View Full Version : Secular Christmas Resources

11-02-2010, 08:41 AM
I figured this would be a safe place to ask this question. We celebrate Christmas but mostly in a secular, cultural way. We do have a Little People Nativity set but we've never discussed the story or read the Bible or anything. We will probably present the story as just another cute story of the season. My son is now old enough that he'll understand more so I'm looking for resources - mostly preschool/kindergarten level books I guess - that teach about Christmas but from a secular point-of-view. We have lots of Santa Claus stuff but I'm wondering if there's anything out there that discusses a little bit about the source of the Christmas tree and other common symbols? Or just any books you find absolutely amazing for the season?

Thank you.

11-02-2010, 09:25 AM
Great post, Dorothy. I'm desperate for books about winter holidays--multicultural, though, not just Christmas. We live in a place that ONLY celebrates Christmas, and in a very religious way, and our library doesn't carry anything on the solstice or other celebrations. We do celebrate secular Christmas, but the solstice is becoming more important to me as DS shows more and more interest in the origins of our holidays and as I get less and less interested in the consumerism frenzy. We'll likely take a trip down to the States before holiday time and I'd love to be armed with a list of available books.

Sorry I don't have much to add, Dorothy. We do have a pile of holiday books that come out every year, including the original Rudolph story (poem) and The Polar Express, but I don't think that's quite what you are looking for.

11-02-2010, 09:28 AM
We try to hit a lot of the cultural traditions of the season. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day and Winter Solstice.
On Christmas Eve (when my very Catholic parents are here), we have a "Shepherd's Feast" and eat food that the shepherd's would have eaten (or at least our version of it ;)). It's basically a lot of Greek/Mediterranean finger foods.
Here is our menu from a couple of years ago: http://laughinglaceandlegos.blogspot.com/2008/12/shepherds-feast-menu.html
Here is our Solstice from last year: http://laughinglaceandlegos.blogspot.com/2009/12/solstice.html

I put all of our holiday books and movies up at the end of the season, so I can't tell you any kids books right now, but this one is great for finding some alternative activities (earth honoring) for all kinds of holidays/seasons.

11-02-2010, 11:54 AM
I found a book about all the various historical solstice traditions, including the Roman Saturnalia, many of which are the basis for our current practices. The one I have is meant for young kids, but there are many out there Amazon search for "Winter solstice traditions" (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=winter+solstice+traditions&x=0&y=0) and "Origins of Christmas" (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=origins+of+christmas+traditions&x=0&y=0)

As a family we have talked about what Christmas means to us, and how it means different things to different people (including his grandparents and other relatives) and what some of those beliefs are and how we can all come together for the common "family time" aspect.

11-02-2010, 04:43 PM
Loving this thread....it's giving me lots of good ideas for holiday articles....;)

11-02-2010, 07:40 PM
Thank you for all the suggestions. Information on Yule, Saturnalia and the Solstice are the type of thing I'm looking for. The other winter holidays (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa) are not hard to find information on in my area but non-Christian resources about Christmas and the pagan origins of the symbols of the season are much harder to find - at least at a picture book level. Looking for ideas I keep seeing about the tree pointing toward heaven and some other Christian explanation for the wreath, etc. Things I know are not the true origins.

11-02-2010, 09:59 PM
We usually have a hard time finding stuff like that too, so my plan is to lapbook them with age-appropriate definitions and origins. I haven't put one together yet, but have been assembling resources on various topics.

Stella M
11-02-2010, 11:49 PM

Interesting post with links. Hth!

11-03-2010, 12:35 AM
I found my book, and I think it may be what you are looking for. It's this one


Simple explanations and pictures including Celts, Romans, Peruvians, Norse etc.

11-03-2010, 08:07 AM

Interesting post with links. Hth!
I'm surprised I haven't seen this site before. Very interesting and I'm going to have to explore more.

I found my book, and I think it may be what you are looking for. It's this one


Simple explanations and pictures including Celts, Romans, Peruvians, Norse etc.

This looks perfect! Exactly what I'm looking for.

Thank you.

11-03-2010, 12:07 PM
Ok this is a book on my wish list for the same reason, I want to show my boys all the information around the holidays that don't necessarily deal with religion. The Shortest Day (http://www.amazon.com/Shortest-Day-Celebrating-Winter-Solstice/dp/0525469680)
I haven't actually gotten it yet but from the reviews it looks secular;)

11-05-2010, 08:31 PM
I've purchased, downloaded, used, and liked (always a good thing to have all four of those covered!) Living in Season's Midwinter (Yule) packet, which covers several of the holidays you mention, Dottie. It's near the bottom of this page (http://www.livinginseason.com/store/holiday_ebooks/).

11-05-2010, 08:33 PM
Also love Ellen Jackson's Winter Solstice (http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Solstice-Ellen-Jackson/dp/0761302972/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1289003545&sr=8-1) book, and this one (http://www.amazon.com/Longest-Night-Marion-Dane-Bauer/dp/082342054X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1289003605&sr=1-3-fkmr0) by Marion Dane Bauer.

