Stories collected by Sandy Thomson
The holidays this year are going to look a little different around here at Heartwood! Normally we have lots of fun get-togethers (see our previous holiday newsletters: Happy 2019! from January 2019 and Ringing in the New Year! from January 2020). This year will be more private, more personal. I thought it would be fun to talk to a few people and find out what they are doing to make the holidays special.
Maria, Clint, and Lincoln
For Maria, Clint, and Lincoln, the holidays started with the harvesting of their first Christmas tree from Heartwood land.
From Lincoln - 5 years old
We started looking for a Christmas Tree in the Heartwood forest. I was with my Mommy and my Dada and we brought a saw. We decided to split up and I got a little lost, but I could still hear Dada’s voice so it was ok. We went all the way to the top of the mountain but we didn’t find the right kind of tree up there - just other kinds of trees and cactuses. I took a break and laid down on a rock, but I got a little cactus stuck in my shirt. I got it out all by myself. It didn’t even hurt! Then we went down the mountain and that’s when Mommy found the perfect tree! It was stuck between two other trees that needed room to grow and it was as tall as Dada’s hand when he reaches up high. I mostly cut it down all by myself with just a little bit of help!
It was fun and it made me feel so happy. But then, at home, we found out Mommy was allergic to the tree! She put on the lights and then got all itchy and her arms were covered in dots. Me and Dada finished decorating the tree while Mommy watched and drank some wine. I put on my favorite ornament - a star piñata. That was such an awesome tree adventure!
Julie & Scott
For their family, the holiday season begins tonight, the first night of Chanukah.
As a child, Chanukah was always a very simple holiday, but filled with warmth and love. We would light the candles each night for eight nights and sing the Hebrew prayer.
We then opened one gift for each night. These gifts were small items or tokens, but on the last night we usually got a more substantial gift. I wanted to pass on this holiday and tradition to our girls. I was gifted the menorah we had as I grew up and each year lit the candles of the menorah that was placed on the windowsill. The girls would open their present and we’d play games they loved. Some years we played dreidel. I would also sometimes make latkes (potato pancakes) or matzo ball soup. I’ve enjoyed picking out special gifts for the girls. Although we were not a religious family and my girls don’t really identify as Jewish, either spiritually or culturally, I wanted them to have some connection to the traditions and hold a deep respect for their ancestors.
Nisargo and KJ
For Nisargo and KJ Christmas Eve is a special night.
In our house we follow a German custom I brought with me from my country of origin. We put up our tree just shortly before Christmas, keep it up until January 6th (Epiphany) and light real candles on it. They sit in specially designed candle holders which are balanced on the branches by a weight below each one and are burning while we sit by the tree watching the light create magic in the otherwise dark room. Traditionally they are lit the first time on Christmas Eve. When the kids were all bathed and in their new PJ's, we would sit around the tree and tell or read stories until bedtime. Upon successful tucking in, we, the parents, would immediately disappear into the basement and wrap the last presents (or all, depending on the year) and stuff them under the tree, trying to make no noises in the dark.
I do believe that Christmas Eve has a special place in all our hearts because of the ritual of the first lighting of the candles on our tree.
As you can see, the holidays are a special time here. A time to reflect, carry on traditions, and gather with close family. This year especially, it is a time to remember what is important and what brings us joy and gratitude. So stay home for the holidays and be with your loved ones. Sometimes slowing down and enjoying the simple things is the best gift of all.
Ho ho, ha ha, have a happy Holiday!
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