by Pat Carbonell
Guess what? I'm not here to bitch about the holidays! I've noticed that most of what grinds people down is the whole gift thing, which is a real tough row to hoe when you have children who are still children. You all have my undying sympathy on that one. Me, I'm lucky. All my loved ones know that I'm broke, and if they get anything this year, it's gonna be homemade, and they are all cool with that. Most of us are in tough financial times, so we are all being uber-frugal with the gifts.
Then when we moved to Vermont, our mom worked the night shift at the hospital, so we continued with the Christmas Eve thing so she could be with us when we were opening presents. By that time we all knew that Mom & Dad were Santa. I still remember the year Mom handed me the Sears Christmas catalogue and told me I could pick out $100 worth of stuff. This was in the late sixties, and let me tell you, $100 bought a LOT of Barbie stuff! She's told me she got the biggest kick out of watching me pour over that catalogue for a week.
Probably my most memorable late-childhood Christmas was the year I was in fifth grade. My pediatrician had decided that it was time for my tonsils to come out. My teacher was pissed, because it meant that I wouldn't be able to sing in the school Christmas show, and I was one of the only kids who could sing - I've been blessed or cursed with a perfect tonal memory my entire life (makes listening to bad covers of old rock songs REAL painful!). Oh well, she just had to deal with it.
So middle of December I go in for my surgery. Turns out they were doing assembly line tonsilectomies that day - there were five other kids that day, so we were all in the same ward. Poor Mom. We all stank of ether after the surgery, and the room reeked!
Home I went, to ice cream and Jello for the next couple of weeks. My very first solid meal was Christmas dinner. I was so happy I didn't have to skip that - my Mom was a great cook. After we stuffed ourselves, we all went into the living room for presents around the tree - where I promptly threw up Christmas dinner all over the tree. But I missed the presents!! My sisters were not amused.
Fast forward to the present day. We have a three-generation household. My daughter (28), myself (51) and my mother (80). Our local extended family includes one older sister, her two kids and her three grandkids. Our local kith (family by love) includes many children-of-my-heart, their kids and partners, and my old Wiccan circle.
Once upon a time, when my niece was still on husband #1, our blood family used to get together on Christmas Eve for coffee, dessert and presents. Then that marriage broke up and it became nigh impossible to get together, with her former in-laws getting her daughter for the holiday. Then came husband and kid #2, and it just got more complicated. So, about five years ago, we decided that rather than trying to organize a time, we'd just do an open house on Christmas Eve and whoever showed up, showed up.
Well, who showed up were all my adopted kids at the time. We had a wonderful houseful of people who were with us because they wanted to be, not because they had to. It was great. So that started our own family tradition. Now we pick a day before the actual holiday, so my kids can do the family thing on the Day, and invite everyone. It usually winds up with spare mattresses all over the house for the out-of-towners or the drinkers (house rule: you drink, I get your keys until the next day). Today (12/19) is this year's Adoptees Party.
Then a couple of years ago I was facilitating a Wiccan circle for a friend of mine who had a New Age/Metaphysical/Alternative Healing shop. The first year of the Circle we had our Yule celebration in the Education Center he rented upstairs in his building. Great pot luck dinner and a Yule ritual, lots of mingling, some new faces. Then last year, due to shrinking finances, he had given up that space and when he tried to rent it for the evening for us, we found out that his landlords considered us a cult and refused to rent it to us. Whew.
So last year's Wiccan circle Yule was held at my house. We again had a grand pot luck dinner, and held a Teaching Circle for the children. That was extremely cool. I knew that one of the boys was having trouble with mixed signals about the holiday. He has a Catholic grandmother who has been teaching him about Jesus (in addition to telling him that his mother's going to hell for being Wiccan), while his mother teaches him about the Goddess. So I sat down in the circle with the kids and brought out a small Herkimer diamond. Herkimers are absolutely pure quartz crystals that come out of the ground naturally faceted.
I held the diamond up in between me and the kids and told them to look at it; they could each see one facet, I could see another, but we were all seeing the same diamond, just different facets. Then I explained to them that God is like the diamond; Sebastian could see a face called Jesus, Logan could see a face called the Goddess, I could see one called Herne, but they are all true faces of God. Sebastian, the one with the grandmother problem, got this glorious, wonderful look on his face when he got it. Logan, his little brother, asked me if he could hold God - so I gave him the diamond to hold while I answered Sebastian's questions. It was absolutely the best Yule lesson I've ever given.
So this year, we are again hosting a Wiccan Yule party on the 23rd. That has become our second family tradition. It should be an amazing party, because this year I have two adopted grandchildren in the mix - two of my Wiccan daughters gave birth last spring.
And we will have at least my sister over on Christmas Eve or Christmas day for coffee; got to keep all the traditions alive!
This is the season of Light, and Hope. Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights, the birth of the Son or the rebirth of the Sun, this season celebrates and honors the best that is in all of us. May that Light and Hope illuminate all of your lives, my friends. Love and Bright Blessings to you all. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Joyous Yule!
Pat has a strange fetish for car keys.