‘Tis a Season, Not a Deadline









I know what you’re planning to give your kids this holiday season.

It’s the same thing we’re hoping to give our children: connection – to one another, to family and friends, and to the sacred all around us no matter what spiritual tradition. This feeling of warmth, and the memories it engenders, is grander than any wrapped gift.  In the holiday hubbub of things to do, find, string, wrap, sign, mail, bake, and finish, it can feel harder to find than a Sony Play Station Slim.

The holidays give us annual opportunities for self-reflection, and what I like to call practice at being human.  Such as – my wish for a few Norman Rockwell family moments dissolving in the UPS line, and Pandora’s John Lennon-holiday-radio in my minivan instead of actual carolling. One of the best things my husband and I have given one another is permission not to live up to our mothers’ expectations. In place of the shoulds, oughts and I-can’t believe we’re nots, we keep our own seasonal rites – not because we must, but because we want to. They are easy, and they give us that most elusive gift – the connection we long to give and receive this time of year.

The “holiday season” begins at Halloween. I’m not talking of the grocery aisle that instantly transforms from Butterfingers, M&M’s and costumes into Ho-Ho Holiday cheer before the Thanksgiving turkey gets roasted.  Quite the opposite. At the Waldorf School, children and parents celebrate European Martinmas festivals centered on the story of a Roman soldier who shared his cloak with a beggar. Like Martin, we carry lanterns along a dark and beautifully lit path into the wilderness, awakening our own guiding light as the days wane.  The German tradition of carrying lanterns made of small pumpkins is said to have given us our modern jack-o-lantern.  You might try it. Even your yard can be magical at night.  Don’t explain.  Simply take your child by the hand and hum a gentle tune.  Feel the magic.

“Ghosting” came to Carbondale from Nicki Cannon, mother of Olivia and Calvin. In the week before October 31, we make bags of seasonal treats – New Belgium’s Pumpkick for grown-ups, apples, glow sticks, spider cookies (yes, store bought) and candles.

We attach a photocopied ghost with a note: You have been GHOSTED on this ghoulish night. Don’t be fearful, don’t feel fright! Just enjoy this harvest delight. Before tomorrow’s moon doth rise, go forth and gather your supplies, and Ghost three friends before night ends!”

When it gets dark, we ding-dong-ditch our neighbors, hide in their bushes, and watch as they find their treats. Ghosts taped to doors indicate that one has been Ghosted, so we enjoy a chain-letter effect around town.   

The days grow shorter as Thanksgiving arrives. My grandmother often said, “we cannot truly receive until we are truly grateful.” This means we don’t write Santa letters before counting our blessings.  We keep a tradition brought to our house by Marie Chan, whose son Cameron inspired a stack of Post-It notes. We jot our gratitudes while stirring and carving, and we stick them on the fridge.  Kids draw pictures for what they can’t spell. Sunshine, smiles, pets, good health, sleeping late, teachers – these warm my heart as we hurdle toward the granddaddy of all holidays.

A reverence for light links Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanza, and even King Winter celebrations. I find this easy to forget while staple-gunning lights around my fence-posts just so.  But lights in the darkness give me peace, which is another common longing uniting all faiths, the third of which is connection.

One tradition provides all three. It’s a nod to the, ah hem, material impulses we honor when ‘tis the Season – shopping.  We make our list. We check it twice, then we bundle up and walk around town.  In one, long frolicking dash from store to store, we get it done while visiting local shopkeepers, who giftwrap with trimmings way cooler than mine. We finish with hot chocolate and toddies on Main Street.

When we carry packages home in the snow after tree lights snap on, it feels like Peace on Earth.



Families can volunteer to serve the homeless and those in need at Feed My Sheep, which provides meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Donations of food and clothing are also needed and appreciated.  Glenwood Springs   970.928.8340  www.feedmysheephomelessministry.org


Town of Redstone Santa Parade and Bonfire
Saturday, November 25, 5 p.m. Santa and his elves parade down historic Redstone Boulevard in a classic horse-drawn sleigh. Later, children can visit with the man himself at the Redstone Inn, and enjoy caroling and live music around a bonfire. www.redstonecolorado.com


Do It Yourself

The Night Tree, by Eve Bunting – Inspired by this classic holiday bedtime story about a family that decorates a tree in the woods with edible ornaments, we string dried sunflowers and cranberries, and make pine cone-birdseed feeders to adorn a tree on a favorite nearby hike.

Angel Tree

Families can adopt a child or children for the holidays.  Wish lists with gift ideas and clothing sizes help take the guess-work out of shopping. Children can learn the joy of giving in secret, while perhaps realizing how blessed they are to have everything they truly need. Look for Angel Trees on display at local participating businesses.