We celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween and so on differently in the Catt household, and now and again people ask me about the how and why. We're also trying to promote healthy eating to our children, not having sweets and sugar as a daily part of our lives, and yet can't quite bring ourselves to totally deny the joys of cake and chocolate. This is how we roughly solve to problems with one system.
So first things first, we're not religious in the Catt House, well not yet anyway, the kids are free to choose what they believe in when they want, and with around 300 religions in the world there's plenty to pick from. On top of that we try to explain things that can be explained with science with, well, science.
Which leads to the question of what to do with Christmas, particularly when school is pretty much going "Christmas is the day the son of God was born". We don't have a problem with "Christmas is the day on which many people celebrate the birth of Jesus" but "Jesus was born on Christmas day" is a bit more problematic, but presumably scans better in songs.
Given that sitting around at Christmas time going "Bah humbug" isn't much fun for the kids we wanted to figure out a way we could get excited about the season, exchange presents but not pin it all on a religious belief system. Fortunately science has an answer for us, in the form of astronomy, it looks a bit like this...
The Summer & Winter solstices and Spring & Autumn equinoxes almost certainly happen. The fact that various cultures and religions have festivals around these times should come as no surprise. Solstices and Equinoxes are fairly easy to measure as evident from various ancient buildings and structures around the world built precisely to do that. These days became significant for cultures because you could easily use them for marking out the cycle of the year, it's kind of nice to know the shortest days and longest nights are over, celebrating things like the Spring & Autumn equinoxes are handy for keeping your farming and harvesting on track.
In turn these special days get passed from one tradition and religion to another as time passes.
A post around the handing down of these festivals, and discussions about chocolate eggs because reasons would take far too long here. Needless to say celebrating these four points hits most of the major Christian as practiced in the UK festivals.
We can also hit a few more festivals by including "Cross Quarter" days, you don't need to be pagan or modern pagan to celebrate these days, they're just the days that fall between the four major solstice/equinox days, still just maths and science.
These cross quarter days allow us to roughly hit valentines day, May Pole dancing, harvest festival and Halloween.
In many traditions the cycle of the year maps onto the cycle of life. New beginnings at the winter solstice, as the days start to get longer, land becoming fertile at the Spring equinox, the ahem dancing round the May Pole (totally phalic), growth in summer, harvest and remember the death (and rebirth) at Halloween time, and old age heading into winter ready for new beginnings at winter. These seem like fine things to celebrate.
Of sugars and cake
But, handily it gives us something else. Each of those festivals is 6 weeks apart. We try and keep sugar out of the house, but frankly don't want to be square-bears about it. So while we don't have daily sweets, biscuits (unless the kids cook them), we do have such goodies on each festival.
We love making cakes, rainbow cakes, Yule cakes, Easter Bunny cakes, scary Halloween cakes, each year a bit different but always fun. As well as other bought and homemade sweeties and snacks.
Having fancy cakes about 8 times a year and getting sick on sugared jellies while remembering our ancestors or being thankful that we have food seems a not bad compromise
The other benefit if that is gives us some structure to hang homeschool round. We have a box (sometimes more) for each festival filled with reading books, activity books, DVDS, cake moulds, cookie cutters, decorations and such like. Which we can get out for each festival and allows us to swap the books on the shelf every few weeks. Because Britain still keeps a lot of their traditions, including things like Well Dressing, May Poll dancing, summer faires and what have you, there's always something interesting going on we can tie into what we're teaching during homeschooling.
We also thinks it happens to help the children learn about the natural flow of time, planting, growth, harvest and so on.
Anyway, there you have it, what we do in the Catt household to celebrate festivals, eat cake now and then and enjoy weird old traditions shared down the years from generation to generation.