by Rebekah Bennetch, Saskatoon Secular Family Network
Oh the dilemmas of being a nonbeliever in December! What do you do if you are a faithless family in the middle of a month full of religious holidays? This last Tuesday the Saskatoon Secular Family Network got together to celebrate the whole month of December, and learn all about the different ways human beings commemorate the darkest month of the year.
When I was planning the activities for this month’s meeting, a part of me struggled in determining the balance between educating the kids about the religious rituals/meanings found in the various holidays versus inadvertently condoning the religious ideology implicit in the activity. For example, I asked myself: if I set out a bunch of nativity sets for the kids to play with, am I reinforcing the idea that there really was a virgin birth?
I think I may have been overthinking things a bit — especially considering most of our kids were more interested in spinning the dreidel than debating the pros and cons of the Torah. But I’m glad that I have these inner struggles when it comes to raising my little freethinker. I want to raise my little girl with an awareness of how human beings have used faith and dogma in an attempt to answer life’s hard questions — but I also want her to have the critical thinking skills to recognize where these faith systems have failed in their answers and have hurt others. Teaching her about religion isn’t the same as indoctrinating her into a belief system.
But, back to our holiday party! For activities, I set up different centers for the kids to check out and learn about the three main holidays of December: Kwanzaa, Chanukah, and Christmas.
For Kwanzaa, we read the book It’s Kwanzaa Time! and colored pictures that showed the Kinara (the candle holder used in the Kwanzaa celebrations). Here are a few links I found that may help your parenting group, if you’d like to talk about Kwanzaa this month:
- KwanzaaLand: Children’s Activites — includes coloring pages, word searches, and a sheet to help you learn to count to 10 in Swahili!
- Crayola: Kwanzaa Celebrations — includes coloring pages, a Kinara craft, and Kwanzaa bingo
- The About.com page on Kwanzaa, and the Wikipedia page
To learn more about Chanukah, we played with dreidels. The median age of the kids for our party were fairly young (preschoolers), so we didn’t get into an in-depth discussion about the history of the game. Mostly the kids just spun the tops for fun — but if you have older kids in your group, I could see this game getting quite animated! I also found the history behind the game quite fascinating. Chanukah links:
- Activities for families during Chanukah — crafts, games, recipes, etc
- Coloring page of kids playing with dreidels (PDF)
- Chanukah word search
To commemorate Christmas, our group had a “cookie potluck”, where each family brought their favorite Christmas treat to share with others. We also did a Christmas ornament craft, and there were plenty of nativity sets for them to play with.
- Lesson plans/activities for Christmas — a teacher resource site, but lots of activities that would be good for a parenting group!
- How Christmas is celebrated all over the world
- A list of secular and religious celebrations near Christmas time
This year our December celebration didn’t cover the Winter Solstice, but it’s on the radar for next year. In case you’d like to forgo learning about the religious rituals of December, here are some links for the Winter Solstice (December 21):
- a handout that describes the science behind the solstice, along with an activity
- Winter Solstice crafts and activities for children
- SecularSeasons.org’s description of the Winter Solstice
And just for fun, here are some other special days you can commemorate this month, if you aren’t a fan of the above:
- Festivus, a holiday for the rest of us! (December 23)
- Newton’s Birthday — Crispness (December 25)
- and Dale wrote about Krismas here (December 25)
Happy however you celebrate this month!