Our Lives

A holiday of their own making

CorrespondentDecember 8, 2012 

MCCARTHY01.LI.020912.CCS

Elizabeth McCarthy for "Our Lives" column.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

Elementary school is different now than when I was a kid, and the best change is that my children get to learn about how holidays are celebrated in other cultures and other countries. If you have not had a preschooler ask if you have heard of “the holiday called ‘Monica’” or a first-grader explain Ramadan as when “you can’t eat or drink during the day, but you can drink a little bit,” you’ve missed out on a chance for some chuckling.

Our family celebrates Christmas, although last year we inadvertently observed some Festivus traditions when I made a meatloaf and then holiday stress led to the Airing of the Grievances. If we do that again this year, I’m going whole hog with the pole and Feats of Strength.

My favorite holiday has become one observed only by the McCarthys (and a few choice friends): Wintday. Wintday is always (as of four years ago, anyway) on Dec. 30, and its creator, my oldest daughter, starts looking forward to it in midsummer.

We have a lot going on in that week between Christmas and New Year’s Day: my oldest child’s birthday is Dec. 29. But what Wintday offers that no other holiday can is a chance to have fun without the stress of gift-giving.

That is not to say that the holiday is free-form. The Wintday decorations have their own special box, and it includes the text “How to Celebrate Wintday the Right Way,” penned by – you guessed it – the holiday’s creator. There are specific decorations (hand-cut paper snowflakes hung from the chandelier), costumes (limited to handmade headdresses worn by the adults; paper chains are attached for each year one has celebrated), and, of course, a menu (homemade pizza and crushed ice drinks). We have designated table linens just for the occasion, and the Wintday meal even has its special blessing, and, so far, two very important guests.

Like most 10-year-olds, my daughter does not handle change well, but she’s been surprisingly open to some modifications to Wintday. It began as a way to have a fun meal ready when my husband came home from work and a chance to use our Snoopy SnoCone Maker that friends in California had sent for the holidays. (Disclaimer: Adult fingers will get grated in the ice shaver, the process is nowhere near as fun as the commercials would have us believe, and it should come packaged with a mop). We have had to make changes in our ice confection preparation, and last year we gave up and beat ice in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. (The new blender, purchased for the occasion, did not grate ice as promised). This year, we may have to resort to freezing something in pans and scraping it for Wintday granitas.

Three years ago Amity and Simon, old friends with whom we had recently reconnected, were in North Carolina for the holidays and wanted to get together. We invited them for Wintday, and I had a little difficulty explaining just what that meant, but they ran with it. This year they’ll get another paper chain added to their personalized headdresses and will play along nicely when required to wear them.

I asked my daughter’s permission to write about her holiday, and she happily granted it, pleased for her creation to get some recognition. I also asked her to tell me the significance of the holiday, and she was hard-pressed to put it into words. For me, it is about the importance of family traditions and about letting children have control over something. Whatever my daughter does later in life, it is going to involve organizing and creating. She is great at following directions, but she’s even better at leading. I cannot think of a more authentic way to nurture those skills than to put her in charge of a celebration.

The idea of my children becoming adults and continuing the Wintday tradition with their families makes me smile. Our youngest probably thinks everyone celebrates Wintday since he’s growing up with it. I hope the traditions continue to grow and change (although I refuse to let it involve gifts). I suspect the next modification will be some kind of anthem, and I’m anxious to see what this year brings. Meanwhile, we’re gearing up for pizza, company and something icy.

Happy Wintday, y’all.

Es_mccarthy@yahoo.com

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