Children reared by devout Jehovah’s Witness parents do not learn any family Christmas traditions. There are no Christmas cookies for Santa; no trips to pick out the perfect tree; no stringing lights or hanging mistletoe.
When I left the religion, I was determined to crack the Christmas code and seize some of the season’s joys for my own children. This was not an easy process. Other parents seemed to understand so many mysteries that I did not. How do you attach lights to your house? What would prevent us from dying in a house fire if I attempted to string electric lights to a real tree a.k.a firewood? How many “contributions” did the Jackson 5 make to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society that allowed them to make all of those Christmas albums with impunity?
I studied my friends’ decorations and bedecked and bedazzled holiday trees as if I were cramming for an exam. I ordered “heirloom” ornaments from Etsy so that my tree would resemble the Christmas trees on Pinterest. I snapped family photos and turned them into holiday cards.
There was a learning curve. And plenty of mishaps. Most notable was when I took my son to a Christmas Eve candlelight service at a neighborhood church when he was three or four. He watched wide-eyed as the congregants sang Silent Night and turned to light their neighbors’ candles with their own. When the lit candle came to our pew, our panicked son yelled, “Fire! Fire!” and immediately blew out the candle intended for our row.
Nearly two decades later, I have yet to create a Hallmark-perfect Christmas Day. I am terrible at wrapping gifts. My baking is hit or miss at best. But my family and I are no longer adherents of top-down, hierarchical authority. We are not bound by hard and fast rules that dictate how we should dress or how much facial hair is acceptable or what holidays are permissible. We can make our own imperfect and wacky traditions.
From our hearth and home, Happy Holidays!