Published on December 11th, 2017 | by Mutha Magazine


IT’S THE HOLIDAYS: What Is Even Happening? ASK A MUTHA on Traditions Old and New and Demolished

It got cold (thought it took a suspiciously long time). The store windows have become aggressive. People start drinking more; there are also cookies. The world is still consistently terrible, at a national and global level. But some folks put an elf on a shelf? (Do not get me started here, though. Shelf-elf friends, you know I still love you, but it is creepy).

It’s THE HOLIDAYS (of November through January range). We asked MUTHAs: What is happening with you, and yours, this season? How are you handling the talk around the table, if you meet with relatives with politics opposed to your own? HOW DO YOU HOLD IT TOGETHER, just in general? Any new traditions you’re starting—or ending?

Everyone is at a different place—but we can connect.  – Meg Lemke

The joy of image searching “SAD SANTA” may be my new tradition. deglispiriti on Flickr / Creative Commons License

As a child, we never had a huge December gift-giving tradition. My mom is Puerto Rican, and focused more on the day of the Three Kings in January. As a teen, I learned that December shopping is what gets the US economy through the year. I stopped gift-giving to do my part to bring down capitalism. Now that I’m a mom, we do modest gift-giving for Solstice and Hanukkah, as well as Three Kings Day. My kid wants to do Christmas this year. I’ll be calling it a solstice tree. – Aya de Leon

I’ve got a husband and a son, so I am celebrating by helping them see how we, as a family, can handle the patriarchy. – Mira Jacob


My daughter is going with her boyfriend’s family to California for the holidays and then meeting up with my mom and step-dad before heading back to Rhode Island. I will probably go to NYC with my boyfriend and spend a few days there with his family, then head back to Rhode Island to work and have me time.

Heather’s daughter, Lyric, on “80s Day”

This year has been the most difficult year for me as a parent, so I’m looking forward to having a break from my daughter and focusing on “me.” I will feel sad to miss her and our silly movie tradition, but we’ll do it when I get back. However, I feel there really hasn’t been a time to truly celebrate “the world.” I also didn’t like the state over the world during Obama (or any other administration). And, I don’t talk to my parents much about politics, as they are fairly conservative… I don’t like when politicians have all this power over me, already, so I won’t let them ruin my holidays. For me, I think it’s important to have fun and on some level, go about my life. That’s probably coming from a lot of privilege, but thoughtfulness, too. – Heather Jackson

For an interracial, interfaith queer family with foster kids such as we are, the holiday period can be quite complicated and bring up many, many contradictory feelings of alienation, hope, regret and gratitude for each of our family members. To make matters worse, these feelings often occur for each of us in a different manner at different times. Consequently, we have decided to forgo the usual orgy of gift giving and forced holiday frivolity to share a set of family experiences. Christmas weekend, we will go for a long family hike, build a campfire and make s’mores. The weekend before Christmas, we will also go to an indoor waterpark. We’re hoping to build memories without the pressure to evoke the particular feelings that are associated with the holiday season. – Amy Abugo Ongiri


Thanksgiving and Christmas could be removed from the calendar and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all. The only holidays that are holy to me are Halloween, Samhain, and Dia de Los Muertos. I’m all about death and candy and dressing up. I was relieved this year when my son figured out that there’s no Santa Claus or Elf on the damn Shelf. The consumer whore aspect of a typical Texan American Christmas is crazy making. I was born into a typical Texan American family, though, and my situation is unusual because I lived in close proximity to my mom the first few years of my son’s life so I’ve shown up for the holidays and gone to see the light displays at various ranches. This will be my first Thanksgiving to play hostess. I’m living in the guest bedroom of my ex-husband’s brick home. There’s a kick ass kitchen. I have no excuse not to participate. So I’ll be baking my first pumpkin pie. I love my son so I show up but I dream of a day when I can give the finger to Thanksgiving and Christmas and not have to hide my chaos magick altar from judgmental Christian family members. – Misti Rainwater-Lites

I use my table to teach my daughter we are a nation of immigrants. We have Irish linen that my Grandfather brought over, Syrian lace made by refugees which was a gift from Syrian friends, recipes from my husband’s Polish and Ukrainian grandmothers and my American wedding silver and china. We round the whole thing out with local produce and flowers.

It seems silly but it’s a concrete way to open beautiful conversations about where we came from and where we are going while maintaining traditional holiday celebrations.

Beyond that, each year we deliver presents from a giving tree. It helps us to remember that we are lucky. We also do Advent calendar with 24 random acts of kindness (which is an oxymoron because they are planned). – Kate Thome

The other morning, I started a new tradition: asking the child to take care not to reveal that Santa is not real to the other children of her acquaintance. She figured this out, is quite pleased with herself. But, like, help a MUTHA out so I don’t get a bunch of texts from the other nice mamas. Then, I was like “also don’t tell them there is no God.” – Meg Lemke

My kid, Lola, is VERY KEEN for the arrival of the doll babies, on the various stoops of our Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo by sputnik / Flickr Creative Commons License

Both my partner and I grew up locally, which means we get to avoid holiday airport madness, but we also have to do a lot of freeway choreography as we hop between households. For purely logistical reasons, we started merging our families’ Christmas Eve celebrations a few years ago. Her Mexican-American, working class, liberal parents and extroverted, commands-a-room sister have hit it off with my white, Republican, engineer dad and my other introverted family members. We hang out in her parents’ living room and eat pie. In times that are indeed terrible and frightening, that gives me hope. – Cheryl Klein

Cheryl’s son Dash and his Nana being silly in her super decked-out house.

