Years later, I was leaving my husband and was faced with having to sort out the holidays. Who was going to have the kids on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. We remained friends, so it wasn't going to be too difficult, but it made me rethink my beliefs a bit. I realized that, although I'd grown up with Christmas and loved it, it was really the magic of Christmas that I loved, not the holiday itself. I hated all the commercialism that I, like so many others, had bought into. I was no longer a Christian, and I also hated all the hype and craziness that surrounded the holiday. I was ready for a change. I told my husband that he could have our sons (our daughter had already moved on to her own life and family) on Christmas Eve. I would start celebrating the Winter Solstice. That felt like a holiday I could really embrace. After all, who wouldn't want to celebrate the end of the growing darkness and return of the light? But, what would I do about Santa Claus? My older son was old enough that he no longer believed in Santa and was a jaded teen, but the younger one was only 3 years old. After much thought and borrowing from other cultures, I invented a poignant and fun celebration.
I invited the snow fairies to visit our house during the month of December by lighting a candle for each day of the month leading up to the 21st or 22nd, depending on the year. On December 1st, there is one candle, and by the time we reach the Solstice, the house is filled with candlelight. When we light our candles, we sing and talk about the growing darkness and the importance of bringing more light into our lives, literally and figuratively. We have one song that always gets sung, a beautiful round I learned in Girl Scouts. It can be sung in 8 parts. Though we never have enough people to pull that off, we usually do a round with even the youngest ones managing to keep up. I like this video with motions to go along.
I'm not suggesting that everyone give up Christmas. It's a wonderful holiday. It's just not the only one. I hope that all of us can look at how and what we celebrate and what it means to us. Do we spend more time together as a family, enjoying each other's company, or are we rushing around, short tempered because of the mounting stress? Do our children understand what the holiday is about? And, are we singing together? Singing is a wonderful bonding experience. Over the ages, it's brought people together. I love the song "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon that tells the true story about British and German soldiers during WWI stopping their fighting on Christmas Eve when a German soldier started singing a Carol. He was joined by others and eventually both sides sang Silent Night, each in their own language. I hope you enjoy it, too.