Since becoming a parent and especially over the last couple of years as my daughter has grown old enough to understand that this is, in one way or another, a very special time of the year, I’ve tried to pinpoint what really makes our holiday season meaningful.
Two years ago I tried my hand at introducing just about every cultural holiday celebration that exists around the world in an effort to encourage religious literacy and get past the “it’s only about Christmas” belief we get from friends and strangers alike in December. It was fun and educational and got us out into the community to meet folks celebrating traditions outside the realm of Jesus Christ, but it was a ton of work (hence the reason most people just choose one or two celebrations on which to focus.) After that exploration we did, however, have a better idea of what would stick (read: hold meaning for years to come.)
Last year we still acknowledged Hanukkah, read about Las Posadas, continued to learn about Noche Buena (via the Filipino Children’s Choir of which my daughter is an active member), and celebrated Christmas as far as evening church service and family gatherings went. The majority of our excitement still focused on Winter Solstice, which will be upon us this coming weekend (and greatly welcomed because it’s become a bit eerie walking both TO and FROM school in slight darkness these days.)
As I’m reminded every day through our lifestyle that tends to go against the grain, it’s not easy to celebrate something different this time of year. I’ve had this personal shift over the last 30something months that’s caused me to more clearly understand what I want in life regarding relationships, personal belongings (or lack thereof), experiences, and opportunities. In my mid-thirties I’ve decided it’s definitely not too early (and thankfully not too late!) to cut through all the b.s. and focus on what’s most meaningful and sustainable.
In relating that to the winter holidays I’ve begun to understand that this time of year for me is about memories–thoughts of the anticipation and excitement in the handful of Decembers my daughter’s experienced, laughter in conjuring Wegner family gatherings with lots of food and storytelling, all the way back to the mental images I’ve painted of my great-grandmother’s farmhouse bustling with children and baked goods as I hang her 100-plus year-old ornaments on our tiny tree every year. This is when I hold all of those memories most dear.
As we’ve tried to pare down physically and schedule-wise in the last few months I have also realized this technique can be smartly applied to the holidays. One specific goal for me in December was to sit by the light of the tree reading for leisure each night before bed. And I can say that I’ve done that a good number of nights so far this month.
What other traditions have stuck for us? Holiday baking certainly. Although my daughter and I have produced what seems like an insane number of from-scratch gluten-free cookies (2 dozen different kinds of at least 2-3 dozen each) we are having a ball with it–especially when the recipes are those my Grandma made when we were small (bite-size memories)–and finding plenty of avenues for which to give away our goodies (fundraisers, school bus driver/crossing guards, neighbors, family, church receptions, community donations). Baking has been a very intentional way for my daughter and I to be together, me teaching her some of my craft (and us giggling and nibbling plenty too.)
We’ll celebrate Winter Solstice this weekend–in potentially 3-4 different venues–we’ll have a very quiet Christmas Eve and Christmas next week, and we’ll gather with my family to ring in the new year. Hopefully creating more of those memories as we go.
I sincerely wish you all inner and outer Peace this holiday season, no matter how you choose to celebrate (or not).