Tag Archives: Christmas

Festive traditions

While there are plenty of ‘regular’ ways of doing the festive period, there’s no reason why we can’t invent new traditions. Here’s a few I especially like.

The Christmas Eve muster. This was a feature of my teenage, and hosted by a friend, who would round up lots of people for a big present exchange. A good evening with friends, a dash of alcohol, plenty of chocolate and much merriment, to be followed by walking home late at night. Being teens, gifts were far more about cunning and insight than about spending lots of money, and I loved that about it. 

The Christmas Pie. I grew up vegetarian, back when that wasn’t at all fashionable. “But what do you have on Christmas day?” was a question that came up a lot. My Gran used to make a huge mushroom pie, thick crust, lots of egg, lots of mushrooms… being around while she made it was part of childhood Christmas. This year, having reverted to being vegetarian, I’m making the huge festive eggpie. It’s not the same as hers. I can imagine her at my shoulder saying things like “well, I’d never have put that in it!” I also love the Christmas puddings – made mine back in November. Great Grandmother apparently used to boil hers in the copper boiler used for doing the washing!

The Boxing Day walk. Which should for best effect involve a pub and a pint of beer. With all the snow this year, it promises to be much fun indeed.

There’s no need to conform to any of the ‘normal’ ways of doing this… no need to eat large amounts of dead creature if that doesn’t appeal to you, no need to be drunk, or eat yourself sick. There’s no reason to spend the day flopped in front of the television, or to shop yourself into near insolvency. Christmas is a good excuse to spend time with people you like, doing things you enjoy. It’s also a time that brings tensions to the fore, digs up old grief and can bring out the absolute worst in people. We can choose what we do to each other at this time of year, as at all others.

In the past, Christmas has been a time of stress, anxiety and misery for me. This is the first one in a long time that I’ve actively looked forward to.

Wrestling with Christmas

It’s not my festival, dammit! And to be honest I never much liked it – a time of year that puts far too much stress on people. I hate the commerciality. I don’t enjoy how it brings into aching focus all my awareness of people I’ve lost, and I know there are plenty of folk out there who have it worse than me on that score. I hate the pressure to be ‘jolly’ and ‘festive’. Also, I am allergic to cloves, so festive food is challenging. Christmas pushes people into debt, and towards suicide. Oh, and I also hate the excessive, electricity eating gaudy house decorations. Why, why do people do this?

But.

It’s traditional, isn’t it? Families have expectations. I have a child. I can’t ignore Christmas and make it go away. My strategy for surviving has long been a mix of embracing bits of it, and full on subversion.

I love the giving aspect of Christmas, but I don’t feel that should be about spending vast sums of money on useless tat. It’s a good time of year to get involved with charitable stuff – so I’ll happily go carol singing for a good cause. I’ve done shoe boxes for kids in war zones – I love doing those and they break my heart. I like giving by doing, reaching out to people who might well be having a harder time of it. I like the excuse to get in touch with more distant friends and family as well.

I make things for Christmas. I tend to give homemade food things, I’ve done pomanders, paintings… things that could not be bought. That feels more real to me. I don’t want to fill other people’s houses with stuff they do not need. Last year my son opted to sponsor a tiger, rather than having a toy from me. I was very proud of him.

It’s possible to be generous without spending. Give of your time and energy instead – it’s far more valuable and meaningful. It’s entirely possible to be happy at this time of year without vast sums of money. Decorate simply, with natural things, or things you have made. Resist the pressure to shop. Happiness is not instore. 

I think the desire for lights is a natural response to the darkness and the grim weather. Nothing wrong with that. A few lights can be very pretty indeed. There are some very nice solar powered lights out there – charge by day, twinkle by night. I’m poised to make decorations out of salt dough. Last year James and I cut paper snowflakes to decorate with. That was fun, and really nice to do. For me, that was one of the happier moments of last year’s festive period. The best way to ward off the darkness is with company, not artificial lights. There’s nothing wrong with darkness, we don’t have to actually fight it, we can work with it, be comfortable with it. A few lights serve, if anything, to emphasise the darkness, and that can be very beautiful indeed.

There’s no one right answer to Christmas, for pagans. There’s no escaping from it, for most of us, but we can subvert it, rework it with our own values, take the opportunities to be creative, and refuse to co-operate with all that is plastic, tacky and unsustainable.

