This article is about a witch’s Christmas, but bear with me as I set the scene, so you can understand where I’m coming coming from. Just as the March snow covers up some new bulbs growth, there are some personal rituals and traditions that Christmas carries with it, that bear some exploration from a pagan perspective, beyond the Yule logs, Sinterklaus and Krampus, and Saturnalia! Every year dad grumbles, “you made too much food!” As if he really expected differently. In my familial household, men had their place in the kitchen only on the day of a big holiday, to plate the food that had to made right before eating. He, until more recently had little control in the holiday kitchen. In this long valley that I was born into, the holidays are always a time your grandparent’s ethnicity shined in the baked good and special traditional dishes of the holiday. The ideals for this season were set forth and refined my our late Western European ancestors who immigrated here from an other world. Of course, things change as time marches forward, we are no longer forced to eat the calamari salads and bland whitefish that my grandmother’s mothers made for their families. But we persist in keeping those memories alive, in keeping alive the traditions of our ancestors, even if we tinker a bit the the recipes and combinations. And even though my Grandma Peters (Ziebro was her maiden name) converted to the Methodism when she married, she upheld the Polish Catholic Christmas Eve feast (a mostly fish and bean inspired feast, because these religious people wouldn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve, and reserved meat for Christmas Day feasts). Every year my family starts at the beginning of December, the Christmas tins are brought up, and my mom begins refining exactly what she will make for Christmas Eve and then Christmas day. At thirty-five years old I’m still not old enough or mature enough to handle Christmas dinner for the whole family, or even one day of the cooking, at least that is impression I get. Everything about these holiday preparations speaks for rites of passages that my family has carried on for generations. I know I intend on trying to pass them on, but I often wonder if my cousins will. The stories are told every year of how Great Grandma Gentile would take a table and a large broom handle and roll out the ravioli dough across the whole table every Sunday at my Great Aunt’s house. My teenage mom and her younger cousins would have the responsibility of using a fork to pinch the dough pockets closed before boiling them. And there were always some recipes that seemed to speak to a member of the family a little more than others, which then you were obligated to make for everyone else. My Grandma Di Blasi would rock at making the ricotta Easter pizza dough, my mom all sorts of cookies and cakes, and me and my struffoli (little fried dough balls covered in honey). But this is a site about magick, what on Earth does old European Christian traditions for Christmas have to do with magick? As I sit here on this cold and snowy day baking away at our favored Italian Christmas cookies, I realized this seasonal tradition is all about magick. It’s about Earth and Fire, bringing out more Fire and also Water and Air. From the kitchen witch’s point of view, that is of course, common sense. But on another level, Europeans especially, have passed on this tradition of breaking up the cold, silence and stillness that Winter brings, with light and revelry. We use our understanding of Fire and Light in our traditions of baking and cooking, as if to replace the warm sun of the Spring, Summer, and Fall, which we no longer have. I occurs to me that these traditions are the epitome of Earth magick, from which we then engage the other elements. Lessons and small rites that are solid and stable and happen every year in their own time and place, which bring the Water and Air elements of inspiration and laughter into play. Traditions, old family stories, and small ceremonies passed down from ancestors carried on over generations. As the light wanes, and the cold solitude of Winter washes over the natural world, it seems my ancestors entered into a magick inducing fire and earth frenzy to make up for what is lacking in the still and gentle snow covered land. And beyond, the family proper, the cookies and baked are gifted to our extended family and friends as we visit over the holiday season, bringing the warmth and joy with us to those we love. The few batches of cookies we made today will help fuel the joy and merriment of the season, doled out onto little plates, and wrapped in plastic and ribbons, intended always for sharing. Magick is always contagious in that way! To me, it matters not what religion my ancestors took their rituals and traditions from. I speak the language of spirit and can understand why these things came to be and why they are so important to pass on to a new generation, even if we add sour cream to a kipel dough, instead of cream cheese. When my parents present us with blueberry peirogies made by hand from dough to filling, white bean soup, pepper cookies (which are actually more chocolate than pepper), they are giving my generation and my daughter’s generation, the tools to combat the worst of Winter woes and the light and stability to move forward to spread the warmth and wisdom of the spirit of the season. They paying homage to those that have come before, while gifting something precious to the generations to come. Like roots pushed down deep into the Earth, these traditions will be there to carry my family forward, even if we don’t see them, even if we have tweak them make them work for everyone at the dinner table. Each marriage and birth adding a new branch or ornament to the Yule tree of family tradition which is decorated and comes to life and ablaze with lights anew each Winter season.
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