A Christmas Story: Growing out of the JWs

by Dogpatch 1 Replies latest jw friends

  • Dogpatch

    Sagario: Growing up and seeking what's right


    December 25, 2005

    Christmas in Iowa is the stuff of dreams for kids like me who grew up in Hawaii.

    It's the epitome of all the "mainland" Christmases we watched on holiday TV shows: the dainty snowflakes drifting to the ground, cousins clambering up hills with sleds in tow, and couples skating hand-in-hand on a frozen lake.

    I dreamed about how fun it would be to wear those funny-looking stocking caps, pull on a pair of fuzzy mittens and put on layers of clothing until I was as wide and lumbering as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

    I also dreamed about what it would actually be like to celebrate Christmas. My sister and I were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, which involved not observing holidays such Christmas and Thanksgiving, or even birthdays.

    We would obediently follow our parents to meetings at the Kingdom Hall, the Witnesses' place of worship, sometimes a couple of times a week. Through elementary, middle and high school, I remember attending Bible studies and walking along with my mother as she preached from door to door in different neighborhoods.

    I was taught as a child that Christmas had pagan roots; that's why we didn't celebrate the holiday. But I also vividly recall it being tough for me in grade school, especially during holidays like Christmas, to stand my ground and separate myself from everyone else. As a third-grader, the test was saying "no, thank you" to the homemade Christmas cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles. In middle school, I didn't participate in any of the Christmas band concerts. I didn't hand out presents to friends, and I asked them year after year to please not get me anything for the holiday.

    At home, we never had a tree, presents, eggnog or an uncle who came to our house dressed as Santa Claus. During the holidays, I'd tell people about this, and I would get two reactions: pity (for being a kid never waking up to gifts under the tree on Christmas morning) and disbelief ("So if you don't celebrate Christmas, what do you celebrate?").

    College brought on curiosity, muddled with guilt and confusion. I did gift exchanges at Christmas with roommates and friends. When cashiers at the grocery store would say, "Merry Christmas," I'd answer, "You, too."

    But was I really "celebrating Christmas" by participating in Secret Santa exchanges? On a larger scale, would participating in the very things I was taught were "worldly" mean that I was rejecting the traditions, beliefs and values I grew up with as a child?

    Was being a Jehovah's Witness right for me anymore? What would my family think of this change?

    I had no answer. I didn't want to know. I just kind of pushed it to the back of my mind and went ahead and had fun with my friends.

    When I moved to Iowa from Hawaii more than five years ago, the increased physical distance equated to even greater independence and exploration. I haven't been to a meeting at a Kingdom Hall for as long as I've lived in Des Moines.

    I also have a boyfriend who has celebrated Christmas his entire life — complete with digging treats out of stockings and getting a visit from Santa on Christmas morning.

    I decided to really celebrate this year, and for the first time, I actually wrote a Christmas list. My gift-wrapping jobs usually look like I did them with my feet. I'm sending gifts home to my sister and her husband. I'll be spending Christmas Eve with my boyfriend's family in southeast Iowa.

    It's hard to explain what's happened to my outlook on this holiday in the past 10 years. I do know that I still love my parents and am thankful for the upbringing they gave me. I also know that feeling obligated to adhere to their religious beliefs and traditions is something I no longer have to do. But I still respect those beliefs.

    This Christmas will probably be the most unusual one I have ever spent. Not so much because of the gifts, the shopping or the Christmas dinner.

    It's because I'm growing up and finding out what's right for me.


    By the way, Merry Christmas to all on this board! :-))

    Randy Watters

    Net Soup!


  • fullofdoubtnow

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for sharing that, lets hope more jws grow out of the religion as well. I'm glad I'm out

    love, Linda

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