Archive for the ‘Celebrating’ Category

I really really hate Christmas

I hate Christmas. Like I really really detest it. Not just for the rampant over-consumerism, the over-the-top decorations that appear in the shops in late October or the awful music the permeates every area of public space.

Our children’s grandma is what we like to refer to as a non-practicing atheist. She has no religious beliefs, but if you rocked up to her place at Christmas (or Easter for that matter) you would never know it. She observes holidays HARD CORE. She migrated from England to Australia several decades ago and therefore was heavily invested to all the English Christmas Traditions and Trimmings: decorations aplenty, much of Christmas day spent stressing over a full roast dinner (with Yorkshire puddings of course), eating and drinking all day long, far too many presents, general merrymaking and being with family at all cost, even if that means tensely ignoring any difference of opinion for the day so that there is just one day where everything is perfect. She has mellowed a lot in recent years and all things considered is very understanding and accommodating of my reluctant Christmas participation. She has however instilled in our children a love of Christmas that even though I can appreciate that she is making special memories with them, I really struggle with in general.

Because I hate the entire basis Christmas.

We are not Christian, so celebrating the birth of a god on a historically questionable and somewhat arbitrary date makes no sense to me. The last Australian census put “no religion” as the biggest population group, so it could reasonably be argued that Christmas doesn’t deserve to even be a national holiday anymore. I suspect this would go down like a tonne of bricks if anyone in parliament was game to suggest it though: we Aussies like our days off work. 

This is just the first part of my loathing of this particular holiday. When you remove the Christian traditions of Christmas you get a holiday with various elements of pagan origin. Plenty has been written about why these were integrated into modern Christmas, essentially that elements of Yul and Saturnalia which were pagan winter celebrations were assimilated or appropriated into Christmas in an effort to get the locals on board as Christianity spread.

But this pagan seasonal root is also then especially problematic for southern hemisphere people celebrating modern Christmas today. A winter celebration just Doesn’t. Make. Sense.

We bring evergreen (and introduced) species of trees inside to decorate with plastic sparkly stuff when we could just look at the abundance of greenery exploding outside in the glorious beginnings of summer. We decorate with fake snow that comes in a can to spray on your window so that you can pretend the weather outside is frightful in the completely opposite way to what your senses tell you it is. It is not the delights of a fire we should be worshiping but the icy cold blast of an air conditioner that saves us from 35°C heat. As well as melting outdoors along with the tar on the roads, we melt indoors from the oven that is cooking a traditional Christmas roast. Sure there have been local adaptations. People barbecue seafood. Eat cold platters of meat and salads instead of a roast. Go to the beach. Use plastic trees that can be reused for many years. But I just look at it and think: What Even Is The Point?

Why the fuck do we decorate with millions of twinkly lights when it is light until 9pm? We already have glorious light at this time of year. It’s called the sun and it produces around 15 odd hours of natural daylight each day. If you want to take little kids out to see the magic of pretty lights you have to stay up late and pay for it the next day with overtired crankiness.

So I have been desperately trying to opt out of Christmas for about seven years. We celebrate the solstices and equinoxes with the children and talk about the scientific reasons for the seasonal changes we can observe. We give gifts on the Solstices (usually the most gifts end up being on the Summer Solstice) and books on the equinoxes. There isn’t a particular reason why, that is just what we did once and suddenly it’s now a family tradition. (Ha. Irony.) 

Opting out of Christmas worked really well until Lily was at preschool where of course she was exposed to the countdown to Christmas hype and to the concept of Santa for the first time. Santa is another thing I really hate about Christmas. I don’t understand how this guy got so big. It is essentially lying to your children though manufactured evidence and making it all about a judgement of children’s character. I’ve recently possibly been swayed by Dale McGowan’s excellent writings on this by reframing Santa as the ultimate dry run for critical thinking. 

I sort of took this approach with my children, but without the manufactured evidence. It’s been really interesting to see how this has played out with my kids. Lily and Olivia are still firmly in the believer camp even though I have never given them any evidence to suggest this is the case: Angus and I give them our surprise gifts on the Summer Solstice and they get surprise gifts from their grandma on Christmas day, none are attributed to Santa. But the girls still invent countless ways that Santa could be real (“maybe he is like a wizard with a time-turner” etc). Lily I’m sure knows the truth but she is still holding out hope that Hogwarts is real too so I think Santa may be in the same area in her mind. 

Sam however basically heard about Santa as was like “Wot. Lol. Nope.”

This kid has had his bullshit detector cranked up to 11 since before he could talk. He gives me this look and I can see the cogs turning in his giant brain weighing up the evidence. I knew he was bright when he lost all interest in sucking his dummy at 4 months old when he discovered it had a hinge on the handle. He would turn it over and over in his pudgy hands examining the moving part trying to figure it out. This week a conversation I overheard went down like this:

Olivia (aged 5) says: I am a zillion percent excited for Christmas.

Sam (aged 6) says: no, that is not right. Percent means out of one hundred. You can’t use a number bigger than one hundred to show what you mean as a percent. Also a zillion isn’t a real number.

I have some religious friends and I have literally apologised in advance for stuff I know that will come out of this kid’s mouth given the right circumstance. Any mention of God and he will look them in the eye, cock his head and just straight up say “But you know gods aren’t real, right?”

