A friend of mine gave me a copy of the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine, maybe 3 years ago, and I’ve been reassessing and down-sizing Christmas obligations each year since. Ironically, around the same time, I began adding a litany of December winter holiday observances and festivals to my list of traditions to explore and experience: Hanukkah, a UU Advent ceremony, Santa Lucia Day, the Solstice, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, and a Waldorf winter garden spiral. I love the Universal themes that run through them all, and my children and I have truly enjoyed reading about and experiencing a variety of traditions over the last few years. But, this is just too much for me! So, this year, I'm unplugging what has become my Winter Holiday Machine. While I’m at it, I’ll get closer to the source of my circuit overload and unplug my "but so and so does it" machine and my “I should be doing more” machine. I'm consciously holding back that part of me that wants to plug in and "do it all," and I’m making mental note of what kind of energy I want to experience this time of year.
I found a book called, I'm in Charge of Celebrations, a few years ago. This is a children's book written by Byrd Baylor. I love her books. Byrd tells the stories of how she came to make her own celebrations based on her natural interactions with life. Byrd encountered a coyote one day while walking in the desert. Each creature, Byrd and coyote, met eye to eye and a bond was created. “That look held us together,” Byrd recounted. Byrd decided to honor that time, that place and feeling, that personal connection and communion that she felt with that coyote year after year. What mattered to her was the quality of the experience, what it gave her and what she could give back to it. The book tells the stories of other such experiences that led to personal, unique celebrations that naturally ebbed and flowed with Byrd’s life.
I want what Byrd described. Not her celebrations, but her attunement to life. I want attunement to my own life. I don't want to wrestle with energy that does not belong to my authentic experience. It creates static interference. Connection, communion, and bond between self and life get lost in that stuff. This year, I am slowing down. I am unplugging and shaking off this energy that I have allowed to invade my life and discovering my "reason for the season."
This is a time of renewal in my family as we transition from one season to another. It feels refreshing to clear out the past and move on to a new season in our lives. We’ve gained valuable experience and personal insight from the traditions that we’ve explored, but I feel a time to rest and settle into traditions and celebrations that are personally our own. For us, that will include elements of several world traditions that we have transformed with time and experience into our own unique winter celebration. The rest will wait for a new zeal to splurge, if we decide to go there again. A decision and a mental list have made it so. I am so ready to shed expectations that interfere with the life I have chosen to live, be it the frenzy of out of control gift buying, be it sensory overload from too many parties and too many deadlines, be it just plain too much. I'm ready for a holiday season that I own, that we own.
“Last year I gave myself 108 celebrations,” says Byrd. Life, for Byrd, is a walking celebration. Each season, each day, each step into life presents the opportunity to simply celebrate being alive. For Byrd, celebrations come naturally because they naturally flow with her life. Her celebrations are inherent to her life. That book and her words have been quietly nudging at me over the years, and I am finally beginning to hear them in real life and in real time. I'm discovering that I am not even bound to traditional holidays observances in order to celebrate the spirit and intent they have been assigned! Byrd celebrates New Year’s Day her way, in the spring, when the dirt feels “good and warm on bare feet.” Other people create "tradition," holidays, and festivals. I create my own celebrations.
My homeschooling journey and my personal journey meet once again (as they are really one and the same) and lead me to this one ever clarifying life-changing fact: I'm in charge. I’m free to create a life that works for us. I am free to be in charge of the content that I bring into our lives and to make it our own. I can include my children in that and allow them the freedom to create and co-create their and our lives with me. Tonight, we re-worked and negotiated our own Solstice celebration. My children have specific ideas; their own unique preferences and beliefs have already begun to take shape. They know them. They can verbalize them and feel empowered to act on them, a gift of self we too often deny ourselves, let alone our children.
Robin considers herself a budding naturalist and conservationist and a spiritual eclectic who enjoys celebrating the wheel of the year with her own unique blend of earth-centered world traditions.