers!
5. Write. Many people consider Christmas/Holiday cards a waste of time and money. However, there’s something very Humanist about taking time to check in with friends and loved ones we may not see all that often, catching up on news and wishing them well for the coming year.
6. Walk. I’m not much of an outdoorsy person, though I’m really working on that for the sake of LB. I’ve asked for a pen knife for Christmas from my father-in-law, in preparation for foraging in the woods and other wood crafts as LB gets older. I’m determined to get us out of the house over the festive season, either to the woods nearby or to the park. There’s so much beauty to be appreciated in the natural world at all times of the year, and there’s no better antidote to too much Bailey’s and brie than a brisk family walk.
7. Sing. I love communal singing. LB, LH and I will be attending a carols by candlelight service this week, despite being nonreligious. Our local church has invited the whole community to their Christmas services and the atmosphere of these events are often lovely. There have been many articles about the benefits of group singing published recently, and I’ll jump at any chance of a good singalong, be it in church or at the football. It’s also nice to feel part of the local community, as I know I for one can get too caught up in the communities I feel part of online.
8. Document. We complete ‘The Christmas Yearbook’ every year over the season where family and friends present at Christmas write down their reflections on the year just gone and their hopes for the coming year. We take a photograph of everyone and stick it in the book. My mom gifted me one in 2014, just after I’d moved out of home for good and LH and I had got engaged. Hers has been going since 2004 I think! It’s so special to look back on each year when it comes out, especially at past hopes and dreams, and the thoughts and handwriting of loved ones no longer here. You could make your own version very easily with a nice notebook and willing family members.
9. Give. Whether it’s presents, time or money. When LB is older, I’d like to start some volunteering with him that we could do around Christmas or at other points in the year. As he’s so little at the moment and my ability to get out of the house is limited, I’ll be donating some items to our local food bank or women’s shelter.
10. Enjoy. Be in the moment. Put your phone away (unless it’s for taking photos) and really take the time to be present. This is another thing I’m working hard on and find that leaving my phone in another room helps.
What do you and your family do over the festive season?