When Story was younger, she matter-of-factly said, “I like to believe in things other people don’t believe in. Like… fairies. And Santa Claus. And God.”
Let me give you some background information. I was raised attending an Anglican church. I was married in one, and both of our children were christened in Anglican churches. I believe in … something. I don’t know what, specifically, but honestly, I don’t try to define it too much because my brain’s not wired for philosophy so much as fact. It’s a fact that we all share this planet, and that life is better for us all when we treat our fellow humans with respect and love. I want to live a positive life not because I think there’s some reward at the end, but because my legacy is that reward. Though I’ll never live to see it, the way people remember me when I’m gone will matter because it will warm them when I have turned cold. The specifics don’t matter. I tell my family I love them every single day, and show them with actions how much they mean to me so that they know inside, always.
We do tell our kids that when things die, there is a heaven waiting for them. We don’t define it and they don’t really ask us to. They make up their own stories about what it must be like. (Lots of puppies! Chocolate! You don’t have to get dressed! You get to see your family who died before you did! Our pets will be there!)
But we’re also really frank in telling them that hey, who knows, really? Maybe there’s a God and maybe not? We can’t say for sure what happens when we die because nobody’s ever come back to inform us. But it makes us feel ok with losing people we love when we think maybe their spirits have gone floating off somewhere happy. We don’t sugar coat things (when people die, they’re dead and not coming back) and we’re ok with telling the kids we might be super wrong, and that’s ok, too. Sometimes we like believing in fantasies because they make us feel better. Like watching a movie we know isn’t real, but allowing ourselves to be emotionally involved in the story.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if fairies or Santa or even God exist, because what matters is that the lessons we take from these things remain. Believe in magic. Do good. Make people feel good about themselves. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. To give a gift is better than to receive one.
We have plenty of friends who don’t celebrate Christmas so while we tell our kids that it was Santa who brought them a certain toy, we tell them others don’t believe in Santa, and that’s ok. We explain different belief structures, different religions, and the fact that many of our friends don’t believe in any God at all, and that’s ok. We tell them that nobody is right or wrong, and that’s the beauty of life — we all get to define what works (and doesn’t work) for us.
This time of year, I see all the post about people complaining that the “Christ” is gone from Christmas, or the ones with people saying Christmas isn’t about religion for them, or ones angry that concerts are called “Holiday” concerts and not Christmas concerts, or people upset that someone has wished them a holiday greeting that, GASP, isn’t a holiday they celebrate!
Come on, people. Who cares what you celebrate? It isn’t the names or the words or even the specific beliefs that make it important, it’s the sentiments that make them special. And this goes for people whose traditions you don’t enjoy (like a certain Elf, maybe)? It takes nothing away from you to scroll past photos instead of bitterly commenting about their fun. If you’re not spreading happiness, you’re the problem, not a (creepy) Elf on someone’s shelf.
Treat people fairly.
These are the things that matter during the holidays, and all year long.