Friday, December 21, 2012

The tree

 There is a lot of talk of blending Holiday traditions and creating new ones when you start your own family. This piece by Kirsty explains it more eloquently than I could have ever put into words. Being Mexican, most of the traditions I grew up with heavily intertwine the religious with the more ancient traditions of the pre-columbian civilizations that flourished in Mesoamerica. In our particular family, there were more elements to the mix, my dad being an agnostic (skeptical?) swiss guy who wouldn't go to church* but was happy to introduce us to the glory of cheese fondue (that's an authentic recipe), Caran d'Ache coloured pencils and Calida pijamas that would arrive in parcels from afar. My mom was raised catholic, and even when we didn't really practice, we were believers at heart, if that counts. To top it off, we were sent to a very catholic school for 5 years, which was enough to confuse my 5th year old mind and be the source of internal conflict and all kinds of complexes that I fought hard to get rid off (but that would be a story for another day). It was at this school that I learnt about the lives of the saints and I finally figured out why the official setting-up-the-christmas-decorations day was on the 8th of December: it's the day of the Immaculate conception of Mary. It was also there that we were taught about the sacred time of advent, a time of waiting, hopefully, amidst the darkness, and also of spiritual preparation. The beautiful words of Fiona on this subject really touched me, she carefully articulated the reasons why this year I did not feel ready for the holidays to come. I like to know that even before Christian times these holiday traditions arose from ancestral beliefs, how it is all about being in contact with nature, about the (pagan) Gods' promise that the winter, the cold, and the darkness will not linger forever, that life will return, that there will be crops again, and like Adrini said: "that no matter how dark it can get I am  we are not alone in this life".
 Anyhow, I wanted to talk about how all of this blending is slowly taking place in our family. You see, since the beginning of the month (and at the latest by the 8th, see above) I'm always eager to set up our christmas decorations. But the boy wants nothing to do with any of it until after his birthday: that is the way it was always done in his family, and that's how we've decided to keep on doing it. Another big dilemma is the tree. Last year we had a small natural one. I love the smell of pine spreading around the house, even if I don't feel 100% comfortable about the ecological implications of cutting off a tree just for us. However, the boy hates the mess left behind when all the needles inevitably start to fall. We tried to find an artificial one but even the medium ones were out of the budget we were willing to invest.  The original plan was to keep the one from the boys' childhood, but the box where it was got thrown away by accident when the house got sold.
That's a hint to our bucket list for the next year
 Anyhow, we do not have a lot of space for storage, so our decorations should fit a small box. That's why I was so happy when I found the perfect compromise: a pretty wooden tree with miniature hanging decorations and tiny bells that will do the trick without taking much space. Last february, my mom also got us a foldable, aluminum, hand painted Betlehem from San Miguel de Allende so now we are all complete. Do you have any special holiday traditions? A special date by which all the decorations have to be set-up?  When does the christmas mood starts to kick in your family? And have you blended, added or adopted new traditions?
 * the fact that my dear dad wouldn't go to church was my main concern during our weekly cathechism classes, for, according to what they said he would be going to hell for sure. Luckily I have been able to distinguish faith and religion as separate (and often contradictory) entities.


  1. Aggghhh por eso ODIO las escuelas religiosas! Cómo te van a decir esa barbaridad?!?! Son una maquina de crear complejos y culpas en las mentes impresionables de los niños! (espero no ofenderte con esto que digo y por favor disculpame si lo hago!)

    Me encantan tus tradiciones y tu arbolito es precioso! Nosotros no somos religiosos, de hecho mi marido es ateo y su religion de origen no era la cristiana, pero en su familia nunca practicaron esa religion tampoco de todas maneras. Yo tampoco soy católica, si bien no llego a ser atea simplemente no me gustan las religiones. Pero amo la navidad...o sea, amo el arbol (que al fin y al cabo era un simbolo celta) y el dedicar un mes a la familia y a formar tradiciones juntos, y asi la tomamos. Regalos, solo hacemos a los niños, el dinero de los regalos que serian para los grandes lo donamos a una ONG que elegimos cada año. Y el menu es siempre milanesas con ensalada y puré de papas :)

