I’m probably confusing a whole lot of people with my talk and pictures about Christmas and then out of the other side of my mouth I say I’m a Secular Humanist. Actually, it gets better than that. Much.

You see, I was born Jewish.

So now I bet you’re wondering about how a little Jewish girl became, essentially, an atheist, and grew up to have a huge Christmas tree and the best-decorated house in the neighborhood?

Well, in reality, we didn’t do much with the whole “being Jewish” thing. In fact, my parents, in their infinite wisdom, told my mother’s parents that I was named in my father’s synagogue and they told my father’s parents that I was named in my mother’s parents synagogue. So I never went through a naming ceremony. Wasn’t bat mitzvahed. Never fasted on Yom Kippur. Nothing. Both sets of my grandparents were religious – granted, not necessarily to the extent of being Orthodox, but I know my paternal grandparents kept a Kosher house and my maternal grandparents didn’t eat pork or shellfish. But us? My parents and I? Except for going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Passover, complete with the traditional Passover rigmarole that I didn’t understand and no one really explained to me (oh, and Hanukkah presents because it was a good excuse to give me toys), we were about the most unJewish Jewish people you could meet.

So ANY so-called religion I got was what I saw on TV. Davey and Goliath (not that I realized D&G was religious programming…I thought it was a cool show about a family that just happened to talk about God and go to church a lot). Mr. Rogers (his show was not religious at all but the undertones of the program were very much “you’re a good person. Be a good person” sort of stuff). The Ten Commandments (“Neah. Where’s your Moses now, see?”). And, of course, ALL those cool Christmas shows in December. Frosty. Rudolph. Nestor. The Year Without A Santa Claus is Coming to Town. You know the ones I’m talking about. I LIVED for that stuff every year.

Oh, and decorations…I LOVED the decorations on the houses when we would drive around. Being somewhat obsessive-compulsive and anal from a very early age, as soon as I saw the first house of the season that had their Christmas lights up, I’d start counting each decorated house. By December 20th or so, it would start to drive my father apeshit! 😉

The one thing I REALLY wanted more than anything else as a kid besides a puppy was a Christmas tree. My parents, especially my mother (she very much wore the pants in the family) was dead-set against it, though. “As long as you live in my house, you cannot have a Christmas tree.” After all, we were Jewish (in retrospect and 20/20 hindsight, I beg to differ – when you do virtually nothing that has to do with your religion, how can you really lay claim to a religion?). “Besides,” she’d continue, “what would the neighbors think?” (my response to this in my teenage years – when you’re too young to be considered a wise ass yet, so you’re just thought to be obnoxious – was to remind her that the neighbors were almost all Christian and they wouldn’t care in the least)

Well, I was a very imaginative and resourceful kid so I did what I could with what I had. I had a Christmas record album, a hand-me-down from a cousin, that I played incessantly during December. Decades before VCRs and DVRs I audio taped “The Year Without A Santa Claus” (I still have the recording. I was 8. Geez, my voice was squeaky back then). I made a Christmas tree out of rolled newspaper every year – I had learned how to do it from a local Kids’ TV show called “Wonderama” (although the clip isn’t on the ‘net that I can find, here are the directions of how to make one). And then I’d take pieces from my games, like plastic coins, some of my Barrel Full of Monkey monkeys, and stuff like that and tape them onto the “branches” of my sad little newspaper Christmas tree. Oh, and of course I’d still count decorated houses until my father would finally say, “Will you stop it already! You’re driving me crazy!” 😉

But the whole religion thing, now that I’m an adult? Nuthin’. Since I wasn’t raised with any sort of religiousness, anything I do as an adult is based on my own thoughts and experiences – which yes, do include the morals and values that Davey & Goliath and Mr. Rogers and the like taught me. But the belief that there is a Being out there who is watching over me, who I need to obey and pray to? Meh, not so much – nothing (or no one) ever really overwhelmingly convinced me. Fortunately, I’m a good person so my thoughts and actions are that of a good person. I do unto others. I’m honest. I’m respectful. I’m generous. Although not based in what any sort of book or place of worship would tell me to do, I believe I lead my life the “right” way. Now, don’t get me wrong…if you cross me, you’ll hear about it in some way, shape or form. But the same thing could be said for many Christians I know. In fact, in some circumstances I think I act “more Christian” than some Christians. But I’m not the only Secular Humanist to ever have those sorts of thoughts or experiences.

Meanwhile, I always promised myself that when I grew up, I’d have a Christmas tree and a puppy. I’ve fulfilled that promise. In fact, we’ve had to “upgrade” our tree twice because I keep buying ornaments, so we’ve gone from a 5′ tree to a 7′ one and now we have an awesome 9′ tall tree. I bake a LOT for Christmas because when I was in my early 20’s  I learned from my best friend in PA that that’s what you do…and then you give them away, which settles well with my sense of generosity. And the outside of my house has lots and LOTS of decorations. This video is from 2008 but it gives you an idea of how I decorate for the holidays now that “I can”:

And so, Merry Christmas! And yes, I do mean that in the most secular but good-will-towards-man way possible!