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Hello friends. This is the Raising Luminaries Podcast, episode six and this is Ashia Ray.
This week we’re going to be discussing ohh…winter holidays. So if you’re familiar with our December resource roundup and our other winter roundups, we go into a little bit of depth about significance of winter holidays. Why they primarily focus around the sun and the moon (because nothing else is changing on the ground, basically.) And this has always been a really good unit to discuss with our kids, but I’m not going to get too deep into homeschooling because, gosh, I’m exhausted from that.
But I will say that this week, we got a chance to sit down and talk with our kids.
And by that, I mean like, they wander around with the things that they’re daydreaming about. And I try and get them to stay on topic, but who knows if they’re really – if anything is sinking in. So before anyone starts to think that I’m able to host fluent family meetings, no, it’s not like that.
But basically, part of being a parent and part of being a parent through the lens of revolution and societal change means pulling in our advocacy work into the day to day and built into our year. And built into our rituals, and built into our daily schedules.
So growing up, I celebrated in two separate families, my mom’s Irish Catholic family, and my dad’s Chinese family. And these two families never celebrated together. I actually only saw my parents in the same room like maybe three times in my life. So the disparity between what a big deal we made out of family holidays, how connected we felt with other family members, was kind of tied in with my experience of being, you know, like a fourth generation Irish American and being a first or second generation Chinese American. Because, one of the, we have a large Boston Irish family that we can connect with. And the other one, you know, are immigrants, not many of us are here. Those of us who are here are spread out and working intense hours every minute of the day.
So I grew up more knowledgeable and understanding of the Irish Catholic holidays that we had. And not knowing really much about my Chinese American holidays other than I got laisee, red envelopes. It was delightful. You got money. You don’t know why. It’s awesome.
But for our kids, now as parents, we get to choose what holidays do we celebrate? And more importantly, why we celebrate them. Because growing up even though we met with my mom’s side of the family, like at least once a month for various holidays. We never discussed the tradition behind it, why we’re celebrating them, why we believe the things we do, what’s behind the food, we eat and what’s behind the rituals that we participate in.
For example, in December, we celebrate Advent, which is every Sunday for like four Sundays before Christmas. We get together and we sing Americanized Christmas carols and we light candles and I didn’t really understand why. It was just tradition.
Same thing for Thanksgiving, same thing for Christmas. It’s actually kind of hard to tell the difference between all of these holidays except for Christmas, you get gifts. And none of it had anything to do on the surface with our culture, with our existence as immigrants after the Great Hunger. It had nothing to do with the colonization that drove us into this country.
So if we’re going to celebrate these traditions with our kids, I would like to have them actually understand why we’re doing the things we’re doing. Or even looking back. Why are we celebrating the things we do? Because my mom’s lapsed Irish Catholic, and there’s really no reason to celebrate Easter.
If we are not practicing Catholics, if Jesus wasn’t any much more than like, a really nice guy and a social justice leader. Easter really has no meaning for us at all. And more importantly, those holidays that meant something to us, but we had no words for in terms of Chinese year. And the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, things like that. How do we make sure that our kids know why we’re celebrating these things, particularly if we don’t have, say a religious doctrine behind it. And we don’t have a larger community where we meet together a church or a temple or anything like that.
So now that our kids are old enough, they’re seven and nine, and they’re actually old enough to comprehend the passage of time in terms of seasons and observations and community rituals. What’s different between what all humans do versus what just our family does? We sat down and we discussed, do we actually need Christmas? And if we are going to be doing Christmas, how is it perpetuating harm? How does it connect us to who we are and who our family is? Because if we’re not Catholic, and we’re not capitalists, or at least we’d like not to be is there any function to Christmas?
So, an interesting thing that we need to keep in mind is we also need to give the kids the historical background behind this. Explaining the roots of Christmas as like a combination of converting pagans over between their winter solstice celebrations, and connecting it with the birth of Christ, which did not actually happen on this day.
Jesus seems like a really nice guy. Totally into a lot of his teachings and his concepts. Good thought leader, but we don’t need to celebrate his birthday, because we’re not Christian.
