Raven (yes, really), a pagan, homeschooling mother of two -- one teen, one tot -- shares her adventures in parenting from a pagan perspective. Watch her juggle work, education, parenting, cooking, gardening, and . . . how many balls are in the air now? Sometimes they fall, and sometimes she learns from her mistakes. You can, too.
Establishing Traditions in a Changed Family
The shape and nature of a family changes over time; some changes are instantaneous, like a birth or death. Others come on gradually: a child grows up and moves away, a couple drifts apart, or a hobby builds into a career, causing a shift in work schedules.
Those families that adapt well to life changes have a better chance of remaining a cohesive, functioning unit.
In our household, we were just adjusting to gradual changes (a child reaching puberty, a career shift emerging), when we lost my mother, and just a few months later, we gained news of the coming of our second child. In the last two years, we have had to drastically adjust to numerous (a death, a birth, two new jobs, etc.), sudden alterations to our approach to daily and seasonal life.
With my mother gone, a choice has been laid before me: how we will or will not continue certain traditions, the biggest of those being the way we celebrate Solstice through Christmas.
Why bring up a holiday now past? Part of it is thanks to spending the last three weeks of the year with an injured left eye, but ultimately, it wasn't something I could write about well until I had experienced it.
Although traditions have already been altered since moving away from my mother's home, with each change comes the need to reevaluate what we do and sometimes accommodate new people. My son's arrival has brought back certain magical elements of holidays reserved for young children, just as becoming the matriarch for my mother's family has bestowed the making of said magic upon me.
Every Christmas in my mother's family was a huge production. Like her father before her, my mother did a big, showy Christmas. We always had the biggest tree that would fit in our house, and it was always covered in white flocking (and so was our carpet). Every year we had a theme, and it would be represented in the way gifts were wrapped and the tree was decorated. She had a system of how everything had to be done, though she assured me her father was worse (he made his children place one strand of tinsel per branch), and her wrapping always looked professional. One year we made costumes for several dozen tiny teddy bear ornaments!
Food was no less a production on December 25th from the bagels and schmear at breakfast to the "roast beast" and pie at dinner (although due to the sheer volume of wrapping she did on the 24th, we always ordered Chinese for dinner the night before).
I doubt I will ever feel up to the task of recreating those holidays past, I don't even feel comfortable killing a tree each year for our amusement, but I have learned to keep the spirit alive. The food helps ground the magic in a tangible form, and though my father's family celebrates on the 24th and our household holds vigil on the 21st, the 25th is for my mother and her vision.
We embrace, during the whole of December, the higher calling to give and be generous. While I foster that in my children year round, I am working to teach them to move beyond selfishness into a true form of altruism -- one free of expectations to receive in kind. Gifts are given from the heart, received in kind, and though we love Santa (a.k.a. Odin), he does not provide punitive items for "bad" children, only fills stockings with treats for all.
Our altered holiday traditions ultimately are meant to embody what I wish to instill in my family year round: giving unconditionally, being of service, putting family and loved ones first, and taking care of one another.
Traditions should never become stagnant obligations to perform certain tasks, but instead bring with them the lessons we find most important for our family to learn and live by.
If a family tradition feels tired, trite, or exhausting and without benefit to anyone, it is time to reevaluate why you practice it, what is meant to be learned by it, and consider whoever it's time for a change to something more meaningful.
Now that the light returns to the world, and the West has celebrated another changing of the year, it might be time to refresh the way your family views and practices it's traditions.
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