Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gearing Up for a Great Holiday Season

Well, it's that time of year again.  The holidays are upon us, and I've been busy scouring my oven and cleaning my refrigerator in preparation for the Thanksgiving Feast.  The kids and I have made our Thanksgiving decorations, and our "Turkey-cookies" (following the method advertised on Nickelodeon).

Not that we eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

My husband's family are practically full-blooded Scottish, and it's a long-standing tradition for them to eat Lamb on special occasions (though I think it's just an excuse, since neither my hubby, or his father, like turkey).  So I will be cooking a leg of lamb this year (no worries, it's not my first time!).  I like lamb, if you've never had it--you don't know what you're missing!  I'd never had lamb (psst--it's not actually lamb, as in baby-sheep, it's mutton, but here in America they call it lamb, probably because a lot of people have a bad impression of mutton--can't say for sure) before I met my husband, my family certainly never ate it.  But it's SO good!  Tender, and flavorful, lamb is a delicious roast.

I'm looking forward to the long weekend, my eldest son "Winter" will be walking with his Scout-Troop in the Santa Parade on Sunday.  And, what I'm looking forward to most, this weekend signals the end of hunting season!  I don't like to take the kids hiking in the woods when the hunters are out, even with orange it's just too risky.  But I have this part of me that needs to connect with nature on a regular basis, so during the hunting season here in Maine, we only go out to the Farm on Sundays, when no body should be in the woods with a rifle.  Once the threat of danger is past we can take any beautiful day that comes along, and venture the four miles out of town to the old Burns Farm.

Forty or fifty years ago, the Farm was the typical New England homestead, with cows, pigs, chickens, goats, the works.  It sits near the top of one of the tallest hills in our area, which is fairly tall, as we're located amid the Foothills of Maine, along the northernmost section of the great Appalachian Mountain Range.  Half a mile from the main road, the dirt road runs up to the farmhouse now, but back then it was only serviceable on a seasonable basis.

Now the Farm is a Tree Farm.  Not to be confused with a Christmas-Tree Farm.  The Burns family are growing our own forest.  Trees have grown up tall on the old farm pastures, pines, hemlock, maples, birch, popple, and a handful of oaks, just to name a few.  We have our own personal two-hundred-acre park to hike any time we please, we have high hills, and low-swamps, we have a vernal pool, and criss-crossing the land are skidder-trails, where we've had a forester cutting the "trash-wood" so that the others can grow taller and thicker.

Anyway, I'm excited that we'll be able to go out any day, because I want to take the kids and my pruning clippers, to go cut pine-boughs for the Winter Solstice.  I'm hoping to be able to do our own wreath, and maybe some real pine-bough garland.  We also want to have pine-boughs about the house with other elements of nature, like pine-cones, acorns, etc. to remind us that nature will subsist through the long winter.

We typically make most of our own holiday decorations, this year is no different.  Wreaths are a bit of work, between clipping the boughs and wrapping them, but I've had some experience in my adolescence, so I'm not too bad at it.  I guess I just enjoy it, I love the smell of pine, and the feel of working with the cool boughs.  I love the way the wreaths look when they're finished, and the way you can embellish them any way you like.

So after Saturday, you can be sure, we will be bound for the woods, kids, dog, and clippers (and something to tote all those pine-boughs! probably burlap-bags and a sled).  And we'll probably go back twice more before we get snow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

I am really excited about the up-coming holiday season (okay, so I'm always excited about holidays, but especially so this year!).  This will be our first year not celebrating Christmas.  Instead we will be observing the Winter Solstice, on December 21st.  

Why?  I'm sure you must be wondering.  
 I've narrowed it down to three reasons:

Reason #1 Why We No Longer Celebrate Christmas:

Keith and I are not religious.  Actually, neither of us believes in a god, and we don't promote a religion with our children, either.  So, since we're not religious, why should we celebrate a holiday that holds no meaning for us?

Reason #2 Why We No Longer Celebrate Christmas: 
We don't support commercialism.  I could go on and on about the evil that commercialism spreads and how the masses are annually induced into what I have fondly termed: "sheep-on-a-shopping-spree", blindly spending money on inane drible in the name of a a faith few truly believe in.  

But I'm not here to talk about my opinions of society's downfalls and betrayals.  I'm simply explaining why my husband and I have seen fit to veer (yet again!) away from the mainstream, to follow another path, by observing the winter solstice.  Some may see it as a Pagan or Wiccan celebration, however Keith and I adhere to no God or Goddess, and we perform no religious ceremonies.

Reason #3 Why We No Longer Celebrate Christmas:

We feel an affinity for the Earth that compels us to observe the changing of the seasons as the awe-inspiring phenomena that it is.  And that is what we hope to impart upon our boys.

I hope that there are other non-believers out there who might be encouraged to leave behind the commercial trap that Christmas can be, and find their own path, whatever it may be. 

For more information and a better understanding of how our family will be celebrating the holidays this year please see Seculars Celebrate the Winter Solstice.