Hollydays - the 12 Days of Xmas:
A new winter holiday for everybody else
Hollydays is a 12 day celebration that runs from December 21, the winter solstice, to New Years Day. It is one family’s secular alternative to the squabbling winter rituals of the major faiths.
Topanga, California – Nov 23, 2011 – For the past two decades, the Booth Family has been replacing their enthusiastic, if secular, celebration of Christmas with a new holiday they call Hollydays. On each of the 12 days of Hollydays, starting on December 21st, and ending on January 1st, they light a candle, and share gifts and feasts. 12 feasts and 12 days of gifting made Hollydays particularly popular among the children in their family.
What is the true meaning of Christmas? These Hollydays adherents answer that it’s all about the seasons. “Nobody really knows when Jesus’ birthday was or when the Macabees defended their temple. These festivals were put near the Winter Solstice precisely because of the inherent spiritual connotations of the seasonal fluctuation caused by the earth’s orbit. As the sun retreats south along the horizon , threatening to disappear, isn’t everyone always reminded of their own fragile mortality?” explained Nesdon Booth, the “founder” of the holiday
They suggest using the winter fruiting plants like the eponymous Holly, Pyracantha and Toyon as decorations as well as evergreens and traditional colored lights and candles. A 13-stemmed Hollydays “menorah” holds one candle for each day along with a “shamash” they use to light the others, all this allows these Hollydays celebrations to easily pass among their religious neighbors.
Despite the secular focus of Hollydays in the earth’s cycles as opposed to the anniversaries of prophets, it is not a completely flippant holiday like Festivus, although a spirit of good humor, individual ownership and pastiche are encouraged. One controversial tradition is “the Stealing of the Tree” where the Booths break into Christmas tree lots after they close on Christmas Eve to “steal” their tree, giving it a short reprieve from the chipper. On one Christmas Eve they hung 13 stolen trees upside down from the high ceiling of their home to make an inverted forest.
Inspired by the success of Maulana Karenga’s melding of various traditions to develop Kwanzaa as a pan-African alternative to Christmas, Hollydays also incorporates bits and pieces from all of the winter holidays into a pan-human winter holiday, with a central idea being that as Humans, we are, and have always been, one people.
Each day fits into the most common cycle of modern American religious celebration and each has a related principal devoted to it, organized