Flowering in December
Old Australian Ways
The London lights are
The narrow ways of English
The city folk go to and
Our fathers came of roving
The wind is in the barley
So throw the weary pen
When Clancy took the
And if it be that you
by Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson
'We have a fixed vision of Christmas riveted in the back of our collective Aussie Psyche. We believe that on Christmas Day the family should get together and enjoy a meal. It's a simple enough concept. But no tradition could have built into it a greater serving of stress, anxiety and disappointment all suffered in the name of rigid expectation.
This 'traditional Christmas' suited Australia some time,
way back, when the family consisted of Mum, Dad, the kids, the dog and
a rotary clothesline held together in one place with one television set
and the occasional visit from a knitting nanna. Now we are trying to fit
into this tradition a whole new range of family structures with the likes
of part-time kids, step-kids, part-time parents, part-time parent's partners,
ex-spouses, ex in-laws, adult kids, adult kid's partners and nannas in
jogging shoes. Not only are we meant to get all these folk together in
one place on Christmas Day - a concept which is nigh on impossible - the
whole bizarre exercise is underwritten with the outrageous expectation
that everyone should then enjoy themselves.'
Permission to break from traditions that have become a burden
When the subject of Christmas came up in early November
my daughter asked if this year we could 'not have a Christmas Tree'. As
a little girl she loved the small Christmas tree but the allure has long
gone. The year she realized how 'small' it looked, appreciated that the
ornaments were getting past their best the magic evaporated. Initially
I felt strangely sad but not any more. I have raised my children to be
creative and to challenge the status quo.
Having permission to break from the traditions is very important. Tradition can become a burden. Many people cannot cope with the expectations that are associated with this season while others do not want to get caught up in the blatant commercialism.
That is okay!
If Christmas tradition fills your heart with joy go right ahead and enjoy the season. Equally, if the symbols do not resonate you do not have to feel as though you are living in a parallel universe. Quite simply, you have permission to come up with something different, to invent new customs and practices.
Creating New Traditions
1. Kerry Cue helps set the tone with two delightfully irreverent pieces. 'A Designer's Christmas' confirms that we would be better to have 'a little', uncomplicated Christmas, while 'Tis the Season to Add Spin' reminds me that it is not so much that I don't like Christmas, it is just that I am not particularly keen on the whole marketing spin.
2. Try Augustine's listening method of clearing your mind to open the side of the brain that is receptive to the challenge of leaping outside squares.
4. Ron Grimes teaches in the Department of Religion and Culture at Wilfed Laurier University in Canada. For many years he has run a "Ritual Studies Laboratory" with his students. Because he is concerned about being lumped in with the fad for New Age therapies he was reluctant to talk about what he does. Influenced by anthropology and the theatre work of Grotowski, his approach bears little resemblance to the popular "new religions" springing up in North America. What Grimes describes here is the serious work of uncovering (not inventing) symbols that can do meaningful work in our everyday life. The collective, flexible, improvisational quality of this process is, for me, an encouraging example of the possibilities for new vernacular ceremonies.
Explore this award winning site and test run some of the ideas. Try creating your own spirit garden where you can dance on the edge or cook up a storm in the vernacular kitchen where there is homemade music and dance. There is a site map that makes it easy to navigate this fascinating site. Just remember to make it a ritual to come back to Soul Food to open the next day of the Advent Calendar.