Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celebration and Peace

each year at the holidays i go through a similar feeling. what am i celebrating? as the years go by, i'm starting to catch a stride. i'm always reminded by the weather and early dark, that in its essence, this time of year is about light in the darkness. physically and spiritually. this seems to be part of everyone's traditions. the rest is how one chooses to express it. Giving of yourself, singing, dancing, cooking, decorating and giving thanks to life. these are things i try to do all the time, but the holidays help to amplify them.

we were invited to several hannuka events, starting with a cozy and festive dinner at my parents and ending with a bang at our neighbor's annual hannuka party. delicious food, guitars and singing and a room full of chanukkiyahs, lighting up the night.
we went caroling around the neighborhood with friends, attempting to revive a fading tradition. we had live instruments (two guitars, bongos and a clarinet) and sang a variety of modern songs with messages of peace and faith. inspired by and melding the parrandas tradition with caroling and making it our own. we ended at a neighbor's house who invited us in for eggnog and cookies. it was pretty cool.
we celebrated christmas eve this year, by doing the american jewish tradition of a movie and chinese food (roy's first time), and then the puerto rican (and most latin american) tradition of celebrating and opening gifts into the night. (to be fair, it wasn't a true puerto rican christmas eve without an all night blowout party.)
next was new years eve. a personal favorite. i've been missing the crazy dance all night parties of years past in jersey. we've been trying to bring that back since we moved to cali, but haven't gotten there. this year was kinda awesome. it was a small gathering. new and old friends. everyone that came brought a real celebrative spirit. it was a magical night.

next was three kings day. el dia de los reyes magos. this is a new one for me. it remembers the three kings that brought gifts to baby jesus. the traditions vary. the night was mellow but exciting. i made pastelon (puerto rican lasagna). we had a sweet bread with marzipan. we left grass and water for the kings camels and awaited a surprise. a sign, a gift? the kids fell asleep and roy and i stayed up until almost 2am putting together a casita made of wood, that rita had sent earlier in the season. the morning was spent discovering and doing major detective work. razi was determined to understand how this happened. she's somewhere between believing in magic and needing to logically find the truth. its awesome to listen to her mind work.

speaking of mythical stories. the story of santa claus is bugging me a bit. razi believes in him and i won't halt her creative mind. i just don't see this one as teaching much. its kind of weird. a fat dude with a long white beard coming down everyone's chimney... is this a myth worth continuing? on the other hand, its a shared story among our communities.

the other thing that pulls at my better sense, is the extensive gift giving. with all their birthdays clustered around this season, the kids get too much stuff. the house is filled with more clutter and so are our heads. gotta nudge this tradition in a better direction during these important spiritual markers of life.

the girls birthdays were separate this year, as they requested. roy found a new creative joy in making pinatas. i grew up with this mexican tradition in cali, but its a new one for him. razi had a fairy themed party. her pinata was a full feathered hawk. hawks are enemies of fairies, so smashing it to bits was appropriate.
liris' was a bug theme. she helped make her pinata. a paper mache abstract ladybug.
dimas' birthday rounded out the party season. we are all burnt out on parties by the time his comes. i feel bad and i promised myself he wouldn't get the leftovers this time. i made a new recipe of coconut cupcakes and roy made a truck pinata, which the kids all decorated with paint.

we have probably 7 parties in 3 months. each festivity brings me closer to exhaustion and true relaxation. how does this relax me? you're probably wondering. well, the constant flow of parties, that hustle hustle celebrate cycle, pushes me out of the controlled day to day grind and into a different zone. my exhausted focus on celebration brings on a calmness.
i love this time for the lights, the food and for pushing me into the zone.

ps. i made my first brisket and first pernil this year!


nicky said...

Thanks for sharing, Darrow. You and your family are such a de"light"ful addition to our neighborhood. Thanks for brightening our holidays. BTW, I have a hard time figuring out the modern day Santa as well. I have fond memories of celebrating the spirit of the real Saint Nicholas and enjoying Saint Nicholas night (sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas) when my 5 siblings and I put out our shoes at night for a little surprise in the morning. (Just a thought if you felt you needed one more holiday tradition to celebrate.) For Christmas, my grandmother, who is now assumed to be Jewish, would give us all flannel PJ's and I was always a bit disappointed that Santa never did give me what I asked for. My mom said he always gave me what I needed, a good book. Ah, the simple times. Happy New Year!

Loving Salihah said...

Girl, I am Deeply Appreciating You! U are the stone cold Sh-t (no offense to the potentially offended). So grateful for your Mamaness and Womaness and About it-ness. Hope you follow.
Peace Love and Blessings!
K for Kelley (using my friends google account in order to leave my comment)
PS: May I forward your grateness around?

Anonymous said...

As I caught myself smiling at the computer screen this morning, I felt great positive energy to start my day. Celebrations and commitment to rearing healthy and well-rounded children is what life's all about. And yes too much about the gifts takes away from the fun.
Hugs and Kisses!

Frances said...

Great to read your description of all your holiday celebrations. I love learning about new traditions. I also always wonder about those families that celebrate both Hanukah and Xmas. I always assumed either that one of the holidays would get "short-changed" somehow (guess which one? :), or that the downside would have to be total exhaustion to really do all the holidays right. And then to add 3 birthdays into the mix... You really take it to a whole other level! I used to actually be a little jealous of families that celebrate Xmas (not unusual, I'm sure). Then one year we spent Xmas with my brother's family (his wife isn't Jewish) and I found the whole thing totally overwhelming. I was very happy to get back to our simple little Hanukah traditions.
Anyway, thanks so much for all that you add to the neighborhood. I'm glad that we could provide you with a little Hanukah festivity, as well as the beautiful picture of you and Roy!
p.s. to Nicky: hilarious that the "secret Jew" gave you pjs, and that Santa actually gave you books. Those are such Hanukah presents!

Rowan said...

I can't believe I'm reading this now... but that tells you how busy the end of a new year and the beginning of a new one can be... add to that all the snow and rain we have gotten over in the east coast - and it was true chaos.

What can I say, but I love you guys so much and every time I read your posts I miss you even more. I wish I could fly over more often and share these precious times with you. Well, at least we now have this wonderful thing called the internet which helps fill in the gaps between the times we get some real face to fact time.

You and Roy are doing a wonderful job of "making it happen." I know it must be absolute craziness sometimes but it is all worth it (as you have already said). I love that my nieces and nephew have such richness of culture, faith, tradition and experience in their lives - what an incredible blessing.

We are still partying here in Jersey, in case you ever want to stop by and join us!! Hopefully you will be able to bring your clan and all the festivities to Puerto Rico and celebrate together. Looking forward to the 2010-2011 Holiday Season!