Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Calendar and other Holiday Traditions

Our advent calendar!
As Witches, my family celebrates Yule this time of year- a time when the Sun King is once again reformed as well as the solstice the darkest, longest night of the year.

As religious minorities in America, we are surrounded by Christmas (both the religious and the secular, commercial versions)- and frequent mentions are made of other holidays like Hannukah, Kwanzaa (and sometimes even Chalica).

We note those observances and teach our son about them- he is growing up knowing all about the world's religions and having friends in different religions, too. It makes sense as a an educated world citizen and after all, when we spend the winter holidays partly with extended family and /or friends- and they are Christmas and Chanukah people, mostly.

So what do I teach my son about Yule? It expands each year, as his understanding grows and he can get abstract concepts. Right now, we let him know that Yuletide is a holiday that started before Christmas and many things people think of as "Christmas things" are actually practices from pagans in Germany, the British Isles, Rome, and elsewhere. We do all the fun things Witches do during a fun winter holiday!

We use an advent calendar to count down to the solstice. We were lucky enough to find a wood adent calendar with little wood drawers and the last three dates (22-24) were easily turned around to make a solstice advent calendar. Ha! Each drawer is filled with a slip of paper that names something fun we are going to do that day and a sweet. What kinds of fun things? Here's one from California that we did:

 1. cookie baking day(s)
2. special stories/books
3. making ornaments
4. trip to get meaningful ornaments
5. tree trimming
6. Sing Along Sound of Music at The Castro Theater
7. special holiday craft
8. shopping for people we love
9. special stories/books
10. gingerbread house
11. coloring pictures
12. make a treat and take it to a friend
13. make plates or serving bowls at paint your own pottery place
14. make hand and foot prints
15. pick your own special thing!!!
16. make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes
17. potluck dinner
18. gingerbread house
20. watch a christmas movie and eat popcorn
21. drive around and look for fairy lights

The 21st is when we exchange gifts as a family (meaning Rowan has at least three days that include gifts- the solstice, Christmas with extended family and Chanukah with our friends). We decorate a tree a couple of weeks beforehand and I continue a tradition that my mom started. We get a few ornaments each year that celebrate big happenings in that year and writing names and dates on the ornaments. That way, each year, we can reminisce as we decorate the tree.

In addition to a tree and gifts, we often make or get a wreath or other greenery- an old pagan tradition of remebering even on the darkest night, life is present. We kiss under mistletoe. We sing carols and songs (and even more carols and songs and songs) like "The Holly and the Ivy". We decorate gingerbread houses and people, bake other cookies, drink hot cocoa, light the lights on the tree and our Yule log (We do have a permanent Yule Log with room from three candles.) and on Yule, we stay up until sunrise.

We do not do some other pagan traditions, however, such as La Befana or "Santa Claus" (yes, Santa was a mushroom eating shaman). While I enjoyed Santa as a girl, I don't like the idea of perpetuating lies to children for their own sake. We aren't doing the tooth fairy, either. We also don't do Krampusnacht or talk about the Krampus.

What does your family do this time of year?

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