What If It’s Not Christmas?


Christmas (300x214)Five out of my six years of living in Southeast Asia were spent celebrating Christmas in a culture that doesn’t technically celebrate Christmas.  They liked the idea of Christmas.  They put up big Christmas decorations at their shopping malls and sold cheap Santa hats at the grocery store next to three-foot-tall over-priced Christmas trees.  But in most cases, Christmas was a choice.  Made mostly by foreigners living abroad or Christians celebrating the birth of Christ.

For me personally, it was hard to be away from family during such a major holiday.  It was hard to get in the “Christmas Spirit” when it was 75 degrees outside and everything was still green.  And it was hard to be in the minority…in a society where Christmas was the exception.  Not the norm.

Back in the States now, we are thrilled to be able to go all out with our Christmas celebrations.  We put up our tree.  We shop the sales.  We sit on Santa’s lap.  We celebrate Jesus’ birth with our friends and family, and we wake up early on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought our little Pickle.

I am not so naïve to think, though, that in such a large and diverse city like Knoxville, Christmas looks the same for everyone.

Somewhere out in this bustling flurry of Christmas lights and Nativities and Santa Clauses, there are families who do not celebrate the same as my family.  They don’t have a tree or stockings or lights.  Songkran (214x300)They aren’t buying gifts for family because there is no need for them to travel on December 25th.  They won’t be attending a Christmas play or a Midnight Mass because they are perhaps Jewish or Muslim or don’t adhere to any religion at all.  For many in our own community, Christmas is just another day.

For some, they simply choose to do Christmas differently.  Still for others, they have their own special holidays.  Their own communities with which they celebrate at another time of year.  Just like when I lived in Southeast Asia…there is a population of people right here in Knoxville who find their special holidays to be the exception and this “Christmas” to be the overwhelming norm.

I wonder, then, how do families deal with the clear challenges of doing this time of year differently when “Christmas” is all over the place?  How do you build excitement for some of your own special holidays when they are not scattered all over the interstate billboards and blaring out your radio?  Or how do you explain to your children why they do things differently from their peers?  How much do you assimilate Christmas into your life vs. embracing your own cultures or customs?

Turkey (300x214)As one who has crossed cultures and grown tremendously from the experience, I know that many of us would benefit from learning the answers to some of these questions.  To step back from the hustle and bustle and realize that we live in a very beautiful and diverse community.  I also know that there are moms all over Knoxville working to answer many of these same questions for their own families!

So if you “do Christmas differently”- whether it’s skipping out on Santa, blending different customs, or ignoring Christmas altogether- we at KMB would love to hear from you!  Please contact me if you are interested in answering a few brief interview questions addressing some of the challenges you have faced or some of the ways your family has chosen to do Christmas.  A portion of your answers might be shared anonymously in a later post to give us all a broader perspective of our community, our culture, and our world!

To participate, please contact Jenny at [email protected].  Subject: Celebrating Diversity


  1. What a refreshing blog this time of year! As an HR person who values diversity (and a yankee transplant to the South) and now a PT photographer, it’s important that we remember that not everyone celebrates the same things the same way and or is of the same religious beliefs. What’s fun is most families in this community usually find a way to do special things during the season- which is really what celebrating family and or your beliefs is all about. Well said!

    • I know I’m super late responding to your comment, but thank you for your kind words, Bonnie! I have loved crossing cultures and seeking to understand the “whys” of people, both in my own circle of influence as well as around the world. My life is richer for it and I hope that others can celebrate their special holidays with a broader worldview and a deeper appreciation for the value of family that crosses all barriers!


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