basket of locally made beeswax candles ready for long winter nights
Miryam was born on the 19th of December 5 years ago. We joked that she was trying to hold out until the solstice but I went on such a beautiful winter walk that day and the moon was in the phase Andy had guessed she would be born in, and we were just so ready for her, that she decided that a couple of days before her plan was just fine. That is sort of her personality too. She makes plans, sometimes very big plans, but she also understands their impermanence.
December 19th is a tricky time to be born if you come from a family that celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah and Solstice. Scheduling issues abound but, even more difficult, it all just blends into one celebration. Which is nice in some ways but often it just feels like a busy two weeks of getting presents and eating food. Not so bad in print but in practice it can lack in relaxation, gratitude and meaning. So this year we have tried to distill what we get (or want to get) out of each holiday and how we plan to celebrate them as a family. Andy and my families of origin are Jewish and Catholic, respectively. We still feel, at least culturally, connected to those traditions in some way and so want to include them in our winter celebrations.
For Christmas we go to my family's house for gift giving, the big tree and a feast. Santa comes to Grandmas house only - this was something we really waffled about when Miryam was smaller but really it came down to the fact that Santa visited Miryam's 4 other cousins and so we weren't sure how to handle him in our family. The man-in-red visiting Grandma's house is our compromise. We honestly try to talk about him as little as possible. We give gifts to my family on this day but the children don't get any from us or vice versa.
During the nights of Hanukkah we light our menorah (note to self: remember to order beeswax candles because every year you forget and no one locally carries them) that was made for us by our dear friends. We talk about the story of Hanukkah and what it represents in our lives. We also give the children a gift each night and eat Latkes at least once during the 8 nights. We always make a big batch using Andy's Bubbie's recipe and we also attempt figure out when our friends are making them and try to get an invite!
Solstice has always been the holiday that feels the most authentic to our lives for Andy and I. Before we had Miryam we had yearly Solstice parties with mulled wine, a big potluck and lots of friends. One year we even made it through the night until we could climb up a local hill that has a panoramic view of our whole Valley. Once Miryam was born that party was supplanted by her birthday celebrations and so Solstice sort of blending into the General Winter Festivities. This year we decided to bring back some of the traditions that were important to Andy and my Solstices together and adapt them into traditions that fit into our lives as they are now. We've decided that I'll knit stockings for each of the children so we can hang them on our mantle filled with small presents both some just fun and others practical (growing up mine always included a new toothbrush). They'll also get a new pair of pajamas to slip into when the sun starts to go down. We'll do the whole of the evening without using electricity (except passively in our refrigerator and well-pump, you know). We'll have some sort of a meal in front of the fireplace, light candles around the house and play with the new toys from the stockings, sing some songs, play some games, read some books. We'll put mattresses down on the floor so we can have a big family bed in front of the fire and snuggle through the longest night.
Now that there is a plan and a vision the season to come seems more exciting than it has in a while. I'm going to hold on to that feeling of glee as long as I can.