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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Feast of Lights

Not that long ago, Christmas was only one day... December 25th. People didn't put up their trees until the night before and shopping didn't happen until around the 20th. Forget about stores advertising about sales and buying quickly.

Then families started celebrating two days, the 24th and 25th to make the two sides of the family feel included. Trees were still freshly cut and dried out too quickly to allow them to be put up much earlier than the 21st. This fit with the Pagan celebrations of Yule, where they often decorated with 'hanging of the greens' ceremonies. People started moving further away from one another that meant they needed to start their Christmas shopping a little earlier in order to mail them across the country. Still decorating was limited to two weeks before Christmas.

A time came that stores started realizing that the major portion of their income came in the weeks before Christmas. They started making a big deal on the day after Thanksgiving. That Friday was reserved for the kick off day for the Christmas season. Stores hired people to work late Thanksgiving night for the grand unveiling of the Christmas decorations on Friday morning. Santa arrived at the malls, after he had traveled down 34th Street in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. We still had the division between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What happen? Now Christmas items start showing up in some stores in August. Decorations are for sale with Halloween costumes and the stores start their Christmas decorating in mid-November. Santa has already been at the malls for two weeks!! On TV there are shows dedicated on how to survive Black Friday!! It's like boot camp for shoppers. Sales that never happened until Dec 26th are advertised a month earlier.

Jewish families often felt like they had to compete with Christmas, giving more and more gifts than the traditional 8 that normally was given to children.

This is nuts!!!

While I'm not a Christian, I still believe that the Christmas season is meant to be about family, love, appreciation, warmth and light. It's never meant to be about gross commercialization. Even in the original movie "Miracle on 34th Street", they talk about selling simply to make a profit, and that was almost 60 years ago. Have we learned nothing since then? It's become so much worse than the writers of the movie could have ever dreamed.

Out of frustration by the blatant commercialization of Christmas and other winter holidays, and the friction between so many different religions and belief systems, I have decided to create my own "holiday". If others can do this, why can't I? It's the same feeling I had about my own belief system, when I started calling myself an Eclectic Spiritualist. So this is what I have come with... a blend of many belief systems and winter holidays, as well as my own personal touches...

So, what do you think... would you like to join me in celebrating "A Feast of Lights"?

Feast of Lights People of Many Flames Blends activities and events from many belief systems such Celtic Pagan Yule, Jewish Hannakah, African-American Kwanzaa, Indian Diwali, Swedish St. Lucia, Thai Loy Krathong, Mexican Las Posadas, Russian Christmas, Moravian Lovefeasts, Dutch and German St. Nicholas Day, Twelfth Night, Arabian Ramadan.

This is not meant to replace any cultural celebrations, but to add to them, a bringing people and cultures together to show we are not that far apart in our beliefs. They all share one common element.. the gift of light.

Rather than have a set day for this, use it as a movable feast. I plan to celebrate the weekend before Christmas.

My Yule Feast of Lights Game Plan

Just some ideas.... of course add and adapt to your own needs.

8 candle Menorah plus one lighting candle (purple)

Each candle represents a sabbat of the year, a religion, culture and people

red (Native American)
white (European)
black (African)
yellow (Asian)
brown (Hispanic)
green (Pagan)
blue (Oceanic)
pink (Angelic)
orange (Eastern Indian)

8 Characteristics
Self
Family
Community
Creativity
Faith
Prosperity
Love
Future

4 elements and directions

north earth
west water
south fire
east air

Menu (based on traditional foods of the above cultural holidays)
Set up a table for each group: seafood, entrees, salads, desserts, beverages
Use gold chargers as trays and bowls (gold plastic disposable) or bread and tortilla bowls

Clam Chowder
Smoked Salmon
Crab Cakes
Seafood Gratin
Scalloped Oysters
Homemade Applesauce
Macaroni and Cheese
Roast Beast (Prime Rib)
Mashed potatoes
Roast Turkey
Turkey gravy
Vegan Cashew Nut Roast with Sage and Onion Stuffing
Broccoli Salad
Blue and Pear Salad
Caesar Salad
Fruit Salad
Assorted Olives
Homemade Breads
Wine, Mead, Sparkling Cider, Beer, Ale
Eggnog
Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Cider

