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A pile of presents, wrapped in winter-themed wrapping paper, lie on my dining room floor. But I’ll be opening them with my family on December 22. Instead of celebrating on the 25th, my family celebrates the winter holidays on the shortest day of the year.

On December 22, the winter solstice, the sun will rise at 7:19 AM, the latest it will ever rise this year, and it will set at 4:54 PM. Instead of having a tree, we put up a yellow piece of plastic shaped like a sun, backlit by white LEDs. We turn off the lights, light a candle for each person present, and eat our dinner with only the light of the candles and the sun to illuminate our meal. After dinner ends, we open our presents.

My extended family still celebrates Christmas, so most years I have another family gathering on the 25th. My close family will have already given gifts amongst ourselves earlier, but we will still participate in the second round of giving gifts. But the celebration that took place three days prior didn’t have any less value.

There are a lot of similarities between Christmas and Solstice celebrations. Both are celebrated in the same week and involve getting together with family and giving gifts. Yet despite all the similarities, people seem shocked and appalled that I don’t celebrate a religious holiday. I’ve been told that not believing in Santa ruined my childhood, that I should celebrate Christmas instead of Solstice, and that giving presents three days before everyone else is weird. Some even accuse me of being anti-theist. I’m not, and I hope this article can demonstrate the similarities between Solstice and other holidays. Most of the winter holidays center around spending time with your family and giving gifts to your loved ones. Solstice has the same two primary elements, and to me, would be no different from a celebration the happens three days later. My family has our own traditions, but there’s no reason we can’t coexist peacefully with people who have different ones.

My family will be celebrating three days before yours, but on a broader scale, our holiday traditions are one and the same.

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