• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic

Christmas/Winter Traditions and Their Meaning to You  RSS feed

 
master steward
Posts: 4139
Location: Pacific Northwest
1098
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I started this thread as a way to share--not so much debate--our holiday traditions and their meanings for us.

Winter has always been my favorite season. I love beauty of the snow and how it often puts "life" on hold. When we're snowbound, or have a power outage, we can't do a lot of things (go to work, run errands, check facebook, whatever). It's out of my hands, and so I just get to enjoy the simple things: candle light, time with family, winter wonderland walks, sledding, etc. over the years, my little family has already made a few of it's own traditions. When the power is out, my husband puts my son on his back and goes "dun-de-dun-de" around the house, in and out of the rooms, singing bonanza. Every time they enter a new dark room, they yell "DARK!" It's a little tradition, and a silly one, but it's ours. Every time it snows, too, we go for a "Winter Wonderland Walk" around our neighborhood, singing "Walking in a winter wonderland."

And, then there's traditions that have been carried on generation after generation. When I was little, my mom's side of the family (around 20 or more of us) would gather at my Grammie's house. Before opening presents, we would pass out songbooks of carols. There were never enough, so we usually had to share. Everyone was able to pick which song they wanted us all to sing. I always picked 12 Days of Christmas! It was so magical and special to hear my whole family singing together, rejoicing together in Jesus' birth. It's been a few years since my Grammie passed--we thankfully almost all were there the last Christmas before she passed, and were able to sing carols with her. Since she's passed, my mom's family doesn't gather together for Christmas. My mom is now "Grammie" and me and my brother with our kids (he has two and I have two) join together at her house. This year we're making our own song books full of carols, so we can continue the tradition of singing together as a family.

What are your favorite and cherished traditions? Why are they so meaningful to you?

(I purposefully put this topic in the cider press so people can mention if they want to their faiths/religions/lack-thereof and how that makes this season special. But, please, let's have this discussion about sharing our traditions, not about telling each other that those traditions or their meanings are wrong. Thank you so much!)
 
pollinator
Posts: 1628
Location: Toronto, Ontario
101
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Nicole.

The Polish Catholic tradition has us celebrating what we call Wigilia on Christmas Eve. Family gathers for a meatless dinner (although meatless, according to Polish Catholic tradition includes fish and seafood). It started out as a fast, but changed over time. There is no fasting now, only piscavorian feasting.

We do the tree and present thing after dinner, but that is mostly for the kids. We used to go do the Midnight Mass thing at our church, but we don't really practice anymore. I personally believe that it is less important to be in attendance somewhere than to live as one's personal beliefs dictate.

On Christmas Day this year, my girlfriend and I are driving 8 hours north from Toronto to Cochrane, Ontario, to spend a belated Christmas with her family. Her 5-year-old niece actually asked if they could call Santa and postpone Christmas Eve so that her aunt could be there.

Their traditions, as I have had it explained, involve a Christmas Eve mass, new pyjamas upon their return, and hot chocolate, and one present, usually for the kids. The next day is spent at home, in PJs with family, slowly opening presents and enjoying eachother's company.

-CK
 
master steward
Posts: 9891
Location: Left Coast Canada
1650
books chicken fiber arts cooking sheep
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like the excuse for the feast with friends and a Doctor Who special.

When I was a kid, there was a lot of pressure from the family to have the most picture perfect Chrismas, with the tree and the youngest kid (me) passing the presents to the patriarch, who then read the label and then the kid had to take the present to the recipient, and we all had to ooh and awe and listen to snide comments from the ants Aunts (stupid autocorrect) if the present wasn't expensive enough, then repeat for four or more hours.

There was so much pressure to have a perfect Christmas, that of course, it triggered conflict and ruined Christmas.

When I was an adult, I did everything I could to work Christmas Day so I could avoid the family gathering.  One job I had was at a Youth Hostel in a town where there were no shops or restaurants open on Chrismas.  Of course, the tourists didn't realize this and they had nothing to eat.  So the hostel cooked a HUGE supper and relaxed the no-alcohol rules for the one day (put it in a mug and don't let us see the bottle and so long as you don't cause a fuss from excessive drinking, we won't bother you).  It was a magical experience with people from all over the world, with all different religious backgrounds, enjoying a feast together. 

