Friday, December 22, 2006

The Return of the Light

I have seen the title phrase written in regards to the Winter Solstice a lot as I have read about it recently, and I like it. It has a nice ring to it. I've been reading a lot about the science behind the solstice as well as the role its occurrence has played in various cultures. As someone who has dealt with the effects of SAD for years, the Winter Solstice seems a day worth celebrating but I have never thought much about it before this year.

This year, with Pearl being more aware of the world around her and becoming a more integrated member of the family, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of meaningful holiday traditions I want to create for our families. I've been reminiscing about my family's rituals: my grandfather reading the Nativity story from the Bible, singing carols, opening gifts from family, and eating waffles with strawberries and whipped cream on Christmas Eve, then gathering beneath the tree on Christmas morning to open what gifts Santa had left beneath the tree and explore and enjoy what goodies he'd left in our stockings. Later on in the day, a big dinner featuring turkey and ham.

These traditions are not exactly the ones I want to craft for my little family. My beliefs are not the same as the older generation of my family's, though I am not quite sure what they are. As I'm figuring that out I'm trying to find rituals of my own that feel right: acknowledging the shifts in the seasons, the changes in the light, and how they effect the earth and her children.

I did buy a live tree this year, a big potted Norfolk Pine. It's an evergreen, and cheaper than the pines one can buy to plant in the yard after enjoying indoors for a few days. I wanted something small that I could decorate with toddler-friendly ornaments, and a cut tree doesn't seem much better than a fake tree to me at the moment - I went with a fake tree last year and was pretty disappointed with it. So, we have this funky little tree, which isn't something grown to withstand snowy winters but rather a tropical plant, green in the belief of year-round sun. I'm all about tropical so this is okay, but still not quite the same. It lacks the presence of a true pine. But an evergreen to me seems to be a good symbol of the season - hope of brighter days remaining through the darker ones.

On the day of the Solstice we ate a pretty simple dinner in the candlelight of a centerpiece I'd made from a white candle, red ornaments, and pine and holly branches I'd gathered from our yard:


And afterwards we took Elaina to see the Christmas lights that adorn the town square each year. She has been very excited when I point out Christmas lights in passing to her to the car, frantically signing and saying, "More more! Lights!" when they fade from view. So I thought she'd get a thrill out of seeing the thousands of lights there, and I wasn't wrong. She wandered about throwing her arms up in the air, palms open, her sign for lights... saying, "Lights! Lights! Let's go!" Except she can't yet pronounce the "l" sound, so it was more like, "Kights!"


It was wonderful to see her joy. That new tradition is definitely here to stay.

Today, we had a feast: an organic, free range turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry/apple/orange relish, sweet potatoes with a pecan praline crust, and pumpkin pies to come. We're still quite stuffed.

Tomorrow I am going to be making toffee and fudge, what seems to be my traditional gift to loved ones. On the morning of Christmas Eve we'll go see my in-laws, and in the evening we'll travel to my parents' house and take part in all the above-listed festivities, minus the strawberry waffles - my mother decided it was too much! So I may be adopting that into my home for a Christmas breakfast. On Christmas Day, Pearl will open her presents here beneath our wacky little tree, and pull the goodies out of her stocking, and then we'll have Christmas dinner with my family later on.

So, that is where I am now in this winter holiday season, trying to mash together my husband's family's non-beliefs, my family's beliefs, and my own confusion into something that expresses the spirit of the season and makes warm memories for Pearl to carry off into the world when she starts making her own traditions.

~* More about Tradition this week at Mama Says Om * ~

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Anonymous Mama C-ta said...

I've been struggling with finding our own traditions as well. I keep thinking as Julian gets older and can express his interests and curiosties more they'll develop but at the same time I'm thinking we should strying trying to establish something. But what? I'm so confused about all my beliefs too - you've given me something to think about. Merry Christmas and happy holiday celebrating day ;)

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Daph said...

It sounds so wonderful! I think traditions are so important, and it's so good that you're finding your own! We have a few, but I'm like Cara, too, having a hard time deciding what would be best for us.

I hope you and your family had a fun, happy day! XOXO

8:18 AM  
Anonymous MarillaAnne said...

Just dropped by to say Merry Christmas. That's a great photo of Pearl.


12:15 PM  
Anonymous n.b. said...

Lovely post, and a wonderful photo of your daughter. Blessings of the season!

1:56 PM  
Anonymous gearhead mama said...

Struggling over traditions here, too. We are not religious, but I would like to have some traditions based on food and charity (perhaps adopting a family), and some gifts. I've been thinking about bring the solstice into the fold, but haven't figured out exactly how. I figured this year wouldn't be too important, but next year I'll have to get my act together.

I'm also torn over the tree. We have an artificial tree (inherited from the husband's parents). I don't like them, especially now that I've learned they often have lead in them (as do the christmas lights, sigh). But I also don't like supporting the monoculture of a christmas tree farm. This year we had no tree and no decorations (I know, I'm a grinch!). Haven't figured out a long-term plan yet.

I like the idea of going to look at the lights. Keep us posted on what you come up with!

6:26 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

We just had a baby and have been struggling with some traditions too. We have at least another year to come up with some great traditions we can put in place.
One thing we are doing is buying her an ornament each year and when she's old enough she can have her own little tree in her room to decorate how she pleases.
Once she is old enough to realize, we are going to give her a set amount of money, in replacement of one of her gifts, to go spend at the toy store for needy children. Then, we'll take the toys she chose, and she'll donate them.
We also have a festival of lights here where you drive through to see all of the decorations. She's still too little for that though.

5:33 AM  

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