On Crafting a New Tradition

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a minute, you’ve probably gleaned that I’m not Christian. At least, not in the religious sense of the word. On a heart level, I certainly do embrace the true teachings of Jesus, the ones steeped in compassion. Of course, he wasn’t the only one to teach about such things and anyway…that’s not a post I feel compelled to write.

What I’m trying to get at is this…it is not necessary to belong to a religious organization to live a spiritual life. I look forward to my daughter’s journey of personal discovery around her own spirituality and I am curious what she will be drawn to. I see this as a private decision that she will make on her own (with the support of her family and friends), when maturity and timing coincide. In the meantime, my job is to provide her with a basic foundation of self-respect and compassion, as well as an introduction to how humans have connected to source throughout the eons.

I also am taking on the joyful task making sure she feels connected…mind, body, heart and soul…to the world in which we live. Knowing her place in the grand scheme of nature, as well as understanding how cycles of her life correspond to seasonal ones, will provide her with more security than dogma ever can.

However, I was raised Episcopalian, and my path as a Pagan-Witch-Buddhist-Animist-Sane-Reverent-Person has been a mostly solo one, until now. Jeff, if he was to label himself, would probably say he is a Zen Buddhist. He is also an Appreciator of Wild, Natural and Beautiful Things. He also has a soft spot for cute fuzzy animals. Between the two of us, we have a lot of heart, which is really all one needs around holiday times. But it’s not like we’re going to be smooshing our religious backgrounds together to create some kind of Chrismannukawanza. Mostly, I want to give Fern joyful expectation as we approach the holidays each year, knowing that we’ll be doing that thing that we always do. We get to create our own familial traditions, and we find ourselves before the great wide open.

When it comes to celebrating the Winter Solstice, as I have done on my own for 21 years, I have lots of little ideas for what we can do as a family. There are so many ways that Christmas corresponds to the Winter Solstice, that there is no reason for Fern to ever miss out on mainstream fun, plus there are wonderful traditions from my childhood that I want to carry forward. But I’m curious about YOU…do you straight-up celebrate Jesus’s birthday this time of year, or is your family a mish-mash? Do you recreate neo-pagan yule log type parties, go out into the woods for a silent night or forgo the whole thing and work in a soup kitchen in the spirit of giving? For all you nature lovin’, agnostic types, what are some of your favorite things to do with your kids? I would love to hear about the core of this season for you, as well as any ideas you would like to share.

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9 thoughts on “On Crafting a New Tradition

  1. hey mary –
    for a while we have had a little tradition of hiking (usually very muddy) mount diablo on new year’s day or thereabouts to delight in the lovely little seasonal waterfalls – so it is a journey to water (and trees) to start the new year and say ‘hello earth.’ i always identify as some combination of a motley jewish heavily-buddhist & yogic influenced druid pagan baker, (while peggy is an agnostic socialist nature spirit person 🙂 ), and we always do light the chanukah candles as our permutation of the solstice lights and to honor my people’s survival. i always cook a small but fancy holiday meal for friends to celebrate good gifts and the gathering and gifting of loved ones at the dark and cold times. other than that, we have a tree whenever we can fit one in our apartment; i refuse to abandon this tradition to Christians who think it’s theirs (odd). if there is one thing we are it is major tree lovers/appreciators/protectors, so honoring the tree and the ‘evergreenery’ to get us through the dark months is important. you guys are so incredibly sensitive and rich-minded that i imagine you will continue to build wonderful traditions and permutations of traditions.

  2. I was raised a Catholic in the broadest sense of the word. We went to Mass, I went to a Catholic Primary School the full nine yards, however now I consider my self a peaceful hippie atheist, I don’t believe in God but I sure believe in people. Christmas is Australia is obviously in line with the Summer solstice and that adds an entirely different feel to it, a feeling of lightness and sunshiny joy, for me it’s a celebration of life and family and friends, a time of giving and thanking. We don’t have a lot of traditions right now, but that mostly comes from us heaving ourselves cross country to celebrate each year, I think my main tradition is my focus on the gifts I give, never are they cheap, nasty or not thought out, instead I try and choose things that I know that person will love.

  3. hi! i wish i had a good solid answer for you. we do such a weird collaboration of celebrating these holidays. we do the menorrah for hanukkah. we put up a christmas tree because i like to, and the kids love it. they don’t really know who jesus is. it’s come up once. i told them i thought it was a story people like to tell. and some people love the story so much it seems really real to them. and maybe it is, i told them. but i just think it’s a cool story. sort-of. we are evolving though this one year at a time. solstice is the easiest, of course. but something about christmas just gets these kids all bright and vibey. so i just try not to analyze it too much, and hope to take the understanding and explaining of what it all is about one little bite at a time.

