Well — we’ve officially hit the holiday season, and hit the ground running this year. Perhaps it’s been the unseasonably wintery winter that arrived with Thanksgiving. Perhaps it is the earlier observance of Hanukah this year. Or maybe just that we have built enough of our own family holiday rituals that we’ve all come to experience some nostalgia for the way(s) we celebrate the Yule season, and can’t wait to do it again(?). Whatever the exact reason or combination of them, our family has been inspired this year.
So, as I type, we already have the 24 hour satellite station of Christmas tunes blaring through our stereo speakers. We have scraps and shreds of paper and glitter, scissors, glue, colored pencils, and card stock on the table. Natalie is putting the finishing touches on our annual family portrait drawing — I think her fourth or fifth year in a row now. Gel decorations in the shapes of presents and a yule tree are currently stuck in an abstract holiday arrangement on the window next to me. And on our family altar sit five play-doh candle holders with spent Hanukah candles from the last four nights. (We can’t find our menorah in the storage unit, so we are just making a new holder each night for the additional candle…)
Lists are being made, and travel plans finalized. Gift ideas are percolating, and materializing, and finances are being calibrated. Festivities are being prioritized and arranged. And each of the girls is whispering and getting excited about her own favorite parts of Yule — whether it’s the candles of Hanukah, the Solstice, or Kwanzaa; the feasting and tree decorating; the gift sharing; the time with each other playing; the music; or our other seasonal rituals.
Does it sound like we’ve got a holiday identity crisis? On the contrary, we’ve just got more celebration in us than the average family. Every year, we observe what we call Yule. In years past, it has coincided a little more closely with Hanukah, so that holiday has become part of it for us, even though Yule proper doesn’t begin until the Solstice (and this year in particular, Hanukah will be long over by then). Our Yule is based on the traditional observance of such, and consists of the 10-12 days between the Solstice and the New Year, known more recently as “the 12 days of Christmas”. We have a Yule tree, and Yule feasting, and present-giving throughout the week and a half. And as part of our Yule, we also observe portions of Hanukah and Kwanzaa, as well as the Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s. And each year it becomes more elaborate in celebration — without losing the essential nature of the season, which for us is simply about family and magic. The additional rituals work to strengthen our familial bonds, and are easy enough to observe in our own way(s).
As mentioned above, we stretch the presentation of any presents to last the whole Yule period, rather than stacking it all up on one day. That means our girls actually get an opportunity to check out new gifts for a full day before the next ones are opened. The “trickle in” effect also means an elongation of the anticipation and excitement which winds up adding to our overall enjoyment. In addition, this method helps to ensure that the girls’ understanding of the holidays is not lost on the desire for (or the disappointment inherent in) gift-receiving. The gifts wind up being just another part of the festivities, not eclipsing them.
At any rate, we are in full swing now. And even though, for many years, I really despised the hubbub over Christmas, I can feel myself steeping in the enjoyment our family has created in the rituals we now celebrate during this season. It is our own. And that has made all the difference in the world.