The winter break is nigh and most people around us are celebrating the traditional American way; shopping, decorating, getting together with family and probably eating too much.
We are also planning on doing all of the above. Traditions are fun – when you have a choice in the matter. Here in the twenty first century we can understand the difference between sentimental and superstition, and take part in the stuff that makes sense to us.
We don’t celebrate Christmas. The 25th was proclaimed as the birthday of Christ in the 4th century by the emperor Constantine (after his conversion, of course) and thankfully as non-christians we aren’t under his subjugation today. Through the centuries, christmas has won out as the dominant holiday in most countries conquered by Europe, assimilating many of the other native religious traditions and also laying claim to any secular merrymaking taking place during the season.
Virgin births aside, another preoccupation at this time of year here in the U.S. is the acquisition of consumer goods – “Black Friday” is now a tradition for some people! Everyone either frets or brags about the status of their holiday shopping. Early on when the kids were much younger I got caught up in it and piled gifts under the tree. A few years (and many cheap, broken plastic toys) later, we’ve modified this holiday tradition. Instead, everyone gets their stockings filled by Santa, and that’s it. I prefer to give my kids real experiences rather than xboxes. And of course the greatest gift; my undivided attention.
So Santa visits us (although the kids have always known he is just a fictional character from folklore) on the longest, darkest night of the year: Winter Solstice. The date for this event is not set by some long ago ruler, it is a natural phenomenon and the date that it occurs varies. This year we will observe it on the 22nd since the kids get out of school that day. We turn out all the lights (except for the ones on our tree) and light candles. The sun will disappear by 4:00 pm. leaving us sitting in the dark for a long while before bed time! It won’t be an all out celebration and Santa’s visit has been postponed because the next day we will start our pilgrimage down to Texas to be with family.
Since we’ll be traveling this winter break, we didn’t go out to the tree farm and cut a tree.
Instead, I made one. Out of books! It is still made of trees, see. Just more refined.
I may have to do this every year – it was a lot of fun to rediscover many of these books (and made the task of building this thing take ten times as long)!
We normally do the traditional tradition for the tree; our family drives out into the snowy landscape armed with hack saw and hot cocoa. In June during the Summer Solstice we plant trees (to make up for this loss of flora).
As for the holiday food, well, that’ll need its own post. Health and happiness to all from the McCain family.