  4. hey there… just raising my hand… we’re doing a mishmash of lots of things… and while we’re still adding things (like the tree cookies we can now make since i scored a cookie press at the salvation army for $2! woot! my mom always made these with us) i think it is very much a time of year quinn anticipates with wonder and amazement and excitement and yeah that seems like the point to me. we do some of our own things like typically we spend a few days camped on the beach in a yurt… not that it is a christmas or solstice or anything “thing” its just what we do. and we look forward to romping on the winter beach and picking up magical things and sleeping under a round roof. we have a tiny tree (getting bigger though) that we’ve been growing in a pot (bigger pot this year too! more roots… ahhh.) on our front step, that comes inside for a few days to be our solstice/christmas tree. we eat lots of goodies and give gifts. we attempt to do it all zero-landfill style, more in keeping with what our spirituality is about. and i’ve been trying (and failing) to find a soup kitchen where a kiddo is allowed to help- so funny you mentioned it. i should try again and see what i can find out. anyway, i totally hear you on all of this. have a beautiful season, mary!

  5. We celebrate the holidays as Christians, but also as lovers of the seasonal cycle of this planet. We put up our tree (a live one we recycle in our garden), decorate with lots of meaningful ornaments, bake cookies, make paper snowflakes, make beeswax candles, and more. My hubby is all about the Christmas lights! We celebrate solstice with our friends and Christmas with our family. We make most of our gifts or get gently used ones. and rent the Christmas movies (we don’t have cable but we have a TV/DVD). My youngest loves the Polar Express. For us, it is a time to celebrate hope and peace on earth.

  6. Hey sweet Mary, sorry I haven’t commented here, I haven’t been in blogland lately….been too busy with the ridiculous season. HEY! You just called to my heart…about children and faith or spirituality. I’ve had a really tumultuous journey with Christianity and Religion. I was brought up Catholic…strict Catholicism, and did not find Jesus at all. I find the bible extremely problematic as a faith document but can accept it as a book of teachings for the time it was written. Anyhow. I am a wishy washy sort of agnostic now with pagan leanings i suppose? I’ve found that I understand celebrating life and nature and all the things that make life on earth work and survive….alot more than the unknown omniscent entity and the power of organised religion. I dread talking about this with my son and daughter…..I don’t want to frighten or dissuade them from their personal beliefs. Our traditions? Christmas music, decorating the tree together, gifting something small to everyone in our family (i take them to the shops with $5 for each family member) – and big family get togethers. Alot of the actual day is spent playing together and with cousins.

  7. This is something I’ve been considering a lot as we approach holiday time. I was raised by a rather hypocritical Christian father and (mostly raised by my) Jewish/Pagan kind of mother and I guess I’m rather like you:) Wiccan-Pagan-Animist-Nature worshiper. Yep. I guess that’s what I am. A nature worshiper. I think ‘God’ is in everything: the sun, moon, universe, me, you, dogs, horses, trees, rain, time, gravity, photosynthesis… Everything. Just one big glob of life and power and glue. And science. Definitely science. So this year, I’m celebrating Winter Solstice instead of Christmas. But we still have a tree and I’m hand-making presents this year. I guess it’s just an outlook thing. I think of Jesus like Gandhi, so I guess I could celebrate his birth… but only if I celebrate Gandhi’s birth, too. I’m really glad you wrote this post. And I think it’s really wonderful and open-minded and accepting, the way your raising your daughter.

  8. I’ve had this post open for days now. Meaning to comment. Ruminating because it feels like a blog post I’ve wanted to blog about myself…but perhaps still stewing on it all.
    We celebrate a great-big mish-mash of “holidays” at this time. Seeing autumn an its way out. Welcoming winter. Decorating a tree. Listening to a huge variety of Christmas/winter music. Putting decorations, new and old up around the house. And a big Christmas day with presents and big filling meals, non-traditional since we’re vegetarians, but still celebratory for us. It’s a time of year where in the past, as grandparents have given us ‘baby jesus’ and ‘mother mary’ stories for the kids (you know, so they won’t grow up not knowing the real reason for Christmas), I’ve cringed and felt almost defensive. But now I’m opening up to the explanation period (aka 6 year old with a million questions and at an age with capability to hear and begin to understand an answer on her own ideas). And when life doesn’t feel too full, I turn to two books over and over again throughout the year really:
    Celebrating the Great Mother and Circle Round. I feel like when I listen to my own instincts I find a wealth of ideas there…but sometimes grabbing a book and flipping through and altering other ideas that fit the season with the reverence that I feel it deserves is helpful.
    OK, must get back to life here. Cheers to you and your beautiful family!

  9. i have been so off the blogging thing, i have missed so many of your posts!

    as of this [now past] year, we started celebrating winter solstice in our little family of four, and then celebrating xmas (always written that way out of both my laziness and longtime general discomfort with christianity) with the extended family. it seemed to work pretty well, though we had the benefit of landing at a family time share along the beach for solstice, which makes every damned thing a whole lot sweeter.

    this year we also began a new tradition with two chunks of extended family to exchange only handmade-by-us gifts. it was an enriching experience that truly seemed to perpetuate “the reason for the season” whether one’s motivation is christian or pagan (or anywheres in between).

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