Christmas for the non-religous

I stopped celebrating Christmas as a religious event, about ten or more years ago. I cannot exactly recall. But I still observe it as communion with my family, friends and the community of love and friendships that I am fortunate to receive.

My fall out with religion happened after I came to the United States years ago, once I slowly realized that the religions that were taught to me growing up  – Protestant and Pentecostal – and the words of the Bible taught to me, were in fact, not exactly universal.
See, plenty of us in Africa met Christianity through the words, eyes and color of a white man, who was also the color of the savior (JC), the preachers (colonial missionaries), and the doer (political administrator) and giver of good things, blessings and alms (the humanitarian worker). So, we believed all the words the whiteman said that the bible said, and saw only goodness of the white man. Stories claimed that the white preachers and missionaries in Africa drank beer while reprimanding their African followers for committing sin by drinking alcohol. But we thought the Africans who spread such stories were haters of the white man, who would burn in hell on judgement day. Well, Christianity is all about Heaven v Hell or JC v the world. So, there are only two options for us all.  The preachings I consumed enjoined us not to associate with people who did not believe in JC because they were evil and would lead us astray. We listened and lived by that, sacrilegiously. So, as a keen and active follower of JC, I stayed away from drinking alcohol or smoking, except for the years I fell out of god’s path and sinned.Once I fell back onto the right path of christian living, I resumed the “godly” ways. No alcohol, no smoking, no talking terrible about others, no fornication, no supporting war.
Then, when I came to America, I was confused when I met preachers and others who confessed Christianity drinking, smoking, engaging in adultery, fornication, and supporting, blessed and fighting wars. My christian heart was broken! Still, I kept my Christian friends, and went to their gatherings whenever invited, although with growing skepticism. The more I began to identify with the black experience in America, read about the history of black folks in America, and how the white man dehumanized, humiliated, murdered, tortured them, simply for the color of their skin, I became disgusted with all things white. Moreover, because Christianity is closely associated with the white man, whose white skin is the pervasive color of god and JC, and who brought it to the lands of my origin, the white man and his inventions brought a sour taste in my mouth. Notice I am using whiteman, because “the man” not “woman” was indeed purveyor of colonialism and its relatives – Christianity, European education.
Thankfully, the many years of traveling and living around the world and here in America, have allowed me to transcend that hatred and bitterness  for the white man. I have made friends and great relationships with plenty of white men, who come in multiple layers, some without a religion of practice. They identify either as atheists, scientologists, muslims, yogis or nothing at all. They are humans and believe in a world fair to others. In any case, there is no black struggle that has not involved everyday white folks, using their position and privilege to support a movement for justice and human dignity.
Still, I have developed a great disdain for organized religion, and prefer not to label myself anything. “Humanity” would pass as my religion, since we were humans before we were any religion. While I have completely dropped religion, I still allow myself the opportunity to accept others who believe and associate with religion. I strongly believe it is not my job to judge whether one is right or wrong, as long as their actions do not infringe upon my right to be. I am an out-of-the-box person – the way I dress, speak, think and live my life. I like to challenge myself, without being boxed into “normalcy” or anybody else’s expectations. While my female friends were signed onto the epidural even before they got pregnant, I practiced kegels, did meditation, squats, walking and all natural stretches during my pregnancy, so I could deliver my baby natural with no drugs administered. In my running group, I was the only “SHE” who went for the 42.2 KM full marathon. So, I live the life of dare to dream; dare to be different; dare to excel.
So, I will not stop or condemn everyone I do not agree with. Everyone has a right to be here!
In the words of Vanessa Williams……
You think you own wherever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
My early years in America, it was possible to skip Christmas day because I live on my own without my family or partner. Simple, I stayed  at home, did not switch on TV or radio, watch movies, ate popcorn, typed away on my laptop, went jogging and slept. But in my post-home internet and Facebook age, how can I run away from that inconvenient truth? Especially now that I am with a toddler who loves and strongly believes in everything PBS for Kids? True, I have let him watch PBS, ever since l found out that he learns from it. How can I keep him away from the joys of waiting for Santa to down the chimney, when all his classmates talk about Santa, his class projects including drawing and coloring a christmas tree and Curious George talks about Santa.
Whereas I am not going to celebrate Christmas as a religion, I am still going to honor my son, my family and friends who have over the years invited me to be in their midst to partake of their joy with them, without pushing me to go to church or say prayers. I am sure they are still uncomfortable with my nonreligious stand, but they have come to grips with it. And I have no problem contributing to communal celebrations with food, drinks and gifts. It is a family tradition.
Last night, before my son went to bed, I showed him the chimney where Santa climbs down and delivers gifts. I have not said much more…or that, “only kids on good behavior receive gifts from santa”, because I do not want to “bribe” him nor program his good behavior to being rewarded with gifts.
In response to a FB friend, who wrote that those who celebrate Christmas are honoring a pagan event, promoting consumerism, believe in the falsehood of the Christmas tree, are cosmetizing their sins, and buying into the illusionary santa. I wrote this. response:
“Lol! I thought you spared me from this list….since I:
1) worship at only my altar; 
2) think about my family 365/366 days; 
3) I am without sin; 
4) have no green thumb - trees don't want me to plant them; 
5) my religion is humanity!
 
