We systematically confuse fleeting gratification with real joy or lasting happiness.

I don't know about you, but I see and hear an awfully lot about gift from both children and adults. When Santa Claus, Christmas, and WalMart crushes occur, all in the name of gifts in celebration of a fantasy birthday, I know I want no part of it.

Grasping, clawing, anticipating something isn't what Winter Solstice is to me. What I want from the shortest day of the year is the reflection on the past, imagining a preferred future, and living fully in the present moment.

Snow, cold weather, hot cocoa and apple cider, popcorn, feasts on winter vegetables, cranberry and orange relish a rare delight, pets covered with flakes of ice, cakes soaked in flavorful elixirs, family and friends gathered together, burning a yule log, these are the things I remember about my childhood. 

Gifts weren't a part of our festivities. During WW II, our fathers were off building airfields in foreign lands, our mothers were in Spokane working for Kaiser Aluminum, and we cousins lived with our Whitehead grandparents.

Grandma dressed us cousins up in heavy coats, scarves, gloves and boots, and we trudged through the snow to take winter clothes and homemade quilts to the poor families of Tekoa. They offered us homemade hot cider, coffee and tea and we had a whale of a good time. We also made up packages of heavy clothing and non-perishable foods made with rationed sugar and fats that used up our monthly allotments, to send to our war-torn European families.  Belgium suffered terribly during the war and we knew they were actually starving to death. 

Winter celebrations weren't about us. It was about caring for people we knew who needed help to survive. We made things from old coats, and we knitted and quilted and crocheted all year in anticipation of giving warmth to others. "Do you think Mrs. Mitchell will like this color?" or "Will Lavonne or Evelyn or James be able to use this?" Or "will John and his family, who was on Public Emergency Work, manage with this?" Or "Will Earl, who was a woodman and earned about $110.00 that year, be able to use this?"

Farmhands made about $500 per year, railroad workers about $1,500 to 2,500 per year. Teachers earned $1,350 per year, hardware salesmen earned about $1,500, and Washington Water Power Linemen earned about $1,560 per year, according to US Census 1940 records. It was very common for three or four generations to share one house with one or two earning income. 

We had one bath a week on Saturday night, the entire household using the same water, in the galvanized tub that was used to boil laundry in every Tuesday. In the winter, all laundry was hung from the ceiling on a rope pulley system. The sheets hung down to tickle the heads of the grown-ups and we kids would jump up and touch them, seeing who could touch the highest. Our ice was delivered every week into an ice box. 

These are the things that I remember as a child during those dreadful dark days after the Great Depression and during WW II. Memories of 1940-45 vividly dance through my head, with cardboard boxes cut to fit our shoes that had holes in them, and hand-me-downs of clothes or the material to make clothes for the younger ones. 

We had fun and never felt poor. We had very little and were grateful for what we had. We thought in terms of the welfare of the town and its members. We were required to participate; it wasn't as though we were forced to do any of the tasks, they were just part of belonging to a clan. I feel very grateful for the nurturing environment that my grandmother provided for us. The men were all gone, except for one who worked in the pea warehouse and his was a necessary job for the war effort. In 1945 the men returned, and violence resumed.  

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Replies to This Discussion

Oh I agree Joan - everything is about what you buy or receive - about material possessions. It's all about what you can obtain - materialism. Caring for others is a much better way to celebrate the holidays.

I love that clan feeling, even if the ´clan´ I live in is very small. And there's our AN clan of course! Perhaps we a a good clan, here on the internet: it's never about money, or presents, or things to impress others, but what we can give each other is real: time, attention, compassion.

Joan, can I use part of your tekst for my students? I'l have to simplify it a bit, but they'll love to read it.

Chris, I am honored that you want to use parts of my writings. With pleasure , YES, use whatever suits you. I write so that others can read, share, and hopefully build community. 

And thanks for that graphic wonderfully encapsulating dominator vs. partnership views of the world!

Grinning Cat, I am glad you made the connection with Riane Eisler and "The Partnership Society"! 

Thank you, Joan! With the more advanced students I started some time ago to give them a text or poem as homework, so they can take their time to understand the tekst. Next lesson I ask them to explain some words or expressions and I ask their opinion. We all love the exercise and learn more than language skills.

This sounds like a great experience for students and teacher. I am impressed. 

This graphic comparison is perfect, Joan.

I can understand some people putting a lot of emphasis on gift giving as it's one of the languages of love. I "speak" other languages as well, but there are some for whom receipt of a gift is the most meaningful expression of love.

The languages of love is from a book by a monogamous Christian, Gary Chapman. He thought each person has one main love language. In my experience, people often have many. He also missed compersion, not comprehending polyamory.

That being said, I'm uncomfortable with our hyperconsumerist culture, and how that manifests in holiday giving.

I've seen that book, The Five Love Languages. In my experience as well, people are often "multilingual", while having stronger and weaker, more and less important languages of love. Chapman also assumes rigid gender roles within a (necessarily "opposite-sex" and monogamous) marriage. But the basic premise, that people are not all attuned to different expressions of love in the same way, is still valuable.

Joan, reading this and picturing each thing you describe is the best gift I've had so far this season and may likely still be the best when January 1st arrives.  Thank you for letting all of us have this experience through your writing.

Interesting point about the peacefulness of a mostly female community.




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