How I celebrate Christmas without religion

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Brionna Belcher

The entrance to the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Attending the Zoo Lights is Opinion Editor Brionna Belcher’s most recent holiday tradition.

Brionna Belcher, Managing Editor

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. Between the music, the lights and the decorations, what’s not to love? While Christmas is a commemoration of the birth of Christ, the holiday is pretty secular for my family, and that’s OK.  

Religion may not play a huge part in the way we celebrate Christmas, but we’ve found our own ways to get in the holiday spirit. 

There’s nothing that makes me feel more festive than Christmas music. As soon as Thanksgiving passes, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” plays on repeat. 

A lot of Christmas songs focus more on the culture of Christmas than religion anyway. Even classic songs like “Jingle Bells” can be enjoyed by people of all beliefs. 

The perfect time to listen to holiday music is while looking at Christmas lights.

When I was younger, my parents would take my sister and I to a drive-through light show. They even let us stick our heads out of the sunroof so that we could see better. 

The past few years, I’ve enjoyed going to the Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago with my boyfriend. I love walking around the zoo, checking out all of the beautiful light displays while sipping hot chocolate.

While Christmas lights and songs are great, Christmas is really my favorite holiday because of the traditions that my family has developed. 

For 20 years, my grandma, mom, sister and I have volunteered as bell-ringers for the Salvation Army. We haven’t been able to do this since the pandemic started, but this is a tradition that my sister and I hope to continue for many years. 

Most of our traditions happen on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, my house is always filled with family. We play lots of Mario Kart, catch up with each other and watch Christmas movies. My mom’s favorite Christmas movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so we watch it every year.

Once it gets late, my sister and I put on our new Christmas pajamas. Then, we sit on the couch with my dad as he reads “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C before we head to bed.

The morning of, we all eagerly rush to the living room to exchange gifts. I enjoy watching my family open their presents just as much as I enjoy opening my own. 

When all the gifts have been opened, my mom always makes cinnamon rolls. While they sometimes end up a little burnt, they’re the perfect ending to my favorite holiday.