Every year I think of the messages I want my children to receive about Christmas. I was raised a Roman Catholic and attended church every Sunday and Christmas Eve. As I grew older and became a non-conformist I started to really question what I wanted my own spiritual beliefs to be. As a child and young teenager I felt very connected to the Earth and knew innately that as humans we are connected to the Earth and everything on it. I did not feel this same connection when I walked into a church. So my spiritual journey began. Fast forward to 2011, here I am still on that journey that I know will continue to grow and change as I learn so much more about myself. I always find myself reflecting on this issue around this time of year, and think of ways to enrich my children’s spiritual journey.
One thing I didn’t have growing up was a strong connection to my Aboriginal culture and traditions. I was adopted as a young baby into a non-aboriginal family and was raised according to their culture and beliefs. I know that as I learn more about my culture and history that I am learning this alongside my children, but if I don’t make the effort to discover this part of who we are, it will be lost in our family forever.
My instinct (and history) tells me that my ancestors did not celebrate Christmas by attending a church. Instead I believe they observed the changes that were happening on Mother Earth at the time. In Northern Ontario where I live, it is very evident of when the days become shorter with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in November. My ancestors would not have experienced this with a clock, instead perhaps would notice the sun pattern changing. When you live off the land and have to deal with colder climate, snow, hunting with shorter daylight, and living off stored food, I could see how this could bring on stress for a family from this long ago. This stress and fear of not having enough food or shelter for the family would lighten up with the coming of the Winter Solstice.
Winter Solstice is celebrated in December and is marked by the days becoming longer once again. I know for our family, this means awaiting the life/rebirth of Mother Earth that will come in the Spring. Although there are still many months away (4 at least) until the snow melts and uncovers some green, it is still an anticipated event after a long winter.
The term “Solstice” is derived from two Latin words: “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still. The Winter Solstice is celebrated around December 21st depending on where you are in the world, and marks the first day of winter with the longest night of the year. So how does this relate to Christmas you may wonder? Historically, my ancestors had no way of detecting the solstice, however they possibly could identify a slight elevation of the suns path a few days after the solstice – – perhaps the 25th. This was a time when celebration occurred.
Many Aboriginal (Native American) tribes celebrate the solstice in a variety of different ways. I want to start a tradition with my family this year on celebrating, which I will share with you in my next post.