It’s no secret in my extended family that I’m not religious. I had a religious upbringing, and in my teens moved from Catholicism to Christianity, and in my 20’s shifted to just plain not being religious. I have my own personal reasons for that, and that is not up for discussion here.
However, I respect greatly those in my family that are of different religions, beliefs, and so on.
I’ve been “celebrating” different holidays with my family for a long time. Mostly because it’s a time where we can have a pretty darned good excuse (and the occasional ability to get time off work to travel, which we don’t often get these days) to go see family. Because we don’t often get the “OK” from his work to travel much, we really enjoy these times to be able to go see family. (Which, unfortunately, we will not be able to do during the actual Holiday Season this year. That’s been delayed.)
I celebrate with my family and those of us that don’t necessarily celebrate the “traditional” or the commercialized version of Christmas, we still spend time with family during this time. We still enjoy being with family, and respecting their traditions, and their ways of celebrating. We still give tidings of good cheer in many forms, sure, out of habit and whatnot, but it’s also just out of respect for others.
But, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about for a while now is how we want to celebrate the Holidays. Halloween is easy. 😀 Thanksgiving, also easy. Christmas is the biggie. Easter, not so much since we’re not back near family for Easter most of the time.
My husband is also not religious. He loves Christmas as an idea, but not for religious reasons. He loves the idea of giving, of family, of being together, gathering, sharing good company, good spirit, and most of all, good food. The gift thing is more out of habit than anything else for both of us, because that’s just what we’ve grown up with.
For me, I like the idea of the gathering as a way to warm the hearts and hearths as a way to kick off the winter in good spirits. I have always liked the ancient ideas around the solstices and the celebrations. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year (which falls on December 21st this year). The celebrations were generally centered around celebrating the return of the sun (the days starting to become longer again, and the eventual return of the warmer seasons).
I like this, because it really to me seems to center around hope, around family/community support, bringing each other the warmth of love and hope to warm the spirit like the fires warm the hearth and home during the coldest, darkest times. It’s about bonding together to get through the season (one which has a documented affect on mood and health) together as a family/community. The feasting celebrations are two-fold in my eyes, celebrating the past year’s abundance (crops back then, good work now), and also providing the sustenance needed to get through (these days, more of a comfort than a necessity).
Yes, the original celebrations were both centered around the ecological and the religious, and has only transformed and changed while staying eerily the same over an incredible amount of time. But as others have done, adapting things to their own ends, I feel I can do the same to find my own contentment in something I want to teach and celebrate with my kid(s) and my husband, while also respecting the ways other people celebrate their own Holidays.
I am finding more and more that I’m very much into a relatively simple and straightforward way of living. Live good, be good, give, and celebrate love and family. I’m no hippy, but we love the idea of large family/community. And I think a lot more people are returning to that kind of mentality. Talking with friends, the idea of an almost commune type living is becoming more and more welcome. Sharing home grown produce, sharing the responsibility and work, bringing up kids together in the “it takes a village” kind of mentality, being around the ones you love, both blood and not blood. I love this, as much of a hermit as I am at times. Though, the people I’ve found lately have been so good for me. They are quickly becoming family to me, but they also like their own space and respect that we like ours as well. It’s a really good balance.
And despite having differing opinions on religion and beliefs, there are some serious core trains of thought that we all share. Which I think is amazing. That connection is so awesome.
Anywho, back to the actual topic.
I think it’s going to take more time to really find my preferred path when it comes to the things I want to instill in my child(ren) when it comes to how the Holidays are celebrated and done in the society at large, and I’ve got what seems like a good amount of time, but I’m sure will only be fleeting in the next couple years before she really gets to the place where ideas really start settling in. Hopefully by the time we have our next child it will be easier. I want them to be aware of the different ways things are celebrated, what the different holidays are, where they come from, and eventually let them choose their own path, be it non-religious or religious, like my parents did. We were brought up Catholic, but were able from around the tween/teen ages to decide for ourselves. I appreciate that so much, and I want to do the same for mine.
At the very least, I want a good set of core values that don’t need to be rooted in anything other than a good sense of self and living a good, responsible and full life. If they want to turn to religion, then by all means. It’s up to them. But for me, the core of a good life doesn’t have to be rooted in religion. I want to be able to instill an ability to love and care for people, to be responsible with not only self, but with others, to make the kinds of choices that make them feel good and proud of themselves. I know that they will go through their own stages of trials and tribulations, and maturing, they will have to make their own stumbles and learn their own lessons.
And I know that what I want for them isn’t really any different at the core than any other parent. But I do hope that I am at a point in my life where I’ve learned from my life lessons and I can really impart the things I want to impart to my children, and hopefully they will have at least a little easier time of it.
And these core things, I want to be just a “my cup runneth over” kind of idea when it comes to the Holidays. I want them to learn to reflect on the past year, and the past as a whole, and hope that they realize that they have more than enough for their needs (taken from the Hebrew scriptures – which is where that quote above tends to come from). The core needs of life are far more simple than what is often touted these days. If the needs are met, both your own and those around you, then the wants can be then tended to. But not in over-kill. My husband and I have nice things, but much of it is for their longevity, not their “right now” kind of feel. We focus on spending time together, enjoying each other, and good food mostly. We have a few nice electronics (finally caught up with my parents in the television department!). And yes, I admit to being rather attached to my means of getting on the internet). But we don’t focus on the best or the newest. In a quiet way, we tend to go more toward the idea of quality over quantity. And that is something I hope to pass down in this crazy, developing technological world.
I don’t believe in the crazy technology being some kind of evil thing. If I did, this blog wouldn’t exist! But I also believe that they are the luxuries, and not needs. (As much as I may feel like I NEED my computer. Or my smartphone. They sure do make some things so much easier!) I think that we’ve subconsciously managed to find a good balance between simple and modern in our life.
And once again (sheesh, I’m awful at the branches today), I want to bring this back to what I want for the Holidays.
I want them to be able to reflect back and be able to say that their life is full of good. Good deeds, good choices, good friends, good family, good everything. To celebrate the abundance of good in their lives, and their ability to share that good with others. To bring something to share with family during the Yule time, to bring warmth and care and support and love during the coldest darkest time of year. To warm hearts like the fires warm the hearths. (I love the visual similarities of those two words.)
I want them to celebrate life and love and family and celebrate the giving of themselves into a communal feast of both life-giving food and love-giving energy. Gifts are an expression, but I want to try to show the difference between something thought out, something personal, versus just an extravagant want. Getting (yourself or as a gift) something not home or hand made isn’t a bad thing. But too much is just overwhelming and unnecessary. “It’s the thought that counts.” is another phrase I like. Whether it be homemade/handmade or something bought…if there’s thought behind it, and something that is personal to the person getting it, then I think it’s a good gift.
I want them to celebrate life and family. (I know I said it before, but I think it bears repeating.)