Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Yule, Appalachian Christmas, Mennonite Christmas/Chanukah with Rowan

Opening Yule gifts.
Life is weird and delightful. Let me just get that out of the way from the get-go. I know that as a Witch (who is a hard polytheist and has a very particular theology counter to what many people know and experience), my life is always going to be a little surreal. That's OK. I chose this life and am happy to live it.

Raising Rowan with our (his father is also a Witch) values while simultaneously respecting the religions of his relatives and friends is always challenging and takes a lot longer than keeping to ourselves or giving up/in to Santa Claus and the typical American secular Christmas.

New Trike!
So this time of year, we celebrate Yule as a family on the 21st, then Christmas with extended family, and then Chanukah with close friends. We counted down to Yule using an advent calendar with special fun and/or candy each day. The morning of the solstice, we opened gifts that were placed beneath a holiday tree that we decorated ourselves (as an event on the calendar!).

I am all about celebrating the traditions that were/are ours as pagans, polytheists, and Witches. I also let Rowan know that Christians do these things too- because they wanted in on the Witchy fun.* So we do the tree, gifts, lights, feasts, all the fun things that most people like about Christmas, but aren't specifically Christian in origin.

A "fallen" snow angel.
Rowan's grandparents are a little puzzled when we tell them that "we celebrated on the 21st", even though they know we are Witches. They ask few questions because they are afraid of the answers. That's OK. At each sabbat, it's all about connection- retying ourselves to the Wheel and each other. So I will not diminish the connection by forcing my views on anyone. And I expect the same from Christians and Jews.

Snow demon
After Yule (in addition to the advent calendar, the tree, and gifts, we had a log that burns three candles, had held a sabbat with other trad Witches in the area at our home), we trekked to Appalachia to Rowan's paternal grandparent's home for Christmas. We had a party that evening with aunties and uncles and cousins (where the family participates in a white elephant gift exchange and receives gifts from the family matriarch), then opened gifts for one another. Rowan made out like a bandit, as did the elder Kunnings- we got a flatscreen TV. (More on this in subsequent blog posts, I am sure.)

Rowan and E.
After several days relaxing with grandparents, we journeyed northward to Bluffton, a charming Mennonite settlement town in Northwest Ohio.

There we celebrated a family Christmas (late) with a family not our own. We traveled there to see our friend, R, and her daughter, E. We know them (and R's partner, D, from our childbirth class with the midwife we shared.

Our children were born a week apart and they have been friends their whole lives, literally. We are close to R and D and cannot wait until they leave San Francisco for Pennsylvania. After that, we will be spending one weekend a month with one another, rotating PA for OH, after they move. Huzzah! For now, we keep in touch with Skype and infrequent visits.

Rowan and E.
Can I just say? I love the way that R's family is with one another. It is a huge family, and very close. They are intellectuals and value education and the arts. It is a pleasure to play "Family Fun Game" with them or watch them open their gift exchange. They are also very active in social justice movements and pacifists, which is a welcome change after Appalachia- where Fox News, polarization, and guns are the norm. R's father is Jewish and her mother is Mennonite. She always resonated with the Jewish side of herself and when she was pregnant, she converted to Judaism and now she and her daughter are Jewish and they do shabbat every week and this time of year, they celebrate Chanukah. So we celebrate with them, too.

My holidays are far from the norm, but I love them. I love that Rowan is growing up with a big universe and knows all kinds of people.

*When he gets older, I will let him know that many Christians do not understand that what they do is pagan in origin- and that is OK. We do not need to rub it in their faces, as long as Christians do not begrudge us our fun, we will not piss on their parade, either. (And most of the Christians that we know and love do understand that most cultural trappings of Christmas are actually Euro-pagan and do not care.)


  1. Hi, I just discovered your blog. Your holiday season sounded so wonderful, exciting and varied. I'm an expat living in a very traditional, very Catholic European country. I've been trying quite hard to create some sort of personalized holiday tradition for my kids that actually means something to me. But with no family around and ALL my friends are Catholic, well, anyways, I haven't really been able to discover anything that I like and feel good with yet. We had ROAST CHICKEN last Christmas lol!

  2. Good luck finding what works for you in your circumstances. On the bright side- with everything up in the air- you are free to invent ANYTHING!


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