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.