Winter Solstice/Christmas

Winter Solstice (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20 in the Southern Hemisphere) is the shortest day of the year and was also celebrated as Midwinter, Yule and later as Christmas.

I cannot help but wonder how the ancient people felt when the days grew shorter, the nights longer. They looked up in the sky, wondering at the sun’s great power to bring life to the earth and related it to a god. Without the scientific knowledge of how the earth rotates around the sun, it must have been frightening to think the sun might never reappear. It’s no wonder they created rituals on the shortest day of the year to bring back the Sun god.

Some of the earlier rituals involved animal, and possibly, human sacrifices. They also celebrated with holly, ivy, pine boughs, lighted trees (candles), warm beer and spiced wine drinks (wassail), roasted pigs, large Yule logs and large bonfires, songs and gifts in the hope that the sun would rise earlier and banish the cold, harsh winter. The traditions are still celebrated all over the world.

Later, Christianity incorporated the birth of Jesus into the celebration, naming him the new Sun god even though according to some historians, Jesus was most likely born in March or April. Here in the United States most people celebrate Christmas using some of the traditions of Winter Solstice.

In my house, we celebrate a combination of Winter Solstice and Christmas. I put up a Christmas tree and my Pagan Santa with his green cloak, staff and antlers. For me, this is a time to spend with family and friends, a time for sharing and a time for reflection. Each December I look forward to the end of winter and the beginning of a new season. Every ending is a beginning.

My latest release is a short, sweet, contemporary/paranormal romance called A Winter Solstice Kiss, which is part of the Winter Kisses anthology from Noble Romance.
Noble Romance Publishing http://www.nobleromance.com

Blurb: When Brianna decides to attend the Winter Solstice masquerade ball, she never thought she would end up kissing a handsome knight beneath the mistletoe, but they part without exchanging names and phone numbers–how will they find each other again?

Excerpt: She followed his gaze to mistletoe hanging from the low ceiling, glimmering with a tempting glow. Her breath caught in her throat. Captivated by his nearness, she imagined those masculine lips touching her. “I . . . .” Her feet froze to the floor. He had the most amazing blue eyes.
“It’s tradition,” he said, dipping his head and pressing a kiss to her trembling lips.
She couldn’t move her mouth at first, allowing his lips to capture her mouth in a thrilling crush. His forceful yet tender kiss awakened something inside her. She forgot who she was or that she was allowing a stranger’s lips to caress her. Her head spinning, she surrendered to him.
His hand cradled the back of her head and she was aware of the slight scratch of stubble tickling her face. The kiss grew more passionate and she almost dropped her cup, the only thing keeping their bodies from touching.
The heat from his skin sent a flush to every part of her body. Her breasts heaved and tingled. Excitement spread through the rest of her body, quickening her pulse. She wanted to stay there in his embrace, feeling a man’s lips giving her so much pleasure again.
“Okay guys, get a room already.” A reveler laughed and ducked into the bathroom.
She stepped away from the stranger, the magical moment broken. Blushing, she avoided eye contact with him.

Happy Yule, Winter Solstice, Midwinter and Christmas!

Kelley Heckart
‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’
http://www.kelleyheckart.com
http://kelleysrealm.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/CelticChick
http://www.goodreads.com/kheckart
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelley-Heckart/111838455604
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My book page at Awe-Struck
http://www.king-cart.com/Awe-Struck/category=Kelley+Heckart/exact_match=exact

Christmas Past, Yule Present

bloodiedquill

It was less than a week following Samhain, in 2000. My girls were clamoring for the Christmas tree to be put up, and presents to be put under it. Amazingly enough, once told that it was still seven weeks before Christmas and that was a long time to wait and not open those presents, they relented. Just a little…

I didn’t want to think about Christmas yet – I have a huge extended family, and we try to get everyone together at Christmas. That year, it was mine and my mom’s turn to coordinate the festivities, and I frankly hadn’t wanted to think about it since the year before (don’t ask-long story). It was always somewhat difficult explaining my differing beliefs to some of the cousins and their spouses…and pointing out pagan practices in modern Christmas traditions just doesn’t go over. So, we three say our blessing, and those that understand do, those that don’t…well, they are a tolerant bunch. That’s maybe why I love em so much.

