"Happy Birthday, Jesus!" or "Here Comes Santa!" -- How Religious Are Holidays in Your Family?

Although my pious mom tried diligently to raise her three children to share her deep religious devotion, it only stuck with one of us. Never is the divide more apparent than during the holidays. Over at my sister's place, December 25 is Jesus' birthday, a day for gathering with family to worship and reflect and in banner years, to dress up like farm animals and act out a living nativity. Her Catholic faith, like my mother's, is as solid and unshakable as St. Peter's Basilica itself.

In my house, Christmas is a special time of year when strings of drug-store lights drip from the gutters, adults grumble about how much money they've spent and how tight their pants are, and kids attempt to tolerate their sibling in the hopes that they might get a Wii. 

According to an article I just read in The New York Times, there's a technical name for me: I'm a None (as in zero), which is a new term for the roughly 12 percent of people who claim no religious affiliation. Apparently we Nones (certainly not to be confused with nuns) are the country's fastest-growing religious demographic. That's not to say that we're all Godless heathens -- nearly half of us, like 93 percent of the rest of the country, believe in some higher power. We just haven't signed on to participate in organized religion -- whether it's because we love our tattoos and our gay friends, find the scientific evidence to support evolution pretty compelling or we're just not into it.  

Because my kids went to a Christian preschool -- which we chose for the phenomenal teachers, nurturing environment and extremely convenient location, not the holy curriculum, they know that Christmas is Jesus' birthday. They just don't really know who Jesus is. (Oh, if you ask them they'll probably get Jeopardy-contestant excited because they know this one: "Jesus is the son of God!" But then ask them what that means exactly and I've got fifty bucks that says you get a pair of blank stares.)

We do talk about the different religions of the world and they ask tons of questions; I start most of my replies with "Well, some people believe..." As they get older, we'll explore the planet’s vast spiritual landscape together and they can decide what rings true for them. Maybe something will ring true for me, too. In the meantime, we'll continue to do what we've always done: Teach our children to be kind and thoughtful and honest, give thanks for the many blessings in our lives and celebrate Christmas as a commercialized, secular holiday. Call me a pagan if you will; it's better than hypocrite.

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