Friday, December 14, 2007


Although Anne is talking about her sister here, this really says it just right in regards to me and my brothers too:

Sis and I get along fine, but we rarely see each other. That's because there's a 900-pound gorilla in the room with us ever time we meet and greet. That gorilla is her faith, which point blank assigns me to hell.

I do not have such feelings about her faith. I believe in her god. I just don't worship her god. I think he has a mean streak. He's not alone in that. Lots of deities have mean streaks. But most of them don't have a gazillion followers who vote.

And I feel the same way about their faith as she does about her sister’s faith. As I said to someone recently – Love/worship/praise/believe in who or what you want…as long as you’re not hurting anyone physically or mentally (including yourself) and you’re happy – just do what you want. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, just as I expect you not to tell me how to live mine.

I think upon this a lot as the Winter Solstice approaches (which is the 22nd) this year. I also am still trying to figure out how (and what) to make a tradition. I mean, I grew up in the Episcopal church and a big family. We celebrated Christmas with fervor. I remember each Christmas morning (when I was young) my three brothers and I would gather at the top of the stairs, trying to see into the living room below while making sure we didn’t wake our mom up too early. Then, once we were all awake we’d line up and troop down the stairs together. Once in the living room, we’d scramble to find our laden stockings, claim the seat we wanted for the gift-opening extravaganza, and then we’d get to open one gift before we all went and had homemade waffles for breakfast. (My memory gets a bit vague when I try and figure out when we would go to church that morning – Mom was a church organist, so I’m assuming she had to play at least one service on Christmas morning….) Later, we’d return to our seats and the fun began.

When I was little, we really were into recycling Christmas wrapping…we had to be, in a family of 6! (And we still have some of the wrapping paper and boxes showing up occasionally.) So, in order to save the paper, as well as drag out the fun, each one of us would take a turn and play “Santa” to the rest of the family. This meant picking out which gift the other person was going to open next and taking it to them. Then we’d all watch that one person open that one present (slowly, no tearing! save the paper!) – oooh and ahh over the gift – and then the next person would get their present. With a family of 6 (and generous parents) this sometimes made the gift-opening sessions run for 3-4 hours!! It was a test of patience, but also made us understand gift giving better I think. To add a bit of spice, we’d even have the occasional treasure hunt for the present – all of us running from room to room reading clues and trying to not “help” the recipient find their gift. It was a blast.

As I look at my brother’s families now, I don’t see any of that tradition continuing, and it makes me sad. And trying to duplicate it with just me and my hubby doesn’t seem to be the answer, for many reasons. So I continue to try and figure out a tradition that he and I can build – something as fulfilling as my childhood, but less centered on consumerism and the Christian belief system…neither of which we have any faith in.


epota said...

Well said. It would be no surprise to you that I've experienced many of the feelings you talk about. As a Buddhist among an almost entirely non-Buddhist population (our suburbs are not very diverse), it's been a struggle to really define a tradition. Well, rather, it's finding ways to accept the fact that what you're struggling with is just memories of old traditions.

As a child, without really having yet sought out comparative religious studies, we were brought up as most: the songs, the stories, the gifts, all that seems to define Christmas for most. That's the memory we hang on to. And, despite all of the flaws with this, it's hard to let go of the emotional link to the (mostly) innocence of childhood.

As a Buddhist family, and one that is raising a 5-year old daughter, it's a bit of a compromise. We don't emphasize anything remotely Christian, but we also don't want to squash "the season" with her cousins and friends. We just roll with the month and view it as time to enjoy the company of good friends and (some) family. Gift giving is not something the Christians invented.

I do take some solace in the fact that most of what passes for Christian tradition has nothing to do with Christianity whatsoever. Had it not been for a then losing battle with Pagan beliefs, most of what we seem to feel stems from Christianity would not be part of the holiday routine.

But that's another topic entirely. The bottom line is that I wrestle hard with these gatherings and just try to find the best way to move forward with a young one just looking for a bit of fun. After all, that's what all of us were really looking for in those early ages. And it certainly doesn't hurt to borrow a chapter from the parent handbook and suggest that Santa is watching if your kid is being good or bad!

We can have lights and a tree and not have any ties to Christian folklore. These items are not exclusive. And stockings by the chimney? OK. That IS from the Santa myth. But let's be real here. It is a story only. But no wise men. No baby. No star. No overwrought song ballads.

And do we really need that to enjoy the Winter Solstice? Seems like there was much enjoyment during these times before Christians stole -- err, absorbed -- these traditions. It should naturally be a time of celebration and good will. And that has nothing to do with stories of an amazing childbirth.

Whew. Sorry so long. My advice is to just enjoy your time with hubby. You both recognize the importance of the time of year as Pagans -- and you both also have incredible personalities, which allows you to enjoy the company of friends as well. You don't jam religious belief down the throats of others. You respect others and only ask for some of that in return.

This IS your tradition now. Build on it. And it'll only get easier to enjoy when you let go of the baggage from family and the emotional ties of youth. Pour a good glass of wine or your favorite libation. Toast to your good fortune, your beliefs, your friends, and your life together.

WW said...

Thanks epota - you are a super nice dude, ya know?