A Faerie Haven: Living in Myth, Being Magic

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Creating a Yule Morning Tradition for Children

We can build a cherished tradition in the simplest of ways.


One of my absolute favorite childhood memories from the holiday season was my Christmas stockings. I felt more strongly about them than I did about the gifts under the tree, though please don’t think my parents skimped there. 


There were little toys in the stockings, but I don’t recall a single one of those toys. What I remember, with sweetness, is that every year my stocking held a couple of tangerines, a handful of unshelled nuts, and a few, exquisite, small, Italian nougat candies, each candy in a tiny box that seemed oh-so-fancy to me.


It is noteworthy that recollections of tangerines and unshelled nuts tucked into stockings are so special to me, given that both foods were available in my household during the holiday season anyway. 


It is noteworthy that memories of the stockings’ tangerines and nuts glitter, not memories of the nougat or the two types of pies my mom made from scratch for Christmas Day, especially given the horrendous sweet tooth I had as a child. 


It is interesting what makes special memories. In my case, tangerines and unshelled nuts, not toys or candy.


It is interesting that tangerines and nuts can be so magical: they feel enchanted to me now on Yule mornings because of my childhood. 


During this season, many people eat especially poorly. There can be immense pressure during the holidays to prepare a large number of health-destroying dishes, since our culture fairly consistently represents that as an act love and holiday merriment. Many a person fears that, if they’re not baking lots of unhealthy holiday sweets, they are failing their families. One way to be released from that supposed obligation is to realize that wholesome food can make wonderful memories, traditions your children will want to pass on to their children. Example:


My mother was an amazing cook. (In fact, she trained my brothers to be professional chefs.) Delicious food and a wide variety of dishes were constants in my childhood, and most meals were far healthier than the average today. And, amidst it all, some of her healthiest dishes are among the ones I remember most fondly, more dearly than even the pies and cakes made from scratch. In fact, some of my loveliest memories of my entire childhood are those healthiest dishes. There was the holiday platter of dates, some stuffed with peanut butter, the rest with walnuts (I’ll admit, mom rolled the dates in sugar after stuffing them, but nevertheless …). There was the bowl with grapes and other fruit, placed on the coffee table on Christmas and Thanksgiving day (again, understand that fresh fruit was available to me the rest of the year, too). There was the batch of roasted chestnuts, some of which mom would let me eat before she put the rest into turkey stuffing.


I do not know if the tradition of tangerines and unshelled nuts in the stocking is still prevalent, but it is easily introduced in your home. My folks never even told me any reason for doing it. They just did it, and I just loved it as is. 


Putting a tangerines and nuts into a stocking was such a simple act for mom and dad to do, and yet it impacted me greatly. It could end up meaning more to your children than all the fancy glitz on the holiday tree.


Tangerines are a solar fruit. I imagine that, originally, they were used in a Pagan Yule rite and then, as was the case with many Yule symbols that were co-opted by Christianity, became part of Christmas imagery. Regardless of whether that’s true, I put tangerines in my own stocking in honor of the solstice sun and Sun God. 


It seems to me that telling your children that tangerines in the stocking are in honor of the solstice sun and/or Sun God is a gentle, lovely way to represent Yule to a young spirit. Do you think so?


Here are alternative ideas to the stocking. I brainstormed for wee celebrations your children might cherish in later years:


What about them helping you fill a bowl with oranges—a solar fruit—to place as a centerpiece for the Yule morning breakfast? How about making fresh orange juice together? Enjoying store-bought orange marmalade spread on toast?


If you feel hesitant about how such traditions might be received amidst the constant ads to buy the latest, biggest, and most expensive gifts, consider the following. As I said, I was blessed to grow up in a home with an abundance of food, a great deal of which was quite healthy, which makes the impact of the tangerine in the stocking all the more striking. Plus, I was a typical American kid, expecting a lot of gifts because that was promoted in our overly materialistic society. Razzle-dazzle or a quantity thereof is not necessarily going to leave the biggest impression when it comes to making fond memories.


Yule morning, the Sun God has been born. That fact warms and fills my heart. So I felt it was important to offer you family activities through which both your children and you can celebrate the Son’s rebirth. 


Please note, if you intend to teach your children Paganism: when brainstorming for alternatives to tangerines and unshelled nuts in a Yule stocking, I tried to come up with things your wee ones can enjoy without your explaining any underlying meanings, until you feel your children are ready. (And then they might love the idea that they are now old enough to learn the meaning!)


I also focused on activities you can do without anyone knowing they have any Pagan meaning for you, in case you choose to hide your Paganism. In other words, many non-Pagans put tangerines in stockings and probably see no meaning in it; the ideas I’ve suggested, such as squeezing orange juice, will appear just as void of any underlying meaning—aside from a lovely family activity—unless someone is informed otherwise. 


If you like the spirit of some of my suggested activities becoming your family traditions, but they’re not quite right for you, I hope they provide jumping off points for your own ideas.


What about non-food activities? A family walk or bike ride? A car drive through the countryside? A boardgame? These aren’t Yule activities per se, but they’re chances for a family to be together undistracted, enjoying each other’s company. As such, they’re definitely Yule celebrations as well as the makings of lovely traditions and lovely memories. 


Again, if my non-food activities don’t appeal, I hope they give you ideas. Don’t limit yourself when brainstorming. Heck, my family always played poker for pennies, still seated at the table after Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner. Those were the only times we played cards. Even my elderly grandparents joined in. As a young child, I adored it! 


A beloved tradition can be made with a simple, supposedly unspectacular item or activity. Enjoy!

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Francesca De Grandis aka Outlaw Bunny is the bestselling author of "Be a Goddess!" Founder of The Third Road, a Faerie Shamanism tradition that she teaches through both text and oral tradition, De Grandis says, "I'm a trickster working for benevolent chaos Gods, so I don't play mean tricks." Bard, painter, mystical innovator, and busy elf who works part-time for Santa Claus, she blogs here and on her own sites, www.stardrenched.com and www.outlawbunny.com


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