When our children were very young, we wanted to consciously create our family holiday traditions. In the same way we approached all of our parenting decisions- we wanted to chose with awareness, and to create a homelife that felt true to us. It is not an easy decision to live in a different way, but our holiday tradition choices have been some of the best we have made and strengthen our family bond every year.
On December 5th, the eve of St.Nicholas Day, we go out to find our tree. It comes into our home, and is left to rest for the night. The next day we decorate, with all our lovely handmade treasures collected over the years, plus many ornaments that have been given to us as gifts by dear friends. We use real candles on our tree, and light only one that evening. Through the night, Father Christmas comes, and leaves small gifts for the boys under the tree; traditional gifts like wooden boats, wooden trucks, small dolls, books, oranges, nuts and chocolate coins. It is all simple, and peaceful. Santa has never come to our house on Christmas Eve, and my children have never missed that. We explained that He has many names all around the world, and it takes awhile to get to all the children everywhere, which is why Father Christmas visits us so early. We chose to spread out the Christmas energy, so everything does not all happen on one day. And to mark the beginning of the holiday season, a time when we turn inwards as a family; staying home more and doing less....truly a quiet time..... It is okay to be different, and do what you believe. We have never felt resistance to our traditions; I believe because they are so right for us, and they are rooted in older traditions and this eases the way.
On each night we light one more candle on our tree- from December 6th, until the Winter Solstice, so the tree is fully lit on the longest night of the year. The candles in the living room give off such a soft light, and this softness makes the long evenings pass more peacefully. On the Winter Solstice we exchange gifts with each other. A small family exchange that marks the turning point of the year.
For most of my childrens growing up years, we lived in a place where the days are short in December, when the sun is low in the sky and barely passes over the tops of trees. And in the place where both of our sets of parents lived, making Christmas Day a social day of parties in town, rushing from family to family. By choosing these traditions we honoured what was important to us, and had time to visit with everyone, honouring their wish to see us on the day most important to them. And this week, I feel honoured to act as a guardian of the Father Christmas spirit, more than 10 years into our handcrafted tradition. I carefully scribe my annual note on handpainted paper, eat my cookie and orange, and silently place gifts under the tree for my boys, nourished by the rhythm, love for my family and the Holiday Spirit.