Plus, we also do have to celebrate a lot of other things. We have a mid on a Moon Festival in September / October. We have the lunar new year in January / February. And we also try and observe a form of connection and observance for Indigenous Day of Mourning, with what we were raised to call Thanksgiving. Including, oh, and then you also throw Indigenous peoples day in there in October.
It’s just a lot of holidays. And I don’t have the spoons to celebrate one big commercial Christmas event. So we’ve been doing a lot of research on why do people celebrate winter holidays around the solstice.
There’s… in keeping with resilience through a tough time through weather, in keeping with staying warm and valuing light and heat as it becomes more scarce. Food and resources as they become more scarce. How can we have a holiday that’s built around that? Or are the holidays that we already have kind of enough? Because the Lunar New Year celebrates all these things?
And how do we learn about say, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, and St. Lucia’s day, things like that, so we can understand the rituals and the things that are important to people who observe these holidays without appropriating them.
So surprise twist, I sat down I told the kids hey, this thing where we just deliver presents to you and we teach you that… you’re just gonna consume all day, while also telling you that it’s really important to give but not giving you the resources that you need to give ( I’m not going to throw 100 bucks at my kid and tell them to spend it on something in order just to get someone a gift.)
Keeping in mind how buying plastic junk is just not… it doesn’t fit in with any of the family values that we’ve actually discussed. So the kids, it turned out, don’t actually give any shits about Christmas.
I thought that this would be kind of a contentious discussion. I thought like, hey, you know, I preface all of this with – ‘Here’s what we do. Here’s how Christmas the way that we have the the way that I was raised to observe it is actually kind of harming people.’
‘Here’s the roots behind Christmas giving in terms of supporting collective economies in the civil rights era. And here’s how it’s mutated to become something that profits large corporations and the consumption of plastic.’
And they’re like, ‘Okay, well, let’s not do it.’
I was like, ‘Sseriously?’ And they’re like, ‘yeah, ‘
It’s like, okay. So I’m a little bit nervous, because you have kids are where they’re like, they agree to something, and then they wake up, and they’re like, ‘Wait a second. That discussion means we actually lose everything?!’
Maybe on Christmas morning, they wake up and there are no presents. And they lose their shit about it. But I’ve checked in with them a few times since our discussion and they’re like, ‘Yeah, not a big deal. We just don’t need Christmas. ‘
And I kind of realized that I’m the one who has been holding on to this idea of Christmas as a necessity. Of this idea of like, doing without for the rest of the year in order to buy all the socks and chapstick that we really needed four months ago, and dumping it all on the kids in this one day out of the year.
And it’s very freeing, profoundly uncomfortable, but very freeing to realize, hey, now that we don’t have to celebrate Christmas, we can…. Now we don’t have a quota of gifts to provide and lists to make and cookies to bake. We could actually just focus on supporting small businesses and free up our budget to buy gifts for people when they actually need them.
And talk about giving and generosity while not arguing with the kids about the plastic Legos and the junk that they’re spreading all over the floor. As we’re playing outdated Christmas songs about coercion and non consent.
This is just going to be a bizarre year for us. So I am kind of interested – if you’re moving through the spirit of revolution in terms of your parenting, and you’re reevaluating the holidays that you celebrated as a family. Such as problematic ones – if you’re a colonist or settler, if you celebrated Thanksgiving as a celebration of coming together, not knowing the history of it. And if you celebrate Christmas as a time of giving, but really it’s always about competing and out giving each other how are you revisiting that?
And I’m kind of curious to find out what are other families doing? What other holidays are you inventing? Or what parts of your family traditions and rituals are you choosing to reinforce and spend your money and your energy and your limited resources and collective care?
If you’re willing to let go of some outdated you know, marketed idea of what a holiday should look like.
Okay, I’ll let you go. Thank you so much. And I hope that whatever winter holiday that you are celebrating, you’re finding time to dip into the meaning of it and discuss it with your kids.
Instead of I guess, running at full speed to fill a quota and beat shipping deadlines and trample retail workers on the way to your flat screen TVs.
Okay, thanks, guys. Bye.
Stay Curious, Stand Brave, and Resist Business As Usual
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