And praise to the sun, whose light sparks all life.
from A Return of the Light by Carolyn Edwards
We have been careful to fill our children’s lives and heads with stories. We have not cared so much about the accuracy of said stories, so much as the message. In general, some of them may be true, while others tell a greater truth than literalism could ever hope to reflect–sometimes, the greatest truths are not really true at all. Because we often discuss the nature of truth and stories and how something doesn’t need to be “real” to be “important”, and that “belief” does not make something “real” I have never really worried about the slippery nature of truth. For a four year old, Chickadee has shown herself to be quite wise on the subject…and Sharkbait doesn’t really care yet, as long as its a good story. Like the sorts of stories that we ensure that our children read and hear and watch, the collective mythology of the modern winter holiday season spans the length and breadth of human history. As parents, we have done our best to embrace as many of those stories that embrace the spirit of hope and joy, of charity and blessing, of new beginnings and a returning of the light as possible. So our stories for the season are a mix of traditional and modern, of Christian and Jewish and Pagan and “none of the above”.
At times the song is very soft, and scarcely can be heard above the din and clatter of our lives. But when Yule comes, it rises and it swells in memory of that night when the Sun heard, and light and life were spared.
And so do we, upon this longest night, gather with those we love and who love us, and stand upon the body of slumbering Earth, and light the log with last year’s coal, and lift our voices soaring to the Sun, and join the song that first was sung so very long ago.
We sing our thanks to those who went before, and sing our fondest wish to those who come behind. We bask in the returning light of reawakened hope, and welcome Yule.
from The First Song: A tale of how Yule got its name, by Andras Corban Arthen, © 1994, The EarthSpirit Community (on This Winters Night by MotherTongue)
We have used these stories to create our own traditions. Traditions that will teach our children not only our own beliefs, but about the beliefs of others. Traditions that will fill the silence they would hear otherwise. I was recently reminded in a post from a blogger I follow that being raised without hatred for something doesn’t equal being raised to have tolerance for it. As she said in one of the most powerful lessons I think a parent can learn and teach, “When you leave a void like that, someone or something will eventually fill it in.” So, tonight we talked about Hanukkah, we told the story of Tante Golda and The Miracle of Potato Latkes, and we ate some potato latkes . And on Christmas Eve, Chickadee will be taking part in our UU congregation’s traditional Christmas pageant this year as the nativity’s drummer girl (we thought about letting Sharkbait be a lamb, but he’s not terribly good at staying in one spot for an extended period of time). This week we will read both Twas the Night Before Christmas and Twas the Night Before Yule for our bedtime stories. At the Solstice, we will have our yearly family Yule ritual and afterwards we will do our reading of Chickadee’s favorite story of the Yule Fairies and the Baby Sun King (Daddy plays the part of Brown Knobby).
The goal is that hopefully our children will not only celebrate their own faith, but that they will develop a respect for the beauty of the stories of other faith traditions as well. And that one day, when they are confronted by the terrible ugliness that exists in how some individuals choose to interpret express those traditions, that beauty will have taken root and filled the void where silence would have done a disservice.
Some Pagan and Pagan-ish Books and Stories for the Season:
The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews*
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide by Christian Ratsch*
Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison*
The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn Edwards
The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson
A Children’s Yule Story @ PaganDad
*indicates that the book is geared towards adults