It was then I realized that what meant the most to me wasn't the holiday, it was the sharing of the food and friendship.

Later, I had a lot of friends that had recently immigrated Canada.  They were alone in a strange land, with no family and few friends to spend the Holidays with, I started inviting them to ours for a Mid-Winter Feast.  Now the tradition continues, only they are all married, 2 kids a piece, it's a crazy, family-filled holiday with none of the pressure of a 'perfect Christmas'. 

No kids of my own, but we have a small stash of toys for the kids.  We make a gingerbread house for each of the kids and they decorate it with candies the parents bring.  Then a feast.  A mass furry opening presents (for the kids only - the feast is the present for the adults) and then dessert.  I usually have a loom or other craft set up for the kids and adults to play with while the meal is being prepared.  It's all very informal and fun.

When they are gone, I used to put on the doctor who special that I recorded during the feast.  Only now, I have no cable TV or another streaming way of watching Doctor Who  (the local space channel used to have it to watch free online because I get my internet from the cable company - but alas, no longer).  A waste of money to buy the DVD, so now I wait 6+ months until the library has it.  Christmas in July. 
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
89
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love this thread.
 
gardener
Posts: 1097
Location: Middle Tennessee
162
books cat chicken food preservation homestead cooking purity trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Like R mentioned above, I like the excuse to feast, and help prepare foods that we don't normally have in our household the rest of the year. I don't really have christmas traditions or come from a family that had those growing up. The one thing I still look forward to, even at 40, are the classic animated shows they air on tv for the holidays, like Charlie Brown Christmas, and Rudolph (with the Bumble & Yukon Cornelius being my favorite characters).
 
Posts: 106
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
12
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When the children were young, we lived in a big 3 storey house in the UK, but as a single parent of 4, we were poor as church mice.  Being French, Christmas was celebrated on Christmas Eve but we'd start a few days before that by getting the biggest Christmas tree that we could afford.  We then spent many hours making Christmas decorations: pine cones glued and glittered, baked dough stars and balls painted and ribboned, match boxes wrapped in colourful paper tied with pretty sting, paper chains, all to hang in the tree.

On Christmas Eve's day, the kitchen was a buzz of activity from early on.  Cooking was taking place in a grand scale with all hands on deck and a lot of fun.  I can still remember the feel of excitement in the air mingled with the beautiful smells and the laughter.  By 8.00pm, we would all sit around a large decorated table and enjoy the most traditional of Christmas dinner with all the trimmings - Christmas crackers and party poppers were in abundance.  But as enjoyable as all that, we were all looking forward to the next part of the evening.  After clearing the table, we turned all the lights off in the house except for the Christmas tree lights and started a  game of hide and seek throughout the big darkened house.  You can't imagine the fun we had as over the years the hiding places got more and more elaborate!  This we did until around 11.30 when the little ones were sent to bed as:"Santa won't come if you are still up!!"  Just past midnight, armed with lit candles, we would ever so gently wake them up, to tell them that Santa had been and left some presents.  So we all trooped back downstairs, and opened what was only token presents: a few colouring pencils, a knitted scarf or something from the thrift shop, but it never mattered really because we'd already had so much fun!  We then proceeded to have a midnight feast sitting on the floor by the open fire and then slowly, one by one, we would all fall asleep, all the kid piled up like a bunch of puppies amongst sheepskins and blankets on the floor.  The next day, Christmas Day was just spent lazying about and eating whatever was left over, having visitors and making endless cups of tea.

To this day, even though my eldest son is nearly 50,  he and his siblings talk about it with such fond memories.
 
pollinator
Posts: 673
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
81
bike dog forest garden hugelkultur cooking urban
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi. Sorry I don't want to offend anyone, nor be a 'party-pooper', I only want to give my view on this subject. Because you asked.

I feel a resistance against traditions. 'Why do they do this like they do it?' and then there's no real answer. Only 'because it's tradition' doesn't sound like a good reason to me.