  2. No, no me ofendo, al contrario. No es que me lo hayan dicho directamente, lo que decían era que el que no iba a misa cometía pecado mortal, y por tanto, al morir, iba derechito al infierno. La deducción consiguiente la saque yo solita.
    Yo tampoco, ni por error inscribiría a mis hijos a una escuela religiosa estilo hardcore (estamos hablando del Opus Dei, ugh, asco....). La única razón por las que mis papas eligieron esa escuela, fue porque el nivel académico era el mejor. La otra opción eran escuelas americanas, pero mi papa se oponía a que cantáramos el "Star Spangled Banner" todos los Lunes a las 8 en los honores a la bandera. Me parece que elegiremos escuelas laicas, o religiosas, pero en plan muy pero muy light. Las historias de la Biblia me gustan, pero las tomo como metáfora, como un cuento, y además las interpeto como quiero, de forma completamente libre. Tampoco creo que es la verdad absoluta, ni la única, ni lo tomo al pie de la letra. Luego, la fe, es algo muy personal, algo que siento dentro de mí y que se ha ido formando poco a poco, pero estoy en contra de todas aquellas estrategias que tratan de imponer la fe de uno en los otros. De ahí es fácil caer en fanatismo, en extremismos, en intolerancia, en la abolición del pensamiento crítico, todo lo cual ha sido causa de tantas y tantas guerras y sufrimiento. Por eso a mí las religiones así porque sí tampoco me encantan. Por otro lado todas las filosofías / cosmovisiones se parecen en lo fundamental, "haz el bien y evita el mal", y siento que Dios (al menos en lo personal) surge de una necesidad humana de encontrar sentido y lógica en el universo. Luego buscar el amor, la armonía...
    La familia de Mark era cristiana, pero tampoco practicaban, y aunque el dice que no cree en nada, es de las personas más bondadosas que conozco.
    Al final lo que todos estamos celebrando son tradiciones relacionadas con el solsticio de invierno, que se terminaron por amalgamar con otras creencias con el paso del tiempo.
    Que delicia, van a cenar milanesas, es uno de mis platillos favoritos.
    Desde ya les deseo unas muy felices fiestas, pero estamos en contacto !

  3. I know I'm kind of late commenting on this post, but considering I JUST found it I think it's ok! lol

    I've always liked traditions and specially like the idea of blending and adopting new ones during the holidays. Growing up in Costa Rica I don't really remember decorating the house for Christmas. I'm not saying we didn't do it, I just don't remember it. I do remember though being in a children's choir and participating in a huge elaborate Cantata Navideña! Which was always a lot of fun. Once we moved to New York we started to adopt some American traditions and now our Christmas are just a huge Hispanic American occasion.

    The Hispanic tradition we're still holding on to is celebrating Christmas on Noche Buena and exchanging gifts then rather than on Christmas morning, something my American friends still find weird, lol. However, as far as American traditions go we started decorating the house the Friday after Thanksgiving! This past December I wasn't able to do it that Friday and the second I stepped outside on Saturday I felt completely left out because the whole neighborhood had already welcomed the season!

    However, the biggest sign that we have "successfully" blended traditions is obvious in what we eat for Noche Buena. We have the traditional American staples: turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, biscuits, pumpkin and apple pies... BUT we also have tamales (because of my Central American dad), pasteles de platano (because of my Dominican mom), arroz con guandules, flan and tres leches!

    I look forward to blending in even more traditions in the future if I marry someone who's not Hispanic or American :)

    1. Your blended Christmas traditions sound great. Now I feel like tamales! And now that you say it, in Mexico the traditions are also quite American-influences (it is very traditional to eat turkey, along with other typical Mexican dishes like bacalao (cod) and romeritos (that's a plant...) ). As for the presents, the adults exchange them on Nochebuena, at midnight, but children still get them on Christmas morning, by the tree (depending on the family the magical entity delivering these is Santa Claus or baby Jesus (el niño Dios) ).
      The choir / cantata sounds great !


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