I also didn’t want to think about Yule, which also meant trying to work in celebrating our wedding anniversary, as well. Little piece of advice for people considering marrying at Yule. Don’t. Just…don’t. It’s insanity, I tell you! (It may sound cynical, but I’m really glad most times, that I no longer have to work in an anniversary around Yule circle and Christmas preparations, LOL)

The second week of November was chillingly cold here. That Monday, both girls woke feeling a little under weather, and Rhia didn’t have a fever, her sister had a slight one and some mysterious marks on her face. I had been up all night getting some articles done and working on formatting a novel for editing. I was tired, my eyes were terribly sore from staring at the computer for six hours, and I was just slightly grouchy, too. Care ended up in tears as her temperature rose and her tolerance for anyone dropped. Rhia had (and still has) little patience for anything in the morning, and decided she was going to school to get away from her sister. Sibling rivalry overcomes the blahs of winter.

We got her off to school, and waited to hear from the nurse’s office as to whether or not we should take Care in to be checked out. When 10 AM rolled around and they hadn’t phoned I figured I’d go to bed, and Care and her father could fend for themselves. I wasn’t too worried about her – she’d had two mild cases of Chicken Pox before that, and that’s what this looked to be as well. But why did I leave Daddy in charge of a little girl who knows how to pull the sympathy strings? Lack of foresight perhaps. Or exhaustion. I claim holiday insanity!

My alarm rang at 2:30 PM, and I stumbled from the bedroom rubbing the sleep from my eyes and mumbling something about coffee. A further lack of foresight kept my eyes closed – after all, I could navigate the room in pitch darkness, why not with my eyes closed? Something prickly hit first my legs, then my face as I made intimate acquaintance with our tree. The two Yuletide culprits were sitting silent on the chair, hoping I wouldn’t notice them or the slightly guilty looks on their oh-I’m-so-innocent faces.

Goddess knows where I summoned the smile from, but I managed.

While the two of them washed the ornaments and garland (they’d met with a nasty accident involving a hot water tank, a broken pipe, and a wrench thrown in frustration against the low table they were stored on), I made myself extra-super-strong coffee, sat down with Yule – A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison. I hoped that would inspire some warmth and holiday spirit within my own spirit, and it did. After dinner that night, as the girls decorated the tree with the shiny clean ornaments, and lamented the loss of the musical lights (note: water and musical lights don’t mix; no, I was not disappointed in the least LOL), I sat writing an entire gift list for my family, with ideas from said book. The crafts and activities in the book are wonderful, and I highly recommend them for those celebrating Yule with families that generally celebrate Christmas…

* * *

What a difference almost a decade makes! My grandparents are both gone now, and our family has scattered to the four winds, it seems. The girls have grown up and as of today (December 16th) we still do not have a single decoration up to indicate it is approaching Yule, let alone less than a week away.

In our defense, we are awaiting arrival of a particular tree – The Nightmare Before Christmas Tree – featuring Jack Skellington and all his little friends. Still, we could have at least made a start on the decorating with lights and other ornaments. It seems as though the girls have, for the most part, lost interest in the holiday. They are at that age, you know the one. Mid-teens. Everything is just ‘too much work’ or ‘stupid’ and Goddess forbid they spend time with their family! How uncool!

I think we’ve finally hit on a mutual agreement. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this time of year since I was a mid-teenager, too. I love seeing some of my family, but I hate crowds; I love shopping for gifts, but hate crowds; I love seeing the Christmas lights in town, but hate crowds – I think you’re getting the picture. This time of year has been filled with guilt and uneasiness for me since I was a teenager, due to maternal influences I still to this day, am trying to shed. For the years of my relationship with my now-ex-husband, it was a battle between choosing between he and my family. They rarely extended an invitation for him to join us, and even though I took it upon myself to do so every year, he refused to go more often than not, because they made him feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I dreaded the yearly fight, and it wasn’t fair – our wedding anniversary was also Yule, and not once was it acknowledged by my family. Christmas, Yule and the anniversary, marred yearly by an immature family unable to release control of anyone else’s life.

This year, my daughters have the opportunity to meet their paternal grandmother, aunt and uncles for the first time. They are both looking forward to celebrating the season with a family that is hopefully less dysfunctional than the one they’ve known all their lives. Honestly, I’m hoping that will be the case, despite and regardless of my mother’s reaction to the news that she may have to share her granddaughters at Christmas. She was livid. Too bad. For the second time in 16 years, she does not get to dictate when and where, and I will not allow her to guilt the girls into changing their minds about spending time with their other family. It should be a happy time for them, not made uncomfortable by a guilt trip from grandma.