11-09-2010, 10:28 PM
Ok this is a book on my wish list for the same reason, I want to show my boys all the information around the holidays that don't necessarily deal with religion. The Shortest Day (http://www.amazon.com/Shortest-Day-Celebrating-Winter-Solstice/dp/0525469680)
I haven't actually gotten it yet but from the reviews it looks secular;)

Yes - it's secular. We have it. It's a good little picture book!

11-10-2010, 09:00 AM
One thing we recite, as opposed to read, is Susan Cooper's (The Dark is Rising sequence) poem, "The Shortest Day" (http://www.thelostland.com/shortest.htm) (not the same as the text in the book mentioned above). I read somewhere (might have been in the program notes) that Cooper wrote it for The Christmas Revels (http://www.revels.org/) performed in Cambridge, MA, each year (and was founded by John Langstaff (http://www.revels.org/about-us/john-langstaff/), for any children's music aficionados out there).

RE: the poem--we have a wooden advent spiral (http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=2122) we use in a vaguely Waldorf-y manner (a week of stones, a week of plants, a week of animals, and a week of people), and on the Solstice we burn a fire in the fireplace, and light the candles on the spiral as soon as it's dark and recite the poem. So far Jazz and I are the only ones to speak it, but I have hopes for the other two in years to come. DH is usually on his computer in the other room, but that's a topic for a whole different forum (grumble, grumble).

11-10-2010, 09:17 AM
A couple more recommendations. I love Christmas and the Winter Solstice, so we have a ton of resources we use each year. I'll try to put together a blog post with as many of them as I can muster, but a couple more that came to mind as I reread Dorothy's original post:

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Adventures-Santa-Claus/dp/B00375LKW2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1289397993&sr=8-4), by L. Frank Baum (currently bargain-priced at Amazon). There is an animated movie version (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Adventures-Santa-Claus-VHS/dp/B00004W46G/ref=sr_1_6?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1289398062&sr=1-6), too, but the orc-like bad guys might might be too scary for young children. I think my five-year-old ran and hid when they came on when he watched it for the first time last December, but he is very selective in his tv and movie viewing, so YMMV.

Fireside Stories--Tales for a Winter's Eve (http://www.amazon.com/Fireside-Stories-Caitlin-Matthews/dp/1846860652/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289398180&sr=1-1), by Caitlin Matthews (Matthews and her (I think) husband, John, pop up all over the children's and adult's folktale sections in the library). This book shares stories/winter traditions from eight different countries.

Not a children's book, but worth reading and sharing parts: The Winter Solstice--The Sacred Traditions of Christmas (http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Solstice-Sacred-Traditions-Christmas/dp/0835608344/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289398368&sr=1-1), by Caitlin Matthews and John Matthews. Dorothy, here you'll find the (usually pagan) source of many of the things we do at Christmastime.


11-10-2010, 09:37 AM
Christina: Those look like great suggestions. Thanks for sharing them!

11-10-2010, 05:27 PM
Christina, Thank you for the suggestions. I bookmarked the Living In Seasons website to look at further and will definitely be checking out many of these books.

I knew I'd get some good suggestions here. :-)

Mrs. Weasley's Wand
12-19-2010, 01:22 PM
I know we're getting close to Solstice, but I just saw the thread. I use The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer, like a few others have mentioned, and Lights of winter by Heather Conrad. The Shortest Day specifically addresses the Solstice and it comes from a point of view of describing how people observed the physical changes in their environment over the last 5000 years at this point in the year and how that affected their daily lives and what they thought that might mean. Various cultures from many times, countries, and continents are mentioned, including modern day celebrations. I consider it secular. There is also information in the back of the book describing the science behind the changes we observe, suggestions for related activities, some recipes, and a few other activities. My 3 and 5 year olds were able to follow along last year.

Lights of Winter is a book that describes many of the special days that occur during this time of year that have to do with some aspect of light. I love the information that is included and I consider it a valuable resource, but be prepared that the illustrations may well have been done on one of those old Apple computers they had when I was in 6th grade. The quality of the illustrations does not match the merits of the rest of the book. My kids didn't care. I was really, really surprised.

12-20-2010, 05:24 PM
I would like to second, third, etc many of the recommendations that have been made here !

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer and Jesse Reisch (Hardcover - Sept. 22, 2003)

The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews (Hardcover - Sept. 1998) (for older kids or adults)

The Winter Solstice - Paperback (Dec. 1, 1997) by Ellen Jackson

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World by Heather Conrad and deForest Walker (Hardcover - Oct 1, 2001)

I also really enjoyed the introduction to this book:
The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards (Paperback - Nov. 14, 2005) Not so much for kids, but for my own information. The introduction has a lot of information in it.