Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The season's a coming....


First of all... in light of tomorrow… happy turkey day to my southern neighbours...For the rest us you... well... happy Thursday!

I was thinking about the Traditions of the holidays and what my family traditions have been and what traditions I want to keep and make for my own…

To begin with…
I come from a typical Catholic French-Canadian Family.
When I was younger Xmas was celebrated by having a late supper at my grandmother’s on Xmas Eve with all of the traditional French-Canadian dishes…

- Ragoût de boulette et de Pattes de cochon (meatball and pig feet stew)
- Tourtière (Meat Pie)
- Turkey
- Cranberry sauce
- Mashed Potatoes and Peas (I didn’t eat the peas)
and for desert Sugar pie and  Ice Cream Yule Log

At midnight we would all gather around the tree and exchange gifts…

At about the time I met Simon, my grandmother moved into a smaller home and we stopped going there for Xmas eve… us kids were growing up and having other places to go and it was just becoming a lot of work for my grandmother to do by herself…
The traditional supper was moved to New Years day…
For 2 years I went to Simon’s mom’s and sister’s home for Xmas eve while my mom started a new tradition… she and my step dad would invite a few friends over who didn’t have families to go to and have a Chinese Fondue and just eat for hours on end… with entrée’s of all different kinds of cheeses and bread, smoked salmon and escargot….
The third year of this I decided to stay and partake of this supper also and since then it has become a tradition…
When Xavier was born we no longer had the extra friends come over and instead invited Simon’s mom and Sister and we started to do this at our home instead of at my mom’s home…
This has been our tradition since…
With the death of my step-dad last December it was a hard time last year and wasn’t a very joyous occasion at all…  and this year my mom’s new boyfriend will be the new face… and I am still not sure of my reaction to this…

Because Simon’s mom and Sister don’t sleep over Xmas eve the kids get their presents before they go to bed and the rest of the gifts are opened on Xmas morning…

What traditions I miss and want to bring back or introduce…

-the traditional supper… it is the supper that my great grandmother would make when she was the head of the family and the one that I have just always associated with Xmas… I think it is one tradition that I would love to bring back… it may be a weird menu for people that have never tasted it but for us me it brings me back to my roots… and the smell of sage, savoury and thyme just mean Xmas for me…

- putting the presents out while the kids are asleep… usually they just accumulate under the tree appearing when they get wrapped….

-  I would love to make it a big deal of telling stories that deal with the traditions of the holiday… Why we have a tree, why there are lights on the tree, the meaning of the star why we exchange gifts and  all of the pagan roots of the holiday etc…

What are your traditions? I would love to get more ideas….


7 Comments:

Anonymous Juli said...

Quite honestly I'm a little floored that an atheist would celebrate Christmas. I don't see the point. All Christians (at least those not in denial about our self-importance) realize it has roots in a pagan holiday, celebrating a sun god's rebirth on the shortest day of the year (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

So where do the tree and gift giving fit in with that? As a Mormon I teach my daughters that we give gifts to each other to represent the gift of life that Christ gave to us when he was born. They know about Santa, too--hard to avoid that in the States, with all the rampant commercialism--but I'm focusing on things similar to you, like family, sharing with others, giving to those with less.

Yes, we know that Christ was born in the spring but we stole your holiday so you wouldn't have anything to celebrate! :o) Anyway, back to my question: why on earth celebrate Christmas with your family? Is it just to appease those who still believe in God?

11/27/2005 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger paxye said...

Well... first of all... I am an Atheist not Pagan...
So nobody stole my holiday ;)

First...
The word pagan once meant country-dweller, rural, the farmers and working class that had their own ways of life and beliefs that stemmed from their harvest and work... these people were everywhere and they didn't really have gods in common in most cases... Germany, Greece, Finland, the Near-East etc all had their own pagan cultures... when Christianity came into these regions they needed to adopt these rituals to make people want to convert...

These Pagan traditions were lost...

Now however, a "Pagan", paganism / neo-paganism represents a group of polytheistic religions that in most cases are an attempt to reconnect with those pre-christian, nature based religions.
(Just like the word Christian represents a group of Christ based religions)

An Atheist on the other hand is someone that simply doesn't believe in any god.

The origins of xmas isn't from one source but this wide array of traditions... everything from mistletoe, holly and Ham....

The tree actually comes from many roots in many antient cultures evergreen trees were a representation of fertility, sexual potency and reproduction and played an important role in Winter celebrations..

Gifts...St.Nicholas (lived in present day Turkey c. 270- 345/352)was known for giving anonomous gifts to children and was celebrated on Dec 6th (probably the day of his death)... Much later on he was moved and then associated with Xmas... however, some traditions still are celebrated on Dec 6th....
The Santa we know today is only about a century old...

Also... Pagan's on the most part do not just celebrate Xmas but celebrate the winter solstice around Dec. 22nd (the first day of Winter)

As for me... I celebrate Xmas because it is a tradition that has never had religious connontations for me. It is a purely secular holiday that has multiple origins.

As for you? Why would you celebrate Xmas if you know that it is just an array of pagan traditions taken on by christianity in a succesful attempt to convert?

Probably you do it for the same reasons as me... there is a magic surrounding xmas that doesn't have to do anything with religion... it is a set of traditions that bring families together. It is a magic that we discovered as children that we want to recreate for our children.

11/28/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous juli said...

