A Different Kind of Holiday
By Axie Barclay
Warning: if you’re a lover of holidays, this article may offend you.
The Spousal-Type Creature and I were out shopping one night, browsing Halloween costumes to see if anything caught our eye for the two-year-old Offspring. We started to notice Christmas decorations and other specialty boxed set type items already taking their place on store shelves.
“Isn’t it like a week before Halloween still?” I asked my spouse, just be sure I hadn’t accidently lost track of days.
“Yeah, it’s a few days away still,” he verified, looking as confused as I felt.
I didn’t really need to say it, but did anyway—“Then why is there Christmas shit out already?”
The following day I did an internet search on the origins of Halloween out of curiosity. As someone with an alternative religious belief, I had some idea that Halloween wasn’t always just costumes and candy, but I wanted a better understanding of what the holiday really meant.
Yes, it is the pagan new year, but it’s also a harvest festival, meant as a time to air out the home, celebrate the old year, ring in the new year, and spend time with family (feasting and adult beverages optional), and remember those who have passed away. It’s quite a simple holiday, as many are at the root, made much more complicated and far more commercial by companies looking to sell overpriced tiaras and fake murder weapons.
So instead of buying our toddler a miniature reaper costume or mortgaging the house for candy, we made a batch of oatmeal cookies, grabbed a six-pack of beer, and revived an old farm tradition of going around to visit the neighbors.
One lament I’ve heard a lot growing up is that no one wants to trick or treat in the country anymore. Granted, this is a safety decision made by parents that I fully support, since I’d never want to drop in unannounced at the home of someone I didn’t know. But we stayed mainly in the circle of family, driving to two or three houses and staying for a while instead of hitting an entire neighborhood and staying for long enough to beg at the doorstep for tootsie rolls.
And you know what? The kid had a great time. He got to play with tractors (his favorite thing), chase a cat, and still got a couple pieces of candy. When offered a third, he shared it with me.
It’s not the material things that make a holiday. The cards and the tinsel and the presents don’t matter. Some of my best remembered holidays are the ones spend working with people I enjoy or even moving into our house on Thanksgiving day and eating a meal for 12+ people prepared by the STC’s mom in an 8-inch skillet (our only pan in the house since we were moving) and rotisserie. (I still want to grow up to be this woman, because I’m convinced she could have done the same spread with a car battery and a lighter.) I think this sentiment gets bandied around a lot, but people still continue to show their affection through material goods, and then complain about being advertised to from the middle of October through New Year’s.
Arguably Christmas feels much less special for being so available all the time. Much like all varieties of food being available year round, events and items lose their special status when we can get them any time we want. At one time, oranges in the northern parts of the country were rare enough to be considered a Christmas present in and of themselves. But now so long as you’re not particularly picky on quality or price, oranges are almost always in season. Is this to be the fate of Christmas as well, with ceramic Santas for sale next to the St. Patrick’s Day banners and Easter bunnies? I hope not. For all of my dislike of holidays, what I dislike most is all the advertising. I hate having something crammed down my throat every year, over and over, not to mention that customers are usually at their most cranky, waiting impatiently for their “stuff” to arrive, or else risk ruining the “perfect” Christmas.
I’m not alone in these complaints, but despite this dislike and griping from certain customers, corporations are not going to change what makes them money. And it’s not going to change all at once. Change is something we’re in for the long haul. I’m not saying don’t buy presents, I’m saying buy fewer. I’m not saying don’t decorate, I’m saying scale it down. Don’t sink valuable time and resources into having the best decorated house, but having a quality experience with family. In the end, that will last long after the lights break anyway. Even if you don’t like a lot of time with your family, take a little time, discuss your roots, tell stories, make connections. Because that is what holidays are about: cementing family ties. It’s not about the “perfect” tree, or the “perfect” meal, or the “picture perfect postcard” stuff. It’s about laughing, sharing a meal, and telling stories.
You don’t have to share my view of the holidays, but if you want to make a change, take a minute and take the holidays back to being seasonal, back to having some meaning, back to something everyone can enjoy.
More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena B. Miller and Paul Stutzman. I’ve purposely stayed away from too much parenting advice, but if you’re in search of methods and life lessons to integrate into your life to make not only your kids happier, but yourself, this is a fantastic book.
Axis of Aaron by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. Just the description, “literary as f*&^,” makes me happy. Reading the book makes me even happier. If you’re an indie writer and haven’t heard of these authors, go check them out; they are doing ground breaking stuff as author-entrepreneurs.
Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross. This was a book I picked up on a whim and have so far been pleasantly surprised. The writing is solid and the pacing quite excellent. Haven’t completed it yet, but eager to see what happens.
Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish…and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.