As an inventive and flexible artist, I am used to repurposing and redesigning things to fit my individual needs. Doing so in my arting and my gardening comes quite naturally. However, redesigning the holidays took a bit longer for me to achieve due to habit and tradition.
Our most recent redesign was a shift several years ago from celebrating Thanksgiving to honoring ThanksGaia. For the past 15 years or so, I have become more and more dissonant with this holiday tradition due to the growing divide I felt between what Thanksgiving has traditionally represented and how that narrative doesn’t square with accurate history.
However, I love gathering on that Thursday and sharing a meal of abundance with close friends (intentional family) and relatives. A dear friend felt a similar discomfort and suggested the renaming to ThanksGaia (Gaia—Greek Goddess of the Earth). As soon as I heard Eric’s suggestion, I was in. This name more fully affirms my beliefs and practices as our table is resplendent with food from our garden, both fresh and preserved.
Our ThanksGaia dinner includes the staples of a fresh, local or organic turkey; mashed potatoes (often from our garden); sweet potatoes (from our garden); the three sisters of squash (homegrown pumpkin), corn (cornbread with our own dried corn ground into meal), and beans (green beans sauteed in garlic from our garden); applesauce (made from the apples from our trees); mead (also from our fruit); and added this year, krautchi (fermented from our cabbage and other veggies). This helps create a meal that truly shows the abundance our Mother Earth has gifted us.
This celebration, as depicted above, is perfect for us. It may work for you as well, or it may not. The point of redesigning any holiday is to create one that befits your personal desires and needs. You’ll want to keep the traditions that you hold dear, replacing those that don’t work for you.
About 20 years ago, our family remodeled another holiday in an even larger way. Our children were younger, still enjoying Christmas and all the excitement that comes with that time of year. They were also questioning why we observed some of the traditions when they didn’t necessarily line up with our own beliefs.
Since we were homeschooling at the time, we decided to research other traditions. We ended up not only redesigning the way we celebrated but also moved the date. Since then, we have celebrated on the Winter Solstice which lines up more directly with our love of the earth rather than with the birth of Jesus.
An interesting thing happened once we made this shift. The stress levels lessened for us all. We were also able to more easily celebrate the Christian aspects of the holiday with our in-laws without feeling the discord. This allowed us to more fully embrace the meaning of the day as they celebrated it.
Before it crosses your mind, this is not an attempt at “killing Christmas.” In fact, for me, it helps resurrect it by keeping it separate and maintaining a sort of purity. We were able to move the traditions that we hold dear to our day of celebration while separating out the religious aspects of the holy day that our relatives glorify.
Get together with the impacted group of people so you create a holiday everyone feels connected to and each individual feels involved in the new tradition. This can be a detailed process that involves weeks or months, or it can be a brief afternoon discussion. It also might be driven by one person’s need for a change with others going along. For those celebrating alone, I believe this is still a vital process. Why not look at how to change a holiday or time of year to reclaim it and make it something more personally enjoyable?
You might ask these questions:
• Do you want to change the date?
• What do you like about the holiday as you currently celebrate it?
• What do you want to leave behind because it bothers you?
• Are there foods that embody this holiday for you?
• Are there people you wish to include or avoid?
• What is sacred about the holiday and would be missing if you didn’t include it?
• Can you include practices that more nearly align with your beliefs?
• Do you want to research your ancestry and incorporate some related traditions?
• Do you want to make your day more holy or fun?
• What aspects will create the desired atmosphere and outcome?
Find the process and motivation that speaks to you and yours, then follow it and design away. If changing the name will suffice (as it did for us with ThanksGaia), then go for it. If you need a more major overhaul (as with our Solstice shift), you may have to try different things and alter bit by bit until it feels right.
I’ll leave you with my long-practiced birthday celebration practice: Celebrate the day of your birth for as many days as you are years old. This year I turned 60, that earns me 60 days of revelry. This means that I choose one small special thing each day for 60 days that makes me smile. This could be anything from a walk in my garden to a meal with friends. The key is focusing on happiness and fulfillment. Be happy!
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