I will be spending five days over the holidays with my spouse’s family at a lodge in rural Washington. As bucolic and epic as this may sound, I’m not sure how to feel about it. They are super right-leaning in both politics and religion. They are Fox News junkies who are scared of their Muslin neighbors. I can only imagine what they would have to say about sexual assault on women.

They are all the things.

I’ve been avoiding them for over a year, mostly because I haven’t had the words that would break my thick wall of anger. I needed time to heal and accept. And in that time, I have come to learn and to believe that so much of this has to do with something that I actually share with my in-laws and that I share with so many people who also lean in those directions.

It is something that so many of us in this great divide share with each other.

That something is trauma.

I hear it when the talking heads are on the radio, even though their words flow into my head as jumbled matter. I can feel their pain. I can see them as children who were verbally and physically abused by their parents. They were neglected and shoved aside, their emotions tamped down at an early age because little boys should not cry or have feelings. They were invisible and unseen and now all they want is to be heard.

Because I am raising a child of my own in this unstable time, I do not want him to get lost in the progressive and protected bubble that has been molded for him. I grew up raw and unsupervised in single-mom-style-poverty and have been lucky enough to come out on the other side because of skin color and resilience. Because of this, my privileged son needs to know that not all people are kind hippies and open-minded hipsters. He needs to know that when people are mean, it is because they have been hurt and that emotional trauma and pain comes out sideways sometimes.

So I’ll go to the woods with my in-laws, certainly for my spouse who came from these people, but mostly for my son so he can learn to love through differences. And maybe there will be a shit-ton of snow so I can glide the fuck away on my skis and escape for some brief, beautiful moments alone in the forest. So I can scream through the silence. – Frances Badalamenti

Culturally speaking, Christmas is the best example we have of global manifestation. Currently, most of us channel our wishes into material items. But just imagine where humanity could be if we were able to will benevolent intangibles. Until that time comes, as a mother, the kids and I leave anonymous cards, letters and gifts. This is actually true. Oftentimes, we leave anonymous cards thanking people: The nights are dark. Thank you for keeping your lights on. Merry Winter. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone)… – Julie Simmons

When my kids (now 31, 28, and 20) were small whenever Thanksgiving rolled around I would cook the turkey and mash the potatoes and then launch into my spiel about genocide. I would explain that we were not celebrating Thanksgiving. Yes, we were eating turkey on the same day that everyone else was eating turkey and celebrating, but I made sure they knew I was only doing this to keep the peace with the extended family (mostly my mom). I let them know that we were eating turkey in celebration of nothing. We were just enjoying family time.

When it came to Christmas I didn’t even try to keep the peace with the extended family. We celebrated Solstice complete with Hug Bugs and Seamore the Solstice Salmon bringing gifts rather than Santa. We opened presents as a family on Solstice Eve, and then invited Grandma and the rest of the family over on Christmas Eve. Slowly as my life blew up and I left my marriage and came out, these things morphed into us just doing the normal American traditions. My monologs about genocide drifted away and Solstice was left behind for Christmas. I had lost my fight and my fire.

My middle daughter and I co-raise my rad, genderqueer, eleven-year-old grandkid together. This year the week before Thanksgiving my daughter came upstairs announcing that she had been thinking and it was bullshit that we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandkid, Felix, sat at the table listening as we discussed how it used to be for our family. Felix then announced that Mama was right and they wanted no part in any of this. They were going to spend Thanksgiving in their room and requested Jack in the Box for dinner rather than turkey. They also said that as long as they got presents for Solstice that they wanted to do that instead of Christmas.

So this year we ate turkey on the day everyone else does, but we talked about genocide and after giving great-grandma (my mom) a couple shots of whiskey we talked her into putting on a t-rex costume and dancing to country music with her grandkids. I guess she’s mellowed with age.

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Solstice bringing back our tradition of blue, silver, white decorations as well as our traditional orange cake to welcome back the sun. And maybe we’ll bust out the t-rex costume again. A new tradition has been born. – Nina Packebush

I started doing the math in October. “So if we start this round around the 20th of the month and the white blood cell counts hit the nadir seven to ten days later….” Crap.

Halloween. In the hospital.

Thanksgiving. In the hospital.

Christmas? Probably in the hospital.

As I’m writing this, she calls from the other room. “Mom. You better come take a look at this.”

Chemo does horrible things to a 6 year old’s body. But thank God and science for chemo.

2017 (except for the birth of my wonderful niece!) has been THE PITS, politically and personally.

My inspiration for 2018 comes from my daughter…

“If I were going to a protest, my sign would say, ‘You’re a poop! Watch out, me and my friends do gymnastics!’ And I would use my super power to send a bee to sting him in the eye and the belly button at the same time and then girls would take over the world!” – Jessica Phillips Lorenz

Jess, Audrey, and Dylan — we love you. This holiday, please know, you will be in my heart. 

All you MUTHAS and others, take some time to yourself, and share your traditions “old/new/demolished” in the comments.

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Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.

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