Actually, I celebrate Christmas to try and bring my daughters to focus on the life of Christ and why He was born. The holiday season is great chance to focus on Christ. We talk about why God would send His son the way He did, and we talk alot about faith. It's a great time for me to explain about how faith works. It's something you can't read about in books, it's just something you feel and know. Because if we look at religion or any religious holiday through purely secular eyes, it makes no sense. A virgin spontaneously conceived? Yeah right. The Maccabees oil just kept burning? That would piss off the oil companies. A dead man rose again? Whatever. But when you take these sorts of things on faith and let your spirit guide you in these decisions, you come to an understanding that it's not just about what our brain knows, but what your heart and soul feel.

That's what I'm trying to teach my girls. And I'm telling them that we give gifts to represent the gift of life that God gave to us when He sent His son. Santa fits into to, too, because you can't avoid him--Santa gives us presents just like Jesus gave us the gift of life.

I still wonder why you bother. Despite its ancient roots, today in the western world Christmas is about Jesus. Yeah, it's over commercialized but it still celebrates his day. What's the point in giving presents to each other if you don't believe in God or Christ? "Yes, my children, let's put our presents under this evergreen tree, which is a celebration of your virility and manhood. See how tall and erect it is?" Ok, that was overly sarcastic and mean-spirited, but do you see what I mean? I just don't get it.

By the way, I'm not trying to start a blog war. I keep coming back to your blog because I'm fascinated by a woman who seems so much like me when it comes to parenting but is raising her kids with a completely different set of spiritual ideals.

11/29/2005 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger paxye said...

Like I said I have never had the experience of seeing Xmas in a religious way...
I see it in a purely secular way and all of the things that you mentioned have never had anything to do with Xmas... (I only learned about the nativity story when I was in College and started to study Christianity)...

I also can't see how you can see the western world seeing Christmas as being purely a Christian, religious holiday...
I have friends of all different faiths that celebrate a very secular christmas and religion has nothing to do with it....

Like I said before... I will be teaching my boys that the season is a time for friends and family, it is a time to reflect on the year and reflect on those we have and those we have lost, it is a time to give to those that we love and those less fortunate then us, it is a time to eat, laugh, dress up, dance, walk in the streets and look at all the lights and all of the other wonderful things that come with the season...

As for different spiritual ideals... yes, that we may have ...
but I would guess that our ideals are more simular then you may think... it is just our reasons that are different...

11/29/2005 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Philippe said...

Juli:

You're looking at it all wrong. For you, it seems it's either "Faith" or "Materialism". Indeed, in a Materialistic frame of mind, why bother? Why bother celebrating anything at all?

You have to understand that Christians (and Believers of all kinds) aren't the only ones who can have a strong Spirituality. I don't believe in a god (lower case "G"), but I still have a strong Spirituality, which manifests itself in Love of my family and friends, Creativity, and a pervasive state of Vision of the World in which we live and die.

I don't really care what Christmas was, is, or will be; I retain the elements that mean something to me, and I omit all the rest (which, if you are honest, you will admit to doing too). I choose to celebrate Winter, Light, Warmth, Love, LIFE, at a moment in the year when it feels as if (where *I* live at least) the cold season will last forevermore.

Also, I like that the Celebration is widespread... there's a certain vibration I feel on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day itself, which comes from the fact that all around me people are also celebrating... whatever they are celebrating, however they choose to do it.

Christmas isn't the sole propriety of Christians. And Believers aren't the only ones who can convey traditional values to their children.

11/30/2005 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous juli said...

Phillippe: I think the way the world works around the holidays, I have to focus on the faith aspect because at every other turn, there is just as much selfishness and materialism as good will. It's unfortunate but true. Last Friday there were actually riots, arrests, and hospitalized people over X Box and laptop sales at a Walmart here in Florida. I think it's especially bad in the states. All my neighbors make a huge show of setting up light displays (which I love and are fun to see) that probably cost in the hundreds of dollars, and it makes me a little sad to think that money could have to gone to help those in need. Maybe not all, but some. I can talk until I'm blue in the face to my girls about the spiritual aspect of the holiday or anything else, because they are bombarded on every other front by virtues (or lack thereof) and values that conflict with what I'm trying to teach them. I'm hoping if I really focus on those things that matter to me, some of it will sink in.

11/30/2005 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger paxye said...

Juli...

You hit it on the head before with the "things that matter to you" issue...
Some people just don't have the same values, some people are just materialistic and see the holidays as a time for getting...
The thing about all of this materialism is that it is a fact about the world we live in and has nothing to do with what we believe or what we don't believe... do you think that all Christians are not materialistic... that the neighbors that you have may have with the light displays don't go to church as often as you do or don't believe in your god as much as you do? Is relgion really what gives someone values or could it be more? Couldn't they just be a part of you, a result of personal judgement and self-definition?
That is the misconception around those who are Atheist or even those that are not Christian... that they can't have values or morals and that is what 'ticks' me off the most...
I believe that values come from a personal understanding of what is good and bad, what is right and wrong and what is important to you... you may think that you have to look to a book for those guidelines but the pieces that you take or leave (and there are Tons of pieces that you take and leave) comes from your own personal values...
We both have the same goals for our children for the holidays... to give them values, to teach them that the simply materialistic route is not the way to go, to show them that the holidays can be about giving, family, happiness and magic...
You may want/need to incorperate your god into it and maybe you just don't think that you can do it otherwise, but it isn't so...

12/01/2005 08:17:00 AM  

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