Saturday, December 21, 2013

SM Johnson ~ Celebrating the Winter Solstice ~

snake table holiday corner
It's funny, I have considered myself an atheist for a decade, at least, and yet have continued to celebrate holidays via typically Christian traditions. In my adult life, wherein I don't go to church or celebrate in any particular way the birth of Christ, the obligation to decorate for Christmas has been a chore for some years now.

At first I did it because I had my own house, and could do things my own way, and I was familiar with traditional Christian holiday observations, being that I was raised up Catholic and all.

These past 10 years I've decorated (minimally) because I live with a child who isn't an atheist. She's not really an "anything" yet - regarding religion and faith - she's still collecting information.

She did, however, always adore Santa Claus. Of course, who can blame her? A magical elf who mysteriously brings her almost anything she puts on her Christmas list, no matter how crazy or expensive the things might be. It's like Aladdin, except not even a cartoon. Mom and dad gnaw cookies and fill stockings and go through all sorts of scheduling nonsense to keep up the illusion on Christmas morning that Santa's visited our house.

Well. I'm just done with it.

Partly what happened this year is that we got some crazy number of inches of heavy, wet snow. And immediately after that we got 2 weeks of godawful below zero temperatures, which settled the snow and turned it into, basically, concrete. It would take several hours of blood sweat and tears to get into the shed to get the Christmas tree, stockings, and all the decorations, and frankly, I'm just not all that motivated. The child no longer believes in Santa Claus, so we can stop all that noise, although, honestly, it was fun and magical in those early childhood years.

Lots of people I know celebrate winter solstice. I can get behind this, being a child of the sun - we can rejoice that the longest night of the year is almost past, that the days are getting longer, that our earth is still here, that the seasons still change. From Time and Date dot com: "In the northern hemisphere, the December solstice occurs during the coldest season of the year. Although winter was regarded as the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the coming of lighter days after the winter solstice brought on a more festive mood. To many people, this return of the light was a reason to celebrate that nature’s cycle was continuing."

Yeah, I think that works for me.

We have a "holiday snake table" - which consists of a 12 inch mini-tree and lots of wrapped presents, all pretty much beside Kyle's tank. The wrappings are festive. I've bought or made gifts for the people I love. This then, is sort of our Christmas corner. Next year I'm thinking we'll celebrate the seven days leading up to solstice. We can get a wreath. Maybe we'll even pick up some pine branches and make our own wreath. Hang mistletoe in the doorways. Put some lights in the window to offer warmth and hope through the long nights. And honestly? I'd really like a penguins in the front yard. A whole flock of penguins. Light up penguins. Posed penguins. Penguins wearing hats and scarves and mittens. Penguins huddling together waiting for spring. Just because, you know? What says "winter" more clearly and simply than a flock of penguins?

And, well, because the kid wants to decorate the yard for the holiday season at least once in her childhood. I guess I can't really blame her for that. So yeah, maybe that, next year.

All of the above is the stuff coming from my logical brain.

My emotional brain feels guilty because I didn't put the tree up. It's always me, putting the tree up, mostly by myself. Oh, Sprite will wander by and put an ornament or two on a branch or three, but she gets bored of it pretty easily. I'm the only one who ever plugs it in. I'm the only one who ever notices it much at all. The child checks out the presents underneath the tree, but they might as well be under a simple wreath hanging on the wall, for all the notice she gives the tree. So three hours to put the tree up. About the same to put it away again, which I traditionally do on December 26th, because the house just feels "messy" to me when it's all decked out in red and green and gold.

I'm not sure why it feels uncomfortable to break traditions that I don't even believe in, and create new traditions that fit better into my belief system. I suppose there's still a part of me that wants to be "the good little girl" who doesn't embarrass the family - but it is and should be more about my little family now. And my little family is happy to celebrate winter solstice.

We had a little family discussion and decided this, for starters: Each person can open one present per day between Solstice eve and Christmas day - so long as they've done something nice, kind, or helpful for someone else that day.

So... happy winter solstice, darlings. May your days start getting brighter.


  1. It took a couple of years of strangeness but I managed to struggle out of the 'traditional' - have been an atheist for many a decade now - while there were young family members I went along with it - now I can please myself - so much calmer not having the rush and bustle of Christmas, this year I decided I could go with winter soltice very easily - never think winter is a dead season - underground there is a lot of new - I always consider autumn the start of the year and summer the end - all those roots gaining strength - fantastic

  2. Thanks for commenting, Albertaross- yes, calmer is better. I don't think of winter as dead so much as dormant - but I do battle with low mood/depression because of too many gray days and night falling so early. I'm also a bit night blind for driving, which increases my daily anxiety level. The turning point - the winter solstice - seems like a lovely thing to celebrate.