If people say they want to celebrate in the end of December because then the days start being longer, after the winter solstice, that sounds like they really have their reason. That this is no reason for me to celebrate doesn't make it less reasonable. If people say they believe they have to chase away evil spirits with fireworks ... okay, I don't believe it, but at least it's their reason.

But if people say they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in December, I want to tell them: Jesus wasn't born in winter, and he himself did never celebrate his birthday (that's why we don't know the exact date). And if they say: we want to celebrate the birth of Jesus with a tree in our living-room and candles and so ... I do not see the connection between Jesus and those things. These are no good reasons to me.

So I can tell you I do not have special traditions or celebrations for winter. I am only doing my best to stay warm and healthy.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 4139
Location: Pacific Northwest
1098
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I agree that a lot of Christian celebrations have little to do with the actual celebration of Jesus' birth. Sure, we can try to attribute some meaning to them--the evergreen branches remind us of Jesus' everlasting love for us, the lights remind us of how we're to be lights and share His love, presents to remind us of the wise men or how Jesus is the best gift of all, etc. A lot of these are a bit of a stretch.

Personally, I think a lot of the "magic" of Christmas is comfort and oxytocin the traditions bring. They remind us of happy times in our childhood. When I gaze upon my Christmas tree, I feel like a child again, safe and taken care of. The world seems simpler and kinder and full of imagination. I lot of happy memories of playing with my ornaments through the branches of the Christmas tree, with all the lights but the trees turned off. I would imagine stories and it was like a little fantasy world. I set up a Christmas tree so my children could also have that fun and make the same sort of memories I had.

I think, in a lot of ways, we pass on traditions to our children because we want them to have the same fun we did, or even more fun. Sometimes this can go overboard, where the parent spends so much time buying and wrapping and finding pinterest activities to make their kids' Christmas "magical." The parent ends up unable to enjoy the holiday because they are so stressed from trying to make it "perfect."

Traditions, especially for those under the age of 10, are also a great way for them to learn the passing of time. Little ones don't usually what comes next--they don't know the seasons yet or how long they last. The first "dates" that I see preschoolers remember are their birthday and Christmas. They're constantly asking how long until one event or another. Seasonal traditions are a great way to help kids tell time and plan for the future. In Waldorf schools, there's a large focus on celebrating the seasons--May polls, fall celebrations, Christmas, etc. Most preschoolers here in the US, especially in more urban areas, can't tell the passing of the seasons--they aren't outside that much, they aren't planting, and often spring and fall (where I live) look mostly the same. Traditions help them tell what time of the year it is, and they can then build upon that foundation.

Traditions are also comforting routines, for me, and a way to relive happy moments in the past. When we sing carols together, it brings back all the happy memories of previous times caroling. The happiness is then multiplied---as long as I don't get caught up in having that moment "perfect." Seeking perfection in our traditions is an easy way to turn them into depressing times, rather than than the time portal to happier times that they could be.

Traditions can act as ways to access happy memories, teach seasons and the passing of time, as well as fun ways to teach meaning or truth. In my family, we seem to do all three. They don't always overlap, and I think that's okay. It's okay that my Christmas tree is just a portal to fun times and a way to make memories. It also helps note the passing of time. But, in my family, it's not a tool to teach spiritual truth. To do that, we sing carols, have candle light services and, in my family, we do a birthday cake for Jesus. For the birthday cake, my grandma would make a cake in the shape of a big doughnut (bunt cake?) and put a candle in the middle. The candle said, "Wise men still seek him." One person would read from Mathew about the birth of Jesus, and then we'd light the candle in the middle. We'd talk about how when Jesus was born, light came into the world. We each then got a "trick candle" (the little birthday candles that never blow out). One person would take their candle and light it from the "Jesus" candle, symbolizing that person having a faith in Jesus and shining His light. They'd then share their light with others. Soon the room would be bright with the love/light from Jesus. We'd then blow out our candle and talk about how sometimes we make sad choices and wander from Jesus, but His light is still there and will reignite. Of course, sometimes the trick candles really did blow out, and we'd then talk about how sometimes we'd need help from others to reignite our faith (someone else would share their light with to relight the candle), or we'd go "back to the source" of our faith--the Jesus candle--and relight our candle ourselves.