Caramel Mini Cheescakes
Shortbread cookies stamped with pentacle
Mini apple pies
Mini creme brulees
Gingerbread cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes
Yule Log Cake
Angel food cake
Dried Fruit
Fruitcake
Cut out sugar cookies
Rocky road cookies
Snowballs cookies
Pecan Tassies
Candy Cane Cookies
Mini HoHo's

Activities

Feast

Setting up altars
Three: one for past, one for present, one for future

Memory Altar and Candlelighting (photos of departed love ones and ancestors, flowers, and candles)

Hanging of the Greens, Mistletoe and Poinsettia

Burning a yule log

Burning incense

Candlelighting ceremony.. bringing the light into the darkness

Meditations, prayers, invocations, poems

Calling the quarters and archangels

Singing and music

Creative Endeavors (sewing, crocheting, etc) perhaps for charity

Favors: Evergreen Seedling as a gift for each guest

Talent show (poetry reading, one act plays, singing, playing an instrument, telling jokes)

Candlemaking

Chocolate gold covered coins (for prosperity)

Family History

Unity Cup and Candle

Driedel Game
Children play with a driedel (spinning top) which has letters which represent words, on the four sides. NESS means miracle, GADOL means great, HAYAH means happened and SHAM means here. ("A great miracle happened here", referring to the oil lasting eight days.)

Gift-giving (homemade or recycled gifts only)

Gift Exchange Game

Wearing white robes or clothing (symbolizes cleansing)

Water therapy

Past life regression

Float flowers, origami paper boats and candles in water

Birth (Jesus, Horus, and other virgin birth legends) and Rebirth

Balloon release in memory of those who have died

Writing/Compiling your own "Bible" (a book of your beliefs, ideas and traditions). The word "bible" is just short for the word "bibliography" which means a collection of books, stories, ideas and bound together. It's the belief in it that makes it holy.

Listen to holiday music; classic, popular, and ethnic

Read Christmas Books aloud; such as The Night Before Christmas, Dicken's A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, The Christmas Shoes, The Polar Express, Gift of the Magi, Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel, Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko, Pablo’s Christmas by Hugo C. Martin, Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis.. just for starters.

Turn off all lights except the Christmas lights and listen to instruments of Christmas and holiday songs.

Attend Candlelight Service at a local church, even if you are not Christian.

Turn off all lights, except the Christmas tree lights, prepare a big bowl of popcorn, some hot cider and a plate of Christmas cookies and watch three of your favorite Christmas movie videos such as "The Santa Clause", "A Christmas Story", or "The Polar Express".

Go for an evening walk, look for the "North Star" and make a wish.

Play Christmas board games; there are Christmas versions of Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit

Invite a bunch of friends, family and neighbors to go Christmas Caroling and end up back home for hot chocolate.

Make a holiday scrapbook using all of those photos from past winter holidays.

If you have snow: make a snowman and snow angels, have a snowball fight, go sledding, build an igloo, go cross country skiing or snowshowing.

Make paperbag, sand, and votive candle luminarias.

Bake simple cut out cookies using dairy case cookie dough, cookie cutters and canned frosting.

Make orange and whole clove pomander balls, dry in the oven.

Work on a Christmas or holiday jigsaw puzzle

Make homemade candy (molded chocolate, fudge, divinity, peanut brittle)

Visit a live nativity scene. When we were active and devout Christians, we participated in this at the church we were attending. It left lasting warm memories for me.

Attend a religious service or program that you don't normally attend.

Go to a Christmas movie matinee at the local theater... movies before 6pm are usually cheaper

Go ice skating

Drive around and look at Christmas lights

Go to a stage performance of Dickens's Christmas Carol

Watch family videos, look at slides and look through photo albums of past holidays

Have an "M&M" Night; Mall (look at decorations), Movie (Christmas movie at a Theater), and Munchies (Home for Ice Cream Sundaes)

Attend a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet performed by a local dance school.