My one respite from this has always been Yule with my grove. Glas Celli was formed at Litha in 2001, but we knew each other for a year prior. This will be our ninth Yule as friends, and eighth as a grove. It’s always been a happy celebration for us, just a sense of togetherness, celebrating the rebirth of the God, the battle between Oak and Holly kings. A warm and happy time.

Home and heart. That has always been our focus with Glas Celli at Yule, and I think it should be the focus of this holiday season universally. As long as there is food on the table, love in our hearts and friendship to share, who needs baubles, bangles and bobs?

Exactly.

Happy Yule, everyone!


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Interested in some horror for the holidays? Pre-order Courting Morpheus, the anthology set in New Bedlam! Featuring the works of MR Sellars, Camille Alexa and more, the stories explore the insanity that builds as Morpheus is busy elsewhere…

Tell us you read about us here, and we’ll refund your shipping costs!
(Offer only valid until December 21st, 2009)

A Ghost of Christmas Past

bloodiedquill

In September of 2003, I lost the man who was everything to me growing up. My grandfather was as close to a father as I would get, and he was probably one of the strongest men I’ve ever known. From late 2001 until his passing, he went through a great many changes in his life, and his strength was sapped beyond repair.

That Christmas was hard on us all. Due to family conflict, we were missing half of the extended family, and the other quarter all had other commitments that day. To go from being a family of about 35, down to myself and the girls, my two brothers and my mom… it was heartbreaking. Memories of Christmases past haunted me like no other day. I could look out the porch window and imagine my grandparent’s old two-story, alive with their four kids, three in-laws, and nine grandchildren. Not to mention the uncle (divorced from my grandfather’s sister, but still part of the family), and their ‘adopted’ son, who’d grown up with their kids after being sent here to recover from polio in the fifties. A lot of what-ifs hovered sadly in my mind that day.

The sadness in my mother’s house was palpable. None of us really wanted to celebrate Christmas, and I’d already celebrated Yule with my circle-mates. A tension gripped us all as though we were going through the motions only because we had to. And that was exactly what we were doing.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, my mother nearly had a meltdown over not having the right kind of cranberry sauce. Granted, this could have been the grief and the overall atmosphere, but I doubt it. There was cranberry jelly, and crushed cranberry sauce. We could have made do, and probably would have, but… I volunteered to go over to my grandparent’s to rummage through the pantry and see if there was a can of whole berry sauce there.

It broke my heart to go into that house and remember the few Christmases the family had there. It was my grandfather’s dream home, the one he designed himself, and built himself for the most part. He was in the very walls, literally. He poured his heart and soul into building that house. When I stood in the breezeway, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness of the house, I remembered standing in the old house, the first Christmas that we spent in the new one. I’d snuck out and gone over to the old house and just stood where we should have been eating dinner.

I stood there, somewhere between the old and the new, when a familiar scent caught my attention. Gillette shaving cream and Right Guard antiperspirant. I shrugged it off, and mounted the stairs to the kitchen and dining room. The further I went down the hall, the stronger the smell, and by the time I was at the kitchen, I was nearly in tears. Grandpa.

The cranberry sauce was right there, at the front of the middle shelf. All by itself, away from the canned goods and the dry goods. Just waiting. As I closed the pantry door, I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise, and a shiver run down my spine. I was being watched, and I knew I was alone in the house.

I took a few steps toward the bathroom, but decided I really didn’t want to look in there, not when I could still smell the shaving cream and the Right Guard… only now I could also detect just the faintest whiff of Listerine, as well. I turned right, and zipped down the hallway and down the stairs as quickly as I could – not from fright, but from grief. It hurt, smelling the familiar smells of my grandfather getting ready to go out and about. I stopped, though, when I was able to see across the landing and down the hall.

I had to. The whistling really wasn’t something I could ignore. See, my grandfather had a very distinctive way of whistling when he was happy, or when he was working, or when he was getting presentable. Particularly when he was getting presentable. I even recognized the tune, this time – it sounded very much like he was whistling “I Ain’t Been Long.” I don’t know what it’s real title is, but that’s what we all called it. I listened for several seconds, and finally found my voice.

“Dinner’s almost ready, Grandpa, come on over.”

The whistling stopped, and I left the house. As I started up the steps to the door at mom’s, I turned around to look back at my grandparent’s house. There in his bedroom window, stood Grandpa, looking out and smiling. I waved, and he was gone.


