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Pagans, artists celebrate an alternative Christmas centered on light and rebirth

Holiday season » Salt Lake area Pagans, skeptics and those who simply love the season of light embrace the winter solstice days.

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Then everything changed, including their Christmas celebrations, when the couple had a baby girl.

Even if Christmas had lost its religious meaning for them long ago, Chorn and her husband decided the sight of lights and other decorations would be a treasure for their 16-month-old daughter. Chorn cast back to her own childhood and her Mormon upbringing. Once you’re a parent, she reasoned, why not get sucked up into it?

At a glance

‘Nancy Holt: Sightlines’ exhibit

When » Through Jan. 20. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Mondays and holidays.

Where » Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah campus, 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City.

Info » $7 adults, $5 youth and seniors, free to U students, faculty and staff. Call 801-581-7332 or visit www.umfa.utah.edu.

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"I had memories of Christmas lights on the tree, so I wanted my daughter to have the same," Chorn said. "I’ve never met an atheist who says you can’t celebrate in some way simply because you’re an atheist. They probably exist somewhere out there, but I’ve never met them. For us, now, the holiday is about pulling together as a family to recall everything that happened during the year."

Lay said celebrating the winter solstice, Pagan-style, isn’t about rejecting other religious traditions or ceremonies. His living room also contains symbols of Buddhism, Shinto and Christianity. "We don’t throw away something that’s beautiful just because it’s not part of our practice," he said.

While skeptical toward religions in general, Chorn bristles slightly at the suggestion that she somehow might be missing the "true meaning" of the holiday simply by celebrating it as she and her husband see fit.

"It’s a holiday that means something different to everyone," she said. "I don’t think that’s a ‘war on Christmas.’ I think that’s diversity, and that’s wonderful."


Twitter: @Artsalt


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