Years ago I read a book that discussed spirituality using the analogy of a wheel, with the outer rim representing all of the questions humans have been asking for generations: what is the meaning of life, what happens when we die, how did mankind come to be? The author discussed the idea that the role of spirituality is to attempt to answer these questions, and each religion has its own way of doing so. The spokes of the wheel, then, represented each religion, or each set of answers to these age old questions of humanity. The center of the wheel represented the truth, and each person could make it to the truth by genuinely following the path that their own answers led them along.
While I have long since forgotten the title and the author, and really everything else about that book, this analogy has stuck with me. You see, I have been fortunate enough to meet some absolutely incredible, genuine people in my life: Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Hindus. I have met Muslims and Atheists and Unitarian Universalists, and I really have a hard time believing that any of these people have all the right answers. I believe that they are beautiful, genuine, and passionate people and that the path they are following gives them purpose and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that. For me, none of these paths feel genuine or right and that can make things like religious holidays a bit complicated.
I grew up in a Judeo-Christian family where Christmas looked much like it does in many other American homes. We had a tree, we had stockings, we had presents, and I was sure that one day I would finally catch Santa in the act. Now that the New Daddy and I have started our own family, we have the opportunity to reinvent some of the traditions we grew up with. We don’t want to toss them aside altogether, because they do have value, but we also don’t want to continue the parts that simply don’t make sense. We do have a tree, but the jury is out on whether we’ll fill one another’s stockings. As for presents, we’re opting out for reasons I discussed earlier
, and we’ll appreciate the legend of ol’ Saint Nick as we appreciate all good fiction. A tree and a story do not a magical holiday make, however, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what will make this time of year special for us, and for Annabelle as she gets older.
What I love most about the many religious celebrations observed around the world is that they give those who participate in them a sense of belonging, and that is something I really don’t want our children to miss out on. I want this to be a time of year that we can all look forward to – a time that truly does feel magical. To facilitate that, we will recognize the natural phenomenon of the winter solstice and enjoy bringing light into our home at the darkest time of the year. We will feast, we will share stories, and we’ll check in with family far and near. As the years go on, our traditions will surely evolve, but no matter what, the goal is for them to bring us together.
What do holiday traditions look like in your family? Have you made your own, or taken most of them from generations past? Are they consistent, or do they change from year to year?