The great thing about unschooling has been the way we can really fully immerse ourselves in the holidays, which start for us about first frost! Our family tends towards routines, and they go far beyond daily routines, into things that we do every year. It starts in the spring, with Easter, when we all receive large baskets full of not only sweets, but seeds and gloves and new spades and tools for the garden. The summer is languid, a time for lounging in hammocks and sipping lemonade while wishing someone would weed the garden.
Our seeds from Spring...
But fall, it's the new year! I think everyone desires to begin a new year in the coolness of fall...why else would new clothes and school supplies have such a strong appeal? We begin our new year by cleaning out the garden...once frost hits, it's time to pull up old plants, clean off tomato cages and cucumber trellises, repaint them before storage. We move the compost from the summer into the garden and cover it all over....eagerly setting up for a new birth in the spring. We clean the clutter in the house to prepare for months of celebrating...Halloween is an observance for us, pagan for some but as the priest said today when the children joined the processional in their costumes "The sight of visions, ghosts and ghouls remind us to seek heavenly protection, asking "Lord, hear our prayer!" " We always buy pumpkins at the same patch, and carve silly faces to amuse trick-or-treaters. We spend weeks making costumes. We plan a big come-and-go party, with lots of food and drink for whomever wishes to stop by...you're invited too!
Ava's costume, 2007
All Hallows eve is followed by All Saint's, a time to remember those who have proceeded us, and then a month long procedure of preserving all the blessings of the summer, tomatoes and cukes and pumpkins are usually what we have enough of to store. Everything else gets eaten, and those early first fruits, berries, peaches, plums, are already frozen or jarred in the pantry. It's not just food either, gathering leaves, grasses, pinecones...these are all things that we are grateful for, and which we love to gather and keep in the house for the long cold winter.
Dan and his fall collection of nuts, seeds, leaves and bark.
Then the tradition grows stronger, with the setting of the tree. We always put our tree up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. With a fire in the fireplace, hot cocoa and chocolate-covered popcorn are musts for decorating...it's the beginning of Advent, the church's New Year. We spend the first week after, planning and making presents for family and friends. St Nick's day in the first week of December gives us a fun way to share our blessings with others. We always visit the man himself, on St Nick's Day....always a saint, never santa clause. I don't know why, it's MY tradition from growing up (along with a yellow-haired doll under the tree that we whispered our prayers to on Christmas Eve)
Dan was especially intrigued last year with St Nick
We make new ornaments. We set up the nativity, rearranging the family over and over, moving the wise men from the far east closer and closer to Bethlehem. We always make sugar cookies on Christmas Eve, right before services begin. We usually attend Midnight mass, and we always eat sugar cookies for breakfast on Christmas morning (that tradition began when we started taking little ones to midnight mass! LOL!) Christmas day, the fun is just beginning, as we begin the twelve days of Christmas. We visit family...ALL of it. This is always topped off by a wonderful 12th night party at a friends house.
Our house, Christmas morning 2007
Unschooling allows us to be in these traditions, to focus more fully on where they come from, and the meaning behind them without having our routine disturbed by someone's 'oughts'. I still remember the look on the secretary's face the first time I pulled the children out of school for Ash Wednesday. It's nice not to have our holidays piece-mealed out to us in small bites by someone who doesn't know what's important to US. Every day is a holiday, it's up to us to celebrate!