I digress. Back to my hate for Christmas.

Tim Minchin has a quite beautiful secular song about Christmas called White Wine in the Sun. It talks about how Christmas is great and even though he is an atheist all he wants to do at Christmastime is be with his family, at home, where the people he loves are. It’s a lovely song. And this sentiment is great in theory.

But I don’t particularly want to be around people. The pressure of Christmas parties and big family get togethers where I’m obligated to make small talk with people and everything has to be perfect and magical is only manageable for me if I am uncomfortable and constantly focussed on doing and saying the right thing and am then subsequently so exhausted I need a nap. Self medicating by drinking is of course a commonly chosen coping mechanism but this is problematic for many reasons not least because it also usually means I still need a nap.

So I think ideally I would like to just not do Christmas at all. I have done this in the past. One Christmas I cleaned out the garage. Another I built a garden bed. Those were good times. But now my kids are older and have more opinions it’s harder to get away with just opting out. It’s taken 13 years but I think my mother-in-law is really starting to understand my position on this too. She said to me last week that she really appreciates that I indulge her at Christmas time and said I was welcome to just nap on her couch through the whole thing if I would like to. I appreciate that. So I will continue to indulge them all in this silly season and I will even try to be less grouchy this year though I probably realistically will still take a nap.

In the meantime, Happy Summer Solstice everyone.

 

Winter solstice preparations part two

Last week Mme Four and I went for a walk and gathered some pine cones. We then spent several days this week painting them with glue and sprinkling them with glitter. Every four year old’s dream. (Our house has never looked so sparkly either). We finished them with some ribbon and buttons hot glues on so we could hang them.

Mme Four took great delight in helping to decorate the house this year and really being part of the family festivities.
And I’m really enjoying making new family rituals that are in sync with and celebrating the changing seasons around us and watching and noticing how nature changes through the year.

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Winter Solstice preparations – orange pomanders

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orange pomanders

We spent the afternoon today making these beautiful decorations from oranges and cloves.  While it would be more awesome if the oranges were home grown, sadly we bought these.  They still smell delicious though and look very festive.  And Mme. Four had a lovely time helping to make them.  M. One, however, did not have as much fun – he found and ate a dropped clove.

Autumn rabbits?

This was meant to be an Easter post but circumstances conspired.

This shouldn’t be overly surprising: we don’t celebrate Easter. At least not at the same time as most of the world.

It’s autumn here in Canberra. The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the ground is looking forward to its leafy blanket. It’s harvest time too and we’re enjoying tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, figs, berries and stone fruit.

With chickens moulting, there are few eggs to be found, and I’ve not seen a rabbit in a while. The imagery of spring, so relevant in the northern hemisphere, is seriously out of place here.

But what’s a parent to do when the shops are full of chocolate bunnies and eggs? Even though we can tell our kids that the festivals of the northern hemisphere are six months out of phase here, I wouldn’t want them to miss out on anything tasty! And the point of celebrating the sessions as they happen is not about privation.

Here’s what we’ve done this year. While chocolate spring is in season, we’ve stockpiled it’s gooey bounty for the real, southern hemisphere spring: September. And for right now, we’re celebrating the abundance of autumn with something slightly more seasonal.

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Punnet of raspberries, melted chocolate, and some sticks

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Drizzle a little chocolate into each raspberry and insert the stick. Pop them in a tin.

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It’s fiddly but goes faster than you’d think. Pop them the fridge to set.

Once set, dip in the remaining molten chocolate.

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Three-year-old had great fun with this.

I call them “raspberry pops”, but three year old thinks “chocolate raspberries”is more appropriate.

We bought our raspberries this year but hopefully our canes will be established enough next year that we have our own to use.

Happy Summer Solstice!

In our aim to celebrate the seasons as they come, here is an oak wreath I made from a nearby tree as decoration for the summer solstice.

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Even though the solstice was yesterday, we will be celebrating the longest day tonight with a special meal with friends.
Hope you all had a lovely summery day!

Winter Solstice

This post is a bit late, but we celebrated the Winter Solstice this year.  The solstice was June 22.  Now that we are trying to grow food seasonally, it feels fitting to mark the passing of the seasons of the year and to celebrate the return of the longer sunlight hours.  This should also mean that our chickens start to come back on the lay, or for those who haven’t laid yet, come into lay.  Laying is linked to sunlight exposure, so the return of longer sunlight hours is definitely cause to celebrate.  We have not had one single egg since the end of May!  We have had to go back to buying supermarket eggs!

We had some friends over for dinner and cooked up some goat in the weberate and ate food from our gardens.  We exchanged preserves from our Autumn harvest – pickled green tomatoes, pickled chillies, lemon butter mmm… And it seemed very fitting!

The younger kids had fun roasting marshmallows over a fire, while the adults (and nearly adults) mulled wine (here is a link to the recipe – it was just stunning).

Apparently I was having too much fun to take photos on the night but here are a few of the preparations – making the lemon butter, lemon candles and the the yule log themed table centerpiece.

All the ingredients for the lemon butter

Simmering and thickening the lemon butter

Liquid sunshine

Lemon candle - made from the left over lemon skins

And a couple of the Yule log. I know traditionally you are supposed to burn the Yule log, but I liked this idea better.

Winter colourful greenery from the hedge trees between us and a neighbour

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