Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Peaceful Solstice. Happy Holidays.
As the world gets smaller we find ourselves having clashes of culture. People on TV run around telling us what Christmas "should be" instead of what it is to them.
After all, isn't that what the Holiday is about? What your family did to celebrate as a kid. What you, as an adult, do with your family now. And how that makes you feel in your heart. If there is a Spirit of Christmas, isn't it really the best of the spirit inside each of us?
So, we here at From The Write Angle would like to share with you a bit about what the Holiday means to each of us, and we invite you to do the same, right here in the comments for this post.
And maybe when your spirit has run dry, when the Holidays are far away, you can come here again to drink from the well of the Winter Solstice—to warm your heart in the face of a world that can get cold.
About 4 billion years ago, a giant rock smashed into the earth. This rock was so big that it nearly destroyed the planet. The part that broke off became our moon, and the earth has wobbled ever since. Because of this wobble, we have four distinct seasons: Summer, when the earth tilts toward the sun; Winter, when it tilts away, and the two seasons between, Fall and Spring.
Over the past 100,000 years, humans have developed holidays to mark the change in seasons. Fall brings Harvest/Celebration of the Dead as darkness encroaches. Spring: resurrection/fertility as life returns. Summer is full of hard work and bounty, and deadly heat, so there aren't as many universal celebrations.
Winter is the birth of a new year. Hope builds, as every day after the solstice gets a little longer. It has also become a time for the giving of gifts, and I say that's a good thing.
Charity is humiliating. There is an element of cruelty to it. Charity is a drop in the bucket of poverty and wont. It says to the receiver, "you have failed, and must rely on the kindness of strangers."
But strangers are kind. Helping others makes us feel good. So in the depths of Winter, when food and warmth are scarce, instead of giving charity to a few, we give gifts to all. Some are trinkets, toys offering the warmth of a smile. Some are sustenance, bare necessities to get a family through to spring. Given as gifts, none are charity. There is no stigma.
Now, as American society has become consumer-driven, the buying of gifts has become a gift itself. Target and Wal-Mart hire more people. Money moves from hand-to-hand, stopping along the way to feed a child, or pay for heat.
So the next time you hear Christmas music the day after Halloween, or see Santa before you eat your Thanksgiving Turkey, have a smile. Humans are doing what we have done since our time began. We are, without realizing it, helping each other.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Peaceful Solstice. Have fun Shopping.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, I feel blessed that I can celebrate both Christmas with my husband and his family, and Yule. There are so many similarities with traditions between the two, even though the meanings are completely different.
My main ritual is private and personal. I am not part of a coven so I do my rite on my own. I light candles, meditate, but I've merged most of what I do with my husband's celebrations, which means I start celebrating a few days before Yule, and finish the season with a New Year's Eve Cleansing Ritual, to help release the negative energy I'm accumulated over the year.
Christians and Pagans are not the only ones who celebrate this time of year. Many cultures around the world deem this time of year special. Buddhists have Dōngzhì Festival, Hebrew celebrate Hanukkah. There is Kwanzaa for African Americans and the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti.
There is so much to celebrate and I wish each of you a Blessed and Happy Holidays, which ever path you follow.
We have a recipe for Scottish toffee in our family. It’s a soft vanilla fudge that melts in your mouth. You really don’t even have to chew. Delicious stuff! From start to finish, it takes between 45 minutes and an hour of continuous stirring. You can’t leave it for even a few seconds or it’s ruined. It has to boil at just the right level for the perfect length of time. Too high or too long, and it’s hard. Too low, and it won’t hold its shape. Sadly, once it’s ruined, you have to toss it out and start again.
So, why do I bother?
It’s more than the incredible scent filling the house. We think I’m the 4th generation to make it. While I stir, I think of all of those who’ve made it before me. I remember meeting great Uncle Willie and taking my first taste. I remember being allowed to stir for the first time. My first solo effort. And the first batch I had to toss out.
Sweetness. Memories. Family. Laughter. Love. That’s what Christmas means to me.
I was a bit of a brat as a kid. Among my earliest memories of Christmas is paging through the toy section of the Sears catalog (yes, I’m old enough to remember that) to see what I wanted Santa to get me. I also remember sneaking into my parents’ closet where I discovered (and played with) unwrapped presents. Who knew Santa’s workshop was in my parents’ bedroom! But as much as I enjoyed receiving gifts, I loved—and still love—being with family. Being held by my mother in the crowded church on Christmas Eve, the scent of fireplaces in the neighborhood, the rare snowflakes falling as we left my grandfather’s house: everything revolved around family and the home. I hope my daughters learn to love such moments, too. As writers, we draw on everything in our memories to shape the lives of our characters. I’m thankful I have goodness to give.
I grew up on the wrong side of poor. Christmas for us was sparse in the present department, though not in love. Most of our gifts came in the form of frivolous necessities: earmuffs instead of stocking hats, or the coveted overalls of the early eighties instead of a simple pair of jeans.
My sister and I learned early on to make gifts for those we loved. Our favorite: emergency money kits. We would creatively package our odd change and write instructions that the money only be used in dire circumstances.
Our second favorite: gifts for Santa's Mouse, a tradition we learned as kindergarteners and still carry through with our children today. In the weeks preceeding Christmas, we wound tiny balls of yarn, broke toothpicks in half for knitting needles and wrapped our gifts for Santa to take back to Mrs. Mouse so she could knit warm sweaters for Mr. Mouse.
Every Christmas morning, we would wake at 4:00am to scour the tree for presents from Santa's Mouse. These were tiny gifts of whimsy tied with a yellow ribbon and completely devoid of necessity.
About five years ago, I learned that my paternal grandfather had been saved a few times by our little stashes of cash he carried in his glove compartment. It's nice to know that small things really do matter.
In all my life (and I won't mention exactly how many years that is), I've never spent Christmas away from home. Thanksgiving, yes. My two years of graduate school put me two thousand miles away from my family. But both years, I managed to fly home for Christmas.
We don't have major traditions, but I've always enjoyed the small familiarities. How many of our nativity sets will we unpack to decorate with this year? (We have somewhere around fifty, I think.) Dad's coronary-inducing scrambled eggs Christmas morning. Eggnog mixed with ginger ale. Christmas Eve with my mother's side of the family, and Christmas night with my father's.
Gifts always fall much lower on the list. My sister-in-law recently asked what I wanted for Christmas, and it was hard to think of anything. I was already in town with my family, so what else could I want?
What thoughts, wishes, and memories are on your mind this holiday season? Please share. We'd love to hear them.