Monday, November 29, 2010

Finding the Sacred in New Traditions

I began this post yesterday, but put it aside for further contemplation, because, like her, I don't want to offend anyone. One's spiritual leanings can be a bit of a touchy subject. But here we all are together, a myriad of beliefs and ideals. There is room for us all, isn't there?
I was raised Baptist Christian, my mother moved us to a non-denominational church when I came into my teens and I left the church all together when I was about 16/17. Regardless of faith or lack thereof I have always followed my family's traditional holiday celebrations, which were pretty standard, I think. The first Saturday after Thanksgiving we would put up our tree and from then we would shop and decorate and bake and enjoy the usual merry makings of the season. Advent was never a part of this, solstice never observed nor the saint's days. And certain members of my family have always been pretty adamant that we follow our traditions, never deviating. Tradition is tradition, I suppose. And for some I can see how knowing what to expect year after year can seem comforting.
But, in recent years I had begun to feel a certain flatness, hard to put my finger on but I just wasn't feeling as fulfilled with our celebrations as usual. Tradition had come to feel restraining and stagnant and I begun to feel that my spirit wasn't being nourished by our festivities. But how does one without a set spiritual path bring spirit and a sense of the sacred into celebrations based on religion? For me, the Christmas season has always been about family and togetherness. About celebrating just for the sake of celebrating, shouldn't life be celebrated? But suddenly, that just did not feel like it was enough for me, though, I don't think I could have put this empty feeling, this yearning for a more sacred and spiritual holiday into words. I did know that the coming of the Christ child held little meaning for me (though, completely respecting that it does for so many) and so did the hustle and bustle of scurrying of gift giving and receiving.
I began to learn about Waldorf education about two years ago and have admired (from a distance) the beauty of all the festivals celebrated. But while admiring them I was hesitant to incorporate them into my family's traditions, after all, most are religion based and I have none. Could these spirit filled festivities be embraced by someone with no spiritual leanings? After much pondering and introspection I believe the answer is simply 'yes'. As we light our first advent candle we look toward, not the coming of Christ but the coming of a different Sun and count down the days til Winter Solstice is upon us and the sun returns. Our garden grew this year and our time spent out of doors increased. We welcomed several new animal friends into our lives and in all of this my connection to this great Earth increased and with it I have a deeper understanding of how our lives here are supported by the sun. This is something that holds meaning for me. This is something I could wholeheartedly pass on to my girls and celebrate with them. We will also be adopting a couple of the saint's days, as well. St. Nicholas and St. Lucia. I do not have to be Christian to admire the selflessness and generosity of spirit that St. Nicholas represents and St. Lucia reminds all of us to be a shining light in the world. This is what I want to pass on to my girls.
So, this year the decorations will not be as many and are coming out more slowly. There is still much celebration to be had here, but the focus will be not on the material or the frenzy that builds over the season. Over the years I had amassed quite a collection of Christmas decorations and over the summer I gave most of them away, opting instead to make by hand most of what we put up and involve my children in this as much as possible. Too often children become spectators of these occasions and are only involved when something is to be received. Instead our aim will be the moment received, not the end result.
The gifts will be fewer. Not very many handmade this year (by me anyway), unfortunately. I will have to prepare for this Christmas rush in my shop sooner next year and work on gifts early in the year while I can. And the girls will be encouraged to work on their own gifts so that they can also feel that joy of giving. Giving of one's self will also be placed in special emphasis and will be included in our Advent calender.
The winter holiday season brings a sense of wonder, magic and the sacred into our lives whether we go to church or practice a religion in our own way, or not. How do you celebrate this season in your family?


Stacey said...

I celebrate the season with the focus on family and handmade, baking, decorating, and finding cozy evenings.

I think it is wonderful to adjust your celebration to the changes you have felt this year. It sounds like your holiday will be exceptionally meaningful, beautiful and full of the wonder. :)

anna said...

What a lovely post to read. I do think a sense of the sacred extends beyond religion and can be an important part of the lives of even the most secular people. I love your advent cones :). Here in Australia Christmas can get in a muddle of the realities of hot summer and the traditions of a winter-based festival. Each year I try to find more and more ways to bring the two together in different ways - it's a lovely challenge.

Anonymous said...

"I was raised Baptist Christian, my mother moved us to a non-denominational church when I came into my teens and I left the church all together when I was about 16/17. "

This describes my story to a tee!!! Crazy!

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