This was, not only a really fun and "magical" experience as a kid (we got to play with candles in the dark!), but it also taught spiritual truths. 

I think traditions can be neat tools, but it's good to assess just why we do them, and also not to stress about them being "perfect." I also think it's great if people don't use traditions. Everyone is different. I really appreciate and find comfort in routine and traditions, but not everyone does. Everyone is different, enjoys different things, and learns in different ways, and I think that's fantastic!
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 673
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
81
bike dog forest garden hugelkultur cooking urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Nicole Alderman wrote:.... They remind us of happy times in our childhood. ...

I think, in a lot of ways, we pass on traditions to our children because we want them to have the same fun we did, or even more fun. Sometimes this can go overboard, where the parent spends so much time buying and wrapping and finding pinterest activities to make their kids' Christmas "magical." The parent ends up unable to enjoy the holiday because they are so stressed from trying to make it "perfect."

Traditions, especially for those under the age of 10, are also a great way for them to learn the passing of time. Little ones don't usually what comes next--they don't know the seasons yet or how long they last. The first "dates" that I see preschoolers remember are their birthday and Christmas. They're constantly asking how long until one event or another. ...

I also think it's great if people don't use traditions. Everyone is different. I really appreciate and find comfort in routine and traditions, but not everyone does. Everyone is different, enjoys different things, and learns in different ways, and I think that's fantastic!



Yes Nicole, that's definitely true: people are different.
My childhood memories are mostly of spring and summer, still my favourite seasons. The 'counting of days' (or nights) waiting for a special date to come I did not like at all as a child. And still my opinion is: if you want to give someone a gift, do it, now ... do not wait until it's a 'special date'.

I do have some childhood memories of the christmas time. There were real candles and there was a 'nativity scene' made by my father, and other items returning each year. Not at all like many people now do: they buy new decorations every year, and expensive toys and other gifts, the even get in debt for it ... But for me the main reason for not celebrating it anymore is the fact that it isn't in line with the teachings in the Bible.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 4139
Location: Pacific Northwest
1098
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We had a little paper nativity that my mom had bought and assembled. I LOVED playing with it and reenacting Jesus's birth. I'd usually put the wise men across the house and slowly move them toward Jesus--they didn't see Jesus until 2 years later and while Jesus was back at his home, not in in Bethlehem! My mom passed the nativity along to me, but it's currently up because I'm pretty sure my little ones wouldn't know how to be gentle. I bought a fisher price set off ebay which is durable and I use all year round for acting out Bible stories. I can't imagine bying new decoration every year! The closest we get to that is some new glass ball ornaments to decorate as a craft, and the kids (like I did as a child) get to pick out a new ornament each year to play with on the tree. I still have all my old ornaments and my kids now play with them.

One interesting benefit to me having a birthday in January was that I only really got presents during a span of 20 days. We always got the clothes, etc, we needed through the year, but almost any toys came at birthday/Christmas. So, I would have to wait all year for things, which ended up teaching me patience and also to think about what I really wanted, rather just getting from my parents whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I think this lack of instant gratification was really helpful for me.

Now that I'm older, and my parents and grandparents are aging, I'm more inclined to give them the things I find for them when I find them, rather than waiting for Christmas/their birthday. For my kids, though, their presents mostly wait until birthdays/Christmas, because, well, they already have a lot of toys. I still make them fun things through the year, and buy them educational toys when they need them. But, by in large, I think it's good to limit the amount of gifts to kids--less is often more, and I don't want to raise them to be little consumers addicted to always getting "more." It's really hard knowing if I'm giving them too much, too little, teaching them the wrong perspectives about "things." It's hard being a parent!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1477
Location: USDA Zone 8a
190
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting cooking purity trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As a kid, we always had a decorated tree and a Nativity Scene.  I fondly remember the red felt stocking filled apples, oranges and nuts.  We also had red and green Ribbon Candy and Mom made Divinity and Fruit Cake.  The meal was always a Stuffed Turkey.   I only remember a few gifts so I probably got clothes most of the time.
 
You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because
Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!