As we move into the time of the year that we call "the holidays", I've been thinking a lot about traditions. No, not Pagan Traditions with a capital "T". The traditions I'm talking about are more like rituals when you think about it. Its those little or big things you do with your family or on your own that mark a special time. You do them consistently and probably look forward to doing them. You might even feel like you absolutely have to do them. None of us are strangers to family obligations.
My family has a lot of little traditions that most people probably could identify since they don't seem that out of the ordinary. But as I get older and start making my own traditions, I'm realizing just how special the traditions I grew up with were. Thanksgiving is a great example. My mother didn't often host it at her house. It was common knowledge that my aunt had Thanksgiving. We had hosted Christmas Eve. And Christmas day? No one does anything on Christmas day other than exchange gifts and eat Christmas eve leftovers. The first snow of the season meant I got a ride on Papa's snowmobile (pictured). Its those little things unique to my family that make this time of year special and powerful.
When I started practicing Wicca at a young age, my family was fortunately very welcoming and accommodating. The first year (when I was 12) I tried to get my presents a few days early in time for Yule, although that part didn't go over so well. Instead, I gave everyone else their little handmade gifts on the solstice. It probably meant more to me than it did them, but it made me feel like I had an original part to play in the family process. An activity I could call my own. I had made my own tradition!
I love this time of year. Where I live, here in upstate New York, the summer’s heat has given way to autumn’s chill, the leaves are shifting into colorful hues of yellow, orange, and red, and the farmer’s markets are filled with pumpkins ready to be carved.
Over the years I have noticed a natural rhythm, an ebb and flow of activity and attendance to annual celebrations of the Wheel of the Year. Many seem to skip Imbolc, perhaps it the weather or perhaps we're still shaking off the winter hibernation. Still some confess not really being sure how to celebrate Imbolc, regardless, we usually seem to warm up by Ostara and are always in full swing for the Maypole Dance at Beltane. We cruise along through the wheel at a steady even pace until Samhain when we turn up the juice full throttle for everyone's favorite holiday.
It's really no surprise the Samhain is arguably the most popular of the Sabbats, it perhaps one of the most fun and memorable social events of our childhood. It is not a far stretch to assume the positive experiences of dressing up like our favorite hero or villain and canvassing the neighborhood collecting candy found a comfortable place to nest in the psyche of our young minds. It can be a dream come true for many who grow up, come to Paganism and discover one of their favorite childhood holidays has deep cultural and spiritual roots which complements their religious beliefs and practices.
I had a good childhood, great parents and a close, strong family ties. My childhood experiences have always had a significant influence on my personal spiritual beliefs and practices. The most significant influence was from my Grandmother, from whom I learned how to cast my Circles and how to celebrate Samhain.