Sunday, December 21, 2008


When our mother was alive, she always sent wreaths she ordered from Starcross Community to my two sisters and me. My wreath always arrived on December 1, and I would hang it on the outside wall next to my front door until Valentine's Day. In 1994, the year she died unexpectedly on December 3, no wreath had arrived. I've wondered why she didn't send a wreath that year. Did she know she was going to die? For the next year, I continued her tradition by ordering a wreath. When our mother met our father, she was a church secretary in an Episcopal church. Our father had been raised as a Lutheran in Minnesota. By the time our mother died, she was celebrating the Jewish holidays in secret, not wanting to upset our father. In the years after her death, I have developed my own traditions.

When the Starcross wreath arrives, I place it outside next to my front door, where the evergreen fragrance lingers, and the wreath remains amazingly green. I get out a box marked Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Winter Solstice and Eid al-Adha. I upwrap the figures of Mary and Joseph that our mother gave to me and place them facing a menorah on my living room table. I didn't have the menorah until two years ago. The menorah remains there until the end of Hanukkah.

On Bodhi Day, December 8, I think about the Buddha and remember the day RTN came home from Vietnam in 1970. This year, December 8 was also Eid al-Adha.

On December 20, 21, 22, or 23, I celebrate the Winter Solstice, a beloved turning point.

On Christmas Eve, I watch the videos of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as well as "A Child's Christmas in Wales," narrated by Denholm Elliott. Either just after midnight on the beginning of Christmas Day or when I wake up on Christmas morning, depending on my work schedule, I unwrap the baby Jesus figure and place it close to Mary and Joseph.

From December 26 through January 1, I watch one section at a time of the video of "Harambee!," written and directed by Fracaswell Hyman.

On January 1, I celebrate New Year's Day. I love New Year's Day. For many years that was the only day of the holiday season when I felt a sense of celebration.

On Epiphany, January 6, I bring out figures of the Three Wise Men, which I didn't have until three years ago. January 6 is the birthday of my nephew, whom I haven't seen since my father died in March of 2003. I celebrate the life of my nephew!

At the end of January 6, I put everything back in the box until the next December.

Last year, between December 1 and January 6, I also listened to the videos of "Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet" (PBS), "Faithful to Continuance: Legacy of the Plateau People" (a celebration of art and artists produced and directed by Mimbres Fever), "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace" (a film by Mickey Lemile), and "Pema Chodren & Alice Walker in Conversation on the Meaning of Suffering and the Mystery of Joy" (published by Sounds True, Inc.). For me, the traditions are all alive and evolving together.

Come to think of it, the first tradition, before the opening of the traditions box, is celebrating Thanksgiving in peaceful solitude on the 4th Thursday in November.

For most of my adult life, I dreaded this time of year. I'm grateful to have found a way to see it differently.

There was more snow last night, and it just started snowing again. Oboe is curled up, sleeping. It's cold and quiet outside at this moment, except for the Red-Winged Blackbirds singing from the tops of the cattails.


Zhoen said...

Inclusiveness as a shield from dread, very effective.

Dawn said...

happy solstice Am!

Dale said...


am said...

Your yule tree and the traditions you and D have created were the inspiration for my post today.

I'm going to sit awhile with your perceptive comment, Zhoen:

"Inclusiveness as a shield from dread."

Now I'm wondering -- Was it when I began to look at all the traditions associated with late fall and early winter that I lowered, rather than raised, my shield from dread?

The word "inclusiveness" hadn't occurred to me in my process nor had the word "shield," but that doesn't mean they weren't present. The process felt like lighting a candle in the darkness of the season and discovering that I wasn't alone.

It was something about having "a part" in all the traditions, rather being than "apart" or "shielded against" the traditions. Something about asking myself, "Can I create my own traditions?"

Today it seems that when I lower the shield I didn't realize I had -- whatever it is -- the dread diminishes. Or is it the other way around?

robin andrea said...

I have no traditions at this time of the year. We never celebrated-- not Hanukkah or Christmas. I am always glad when the solstice arrives, it is the returning sun that reminds me of the gladness of the season.

The Solitary Walker said...

Behind the ritual/You find the spiritual VAN MORRISON 'Behind the Ritual'