What do you do when your relationship with God seems to collide with your relationship with your family? Tell your family you’re giving up Christmas, and you’ll find out rather quickly.
Four years ago this Thanksgiving, I decided to stop keeping Christmas. I’d bought airline tickets months before to go home for the holidays, so I went. As best as I could, I tried not to acknowledge Christmas while still honoring everyone around me who was celebrating it. No one knew how to act, including me. It was awkward for all of us. When I was told that I didn't have to come home for Christmas the following year, it was both a relief and a punch in the gut.
Why does it sometimes feel wrong to say no to Christmas, even though you know you should? For many people, Christmas traditions are wrapped up in family. It’s often the family’s largest and most-anticipated gathering. Let’s be honest—saying no to Christmas feels like saying no to family, right? All of the intellectual knowledge about the true origins of Christmas doesn’t keep your heart from breaking when someone asks, “Don’t you want to be with your family?”
Learn more about the Feast days, and you'll see how very much family is on God's mind.
I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but the root of my struggle was, “How do I maintain relationship with my family and be true to my beliefs?” It is possible, and it doesn’t involve Christmas.
There are two points to consider. One, family relationships are about more than just a single day. And two, God has a bigger plan for family than you may realize.
How do you build a relationship with your family outside of trees, tinsel, and presents? Some people join their extended family for lunch or dinner and leave before gifts and other Christmas traditions, and that works well for them. I live many hours away from my family, so dropping in for dinner is not really practical. Since long-distance visits are usually for a few days at a time, I don't spend Christmas with my family. It's more respectful to them, so that they can observe the practices they enjoy without awkwardness, and I'm not caught in the middle of practices that I don’t want to keep. Instead, I spend that time with my Church family, because, frankly, it can be very lonely to un-keep Christmas all by yourself.
Throughout the year, I make a point to spend time with my family at other opportunities that are meaningful to all of us: Thanksgiving, birthdays, a summer family gathering, and other special events such as graduations and weddings. I make an effort to see them more often than before so they don't feel I'm pulling away from them. It's Christmas I've rejected, not them. You can keep the commandment to honor your parents and not keep their desire for Christmas.
You should be able to answer why you are choosing not to keep Christmas. My answer is, "God has spelled out His holidays in the Bible and how to keep them, so now I keep those instead."
God’s holidays, His holy festivals as described in Leviticus 23, illustrate the greatest story ever told—a story that features Jesus in the starring role. But His birth is only a small part of that story. Christmas misses most of the action and the dramatic conclusion. God has created special opportunities for you and your family to celebrate together throughout the year and remember the incredible story He is telling.
Learn more about the Feast days, and you'll see how very much family is on God's mind. God is all about family, and His days reveal more about the plan of salvation for all mankind than Christmas traditions ever could. Man’s holidays are a poor substitute for what God has in mind for you and your family: to be part of His family, together.
The first year is the hardest, but you’ll find a groove that works. You are not alone. While your journey is uniquely yours, there are many people who walk with you, all sorting out how to keep family without keeping Christmas.