But then, i kinda fell short on consumerism and sharing"... Lol..and here's my excuseYes, I have a chimney, and I am that "fat man"...I am slim and slender and fit perfectly through my 
chimney ....I make no mention nor explanation of Xmas whatsoever! In fact, he does not remember 
celebrating Xmas with my family in Uganda last year! So, I want to give my son a chance to keep 
imagining and fantasizing. To keep dreaming.. So, he can form innovations in his head...and can become an inventor at 6 years old...make toys, make that machine that he has promised me, that stops the 
snow from falling...and so, I let him imagine tooth fairy exists, as does Halloween...lol again"
For that reason, I let santa down the chimney last night, and left a package. Once my son wakes up, he will be thrilled to check and find something for him.
Dream on Babe, dream on! Santa came to your chimney! And when you wake up, go re-invent the world, as you promised.. It is your Wonderland! 
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Embracing the Holiday with Beautiful Sad Memories of Loved Ones: Gone too Soon

I have been quite teary lately! Image

No! I am not experiencing abuse or torture!
Absolutely no family drama or loses!
And I am not pregnant!
I think it is this Christmas festival bringing back sweet bitter memories of loved ones gone to soon!
While I do not celebrate Christmas, it is plastered on my brain, in face and time machine. I was raised Christian, so I remember vividly all  things we did during this festive season. In Uganda, where I am from, everyone got a new dress or shirt from their parents – tailor-made for you!  Now, do not begin to think that I am teary because nobody has bought me a new dress. Yes, I have had to buy myself winter clothes, mostly winter running clothes, anyway:)
No way I can escape the Christmas trees and carols, which are mainstreamed into an American society that seemingly separates “religion from public life”. My thinking is, the “no-religion in public space” is meant to scare away all other non-Christian religions. I understand some schools let kids sing Christmas Carols. In fact, my kindergartner came back yesterday with a painting of a Christmas Tree. I thought that was creepy, considering he goes to public school, where religion is supposedly a no-go.
Granted, PBS Kids Television has done a great job to show us that we can teach our children in America about Christmas without a mention of Jesus, while keeping them mesmerized to learn about Santa, Christmas tree and lights and snow.   But let’s not fool ourselves, the CHRIST in Christmas Tree refers to the character “Jesus CHRIST”, who is credited with inventing Christianity and Christian followers. So, here is religion plastered in our faces, our homes, our children’s psyche, and in our living rooms, and we are supposed to stay “Switzerland” [ok pre-2002 Switzerland]. Or we might be accused of “religious intolerance”, in a very controversially intolerant land we live in America. We do not tolerate anyone who does not harness nature, does not hug trees, does not support the orientation choices of all beings, or is conservatives. We do not want to accept that by not tolerating what we deem intolerance, we too become intolerant. But that is not my major point here, nor what defines me.
I am perfectly fine with anyone practicing their beliefs [and I mean this literally], without impinging on those beliefs I hold dearly as an individual or a member of a particularly group”. I am perfectly fine with Christians! My best friend, who is the reason why I am teary lately was a Christian, and a strong believer too! First and foremost, she was humane and a lover of her friends! She treated each one of us as special to her; we did not have to compete for her affection. I often told her that I am very proud to associate with her because the god she believes listens to her prayers before mine, and blesses me through her. Of course, it is hard to kick-out my Christian influence, and I never turned down her invitations to go party with her Christian community. If she tolerated me and loved me for who I am, that was the least I could return to her, showing here that I did not have a problem with her community of friends. In fact, I always enjoyed them, because there was a lot to talk about beside religion. In any case, it is my way of living – LIVE YOUR LIFE! And let others LIVE THEIR LIVES!
No wonder, this Christmas season 2013 reminds me of the last Christmas I shared with my dear Phina in 2009. This is our first Christmas since coming back to the United States this year, from traveling and living outside the US for the last three years. In December 2009, we went to visit Phina, my BFF in Malden, MA, shortly before leaving the country for South Africa. We enjoy all the time we spent with her. We took pictures in the huge Boston snow, and did our usual outings around Boston.  I did not know that would be the last time I would see her. No one ever prepared me for that possibility. But it is now a reality, and I am living it right now.  Thereafter, I saw her once again in December 2011, via Video Skype from Uganda. And she looked as beautiful, sweet and radiant as ever. That was the last time I saw her alive. The next time would see her, she was lying still and cold.
Thinking about her makes me cry! I miss her dearly:) I imagine how it would have been celebrating Christmas with her again, listening to her talk, chatting till late in the night, her cooking illustrious meals for me in her kitchen, her signature Shepard’s pie and mushroom soup whenever I went to visit her in Boston.
Guess what? While going through my old stuff yesterday, I came across this card she gave me, with her signature handwriting, of course, when my son and I were going away to South Africa. Just a Hug…..Just Because
Even now, I cannot write this without tears.
I miss you so much Phina!  Sending you love and celebrations!