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Interested in some horror for the holidays? Pre-order Courting Morpheus, the anthology set in New Bedlam! Featuring the works of MR Sellars, Camille Alexa and more, the stories explore the insanity that builds as Morpheus is busy elsewhere…

Tell us you read about us here, and we’ll refund your shipping costs!
(Offer only valid until December 21st, 2009)

Holiday Memories.

‘Tis the season… for thinking back to those exciting days of yesteryear.  It’s funny as I get older (heading inevitably towards both my dotage and grumpy-old-man syndrome) I think back upon childhood.  Christmas, with all its frantic and heart-pounding anticipation is often brought to mind.

I am wierd, no seriously.  I never get excited about something like Christmas until the day before and then it’s multiplied by 1,000,000.  I would be the first one up waiting the “go” signal. 

 You see our Christmas tree was downstairs in the rec room, not upstairs.  We, the Newman children, were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents got up.  My father, the eternal jokester would have to have his coffee and cigarette before we could plunge into the ripping, tearing and shrieking of joy.   So like runners awaiting the starting gun, we were perched upon the top of the stairs with trembling nerves and quivering legs.  There was a lot to plan, for that mad dash.  Our steps lead down to the front door, curved around a foyer and went back down to the basement.  Then there was the narrow hallway that lead into the rec room.  You had to watch cutting the corner of the foyer lest you slam into the banister on the right or make your turn too wide and smack into the banister on the left.  Aside from all that you were in slippers, an aptly named set of footwear, which made rounding a bend as dangerous as telling Donald Trump his hairstyle sucks.  Once onto the carpeted second set of stairs the basement floor had a door on the left (to the garage) and then two more in the hall facing one another (the laundry room and the closet).  Doorknobs are useful things.  But slamming into one with an unprotected elbow or hip wasn’t pleasant.  Plus it would put you in last place in the Christmas Race.  Also you had to prepare for the basement floor’s icy linoleum, treacherous and slick.  Once into the rec room the frenzy could take place in earnest.

But back to my Father.  Smirking and sitting in the kitchen, puffing slowly on a cigarette and sipping daintily on his coffee we would glance over our shoulders at him in desperate anticipation.  He would chuckle and tell us to be patient, he was almost done.  Then he’d go back to smirking, smoking and sipping.  I swear he could make those two things last all day!  They were the slowest, most leisurely cup of coffee and nicotine stick of the ENTIRE year.  Often I would accuse him of lighting a second one or refilling his mug—he didn’t it just FELT that way!  Then he’d crush out the cigarette, down the last dregs of his java and say….”Go ahead”.  The race was on!

My poor sister, the youngest and smallest of us would be buffeted by her two older brothers as we leaped into action!  Being the eldest (and for the longest time the biggest) I would easily shove past my brother and take the lead.  It didn’t last since he was faster than me and due to my clumsiness I always managed to bash my arms, hips and elbows into the banister and doorknobs slowing my frantic progress.  In the end somebody always fell on the foyer or the basement floor but all pain and agony was forgotten when we burst into the rec room to find Santa’s booty (presents that is, get your mind out of the gutter this is a Christmas or if you like Yule story). 

To this day when I see a staircase I wonder how to best dash down it and beat all comers to the ground floor…

Ciao!

Chris

Free Christmas Calendar for the Kids!

Every year I make these for my kids and every year, I offer it up to the rest of the web. The idea of this is to either put it on your desktop, OR, as I do, print it out and hang it on the wall for your children. I make one for each of my kids and then every night before bed, they get to take a crayon and mark out the days until Christmas.

Now you know as soon as you put up the tree or a child catches wind that this is the month of Santa, they will bug you and bug you…” MOM WHEN IS XMAS???” lol Well this helps you with that. Your children get to figure it out for themselves. lol

 

This is something Free and easy to do. If you do not have children, well save it and email it to a friend that does. Or pass it onto your grandchildren or someone who has grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, whoever.

Christmas is all about memories, and for me this is all about making those memories with my kids. And as you can see by Santa in the calendar, he is having a good laugh at some of his …well…own memories.

 

So if you choose to save this…enjoy!

 

Preview:

The Calendar does not go past the 25th of December because, well, this is all about the kids and getting them to CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!! lol

 

If you would like to have this Calendar, CLICK HERE to get it full size. Don’t worry…the link is taking you to my Photo bucket album. Once you get there, just right click and save as.