Happy Solstice, everybody, and happy first day of Elevensies!
The long, dark night is almost over. Brighter days are ahead.
What is Elevensies, you say? Let me tell you. No, I’m not referring to the meal between second breakfast and lunch, although the name is lovingly borrowed from Tolkien’s hobbits as a play on their undeniable understanding of the importance of merriment, good food, and good company, for Elevensies is all about these things. The long and short of it is that we are not religious folk, and we could not in good conscience continue celebrating a holiday which belongs to a religion of which we are not a part. But we love all the mid-winter festivities and deeply believe in the importance of maintaining meaningful traditions. So when the kids were young, Husband and I sat down together and thought of all the things that were important and not important to us, and then we made our own holiday. And we named it Elevensies.
Elevensies is the celebration of the (typically) eleven days between the Winter Solstice and the New Year. It is all about the celebration of life in the dark of winter. It is about honouring seasons and cycles, nature and humanity. It is about family and togetherness and sharing merriment, good food, and good company with those you love. It is about being mindful of what is important and casting off that which is not. Elevensies is about generosity, but it is not about things—although we do get a few small gifts and surprise each other on different days. Instead, we wanted the focus to be on doing, not buying. So instead of giving presents, on each day of Elevensies, we do something fun altogether as a family. It might be simple like going to the movies (which is a treat for us) or it might be something more elaborate like taking a rock climbing class together (shhhhh—the kids don’t know about this one yet). Traditionally, there is always a day when we go to a bookstore (my daughter’s favorite) and also a day when we make gifts to give to our family members who celebrate Christmas. We do spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our respective families, because we recognize that it is important to them, and we’re cool with that. Sharing those moments are part of Elevensies, too.
We begin Elevensies on the Solstice by decorating the house and remembering that even on the darkest night (and this year, a cold one!), there is always light and warmth when you are surrounded by people who love you. Husband takes a fair chunk of vacation time for Elevensies each year, so it’s a holiday in more ways than one, and we all look forward to this relaxed time together. At the end of Elevensies, on New Year’s Eve, we clean the whole house from top to bottom, smudge it real good, beat pots and pans and make a ruckus, and then at midnight, sweep out the old year and let the New Year in. This is a tradition taught to us by the Haggencrone, Husband’s grandmother, and it is a very good one. All it takes is a broom and a firm intention. Finally, we end Elevensies with our annual New Year’s Togetherness party. Togetherness is an open house potluck on January 1st, and all our friends and family are invited. It’s been nicknamed Empanadafest, because my husband, who learned how to make delicious Puerto Rican empanadillas from my mother, sits in the kitchen all day making empanadas as fast as people will eat them. Last year we packed 65 people in our house, and his empanada count was in the triple digits, lol. It is a wonderful and auspicious way to start the year.
I wish you all a very wonderful Elevensies in addition to whatever holidays you celebrate. May this be a time of magical marvelousness and blessed togetherness for you. And remember, all traditions first began with an idea, a belief, and a person saying, “Let’s do this.” Traditions and the rituals surrounding them are spoken in the language of our subconscious minds and also of our hearts—that is to say, with imagery, symbols, senses, and feelings. It is important to pay attention to them, to give them space to expand. We make our own meaning in life, and our lives should reflect what we most deeply believe.
Merriest of the Merry!