Attend a performance of the Messiah and/our participate in a Messiah Sing

Decorate the trees outside for the birds with strings of popcorn and cranberries, little orange baskets, and pinecones with peanut butter and bird seeds

Make mulled cider

Have a taffy pull

Have the kids put together a holiday concert using kid's instruments, homemade instruments, and song books

Have a candlelight dinner

Have a family fondue fireside supper

Go on a sleigh ride

Visit Santa Claus and get a family picture taken

Trace your family history and talk about how Christmas, Hanukkah or other winter holidays were different for each generation

Take a family portrait by the Christmas tree or outside in the snow

Buy new toys to donate to Toys for Tots, canned food for a food drive

Volunteer as a family to help serve food at a Mission soup kitchen

Walk around your downtown area looking at the Christmas window displays

Have a Winter Solstice bonfire, roast marshmallows, tell stories of Christmas' of old, sing Christmas carols.

Make a batch of bread dough (flour, salt and water) and make Christmas or Hanukkah ornaments.

Take a small Christmas tree, a Christmas wreath, or graveblanket to the grave of a family member who died.

Go to Midnight Mass, even if you aren't Catholic

Make plans to attend a Boar's Head Festival, which usually takes place sometime between Christmas and Twelfth Night

Honor Boxing Day on the 26th with a quiet tea and cookies and soft classical music, and use this time to give of your time, experience, skills and money to charity.

Light candles and have each person tell what they are grateful for and what accomplishments they are most proud of.

Build and decorate a gingerbread house

Visit a nursing home and take homemade cookies and little gifts to the residents.

Have the entire family write and contribute to a family newsletter... add stories, drawings, poems, jokes, recipes and photos. Print off of your computer and send to family and friends.

Research Christmas and Winter Holiday traditions of other countries (online or at the library) and recreate one or two in your own family.

Go shopping at a secondhand store for dress-up clothes and then put on a Christmas or holiday play.

Make a collage using old Christmas cards and photos glued on to a large artist's canvas. Frame hang in a place of honor.

Make homemade Christmas tree decorations... (lots of ideas online); string popcorn and whole cranberries, make chains out of paper or ribbon.

Learn to say Merry Christmas in other languages

Write letters... to friends, to family members, to former teachers, to Santa Claus thanking them for being in your life.

Make homemade potpourri using flower petals, orange peels, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and pinecones.. give some as gifts.

Use the month of December as family art month... provide paper, artist canvases, watercolor paints, acrylics, glitter, scissors and glue, colored pencils... encourage everyone to do art work (drawing, sketching, collage, painting, altered books). But old frames at a second hand store. Paint those all black. Frame each piece of artwork and unveil as an art gallery Christmas or Hanukkah night.

Encourage everyone to write holiday poems and make a Holiday Poetry Chapbook on your computer.

Decorate a dollhouse for Christmas

If you live near a coastal community, check to see if there is a Christmas Ship Parade

Get out the sleeping bags and sleep by the Christmas tree. Fix eggnog French toast for breakfast.

Have a holiday healing session; back and foot massages, meditation, working with crystals and aromatherapy

Decorate blue, red or white sweatshirts and tee shirts with fabric paints

Make holiday prayer beads with red, white, green and gold beads; prayer beads are not just Catholic, or even Christian. Many religions use them.

Cut out paper snowflakes

Participate in a Jingle Bell Run if your city has one.

Check out free or inexpensive shows, concerts and events at your local college...

Make a family quilt. Give everyone a square of white muslin and fabric pens... Ask them to draw or write something about Christmas or Hanukkah. Have everyone help to sew the squares together, perhaps with other squares in green and red...

Watch the movie Soul Food which is a wonderful example of family.

Try your hand at drumming.

Dance with the Earth and with each other.

Sing songs of the sacred, of hope, and of power; loudly  - just for fun - with a room full of people.

For people all over the world, this celebration reminds us that darkness yields to light, the sun and warmth returns, and spring will follow winter. We can help the process, as our ancestors thought they did, by loving one another, and each of us living our life as a candle lighting other candles, which 'chases away the darkness and encourages the light to return.' To discourage consumerism and commercialism, and focus on the spirituality and family aspects of holidays and not just spending huge amount of money to impress and buy love.

© 2005 Rose Bliss Permission to share freely as long as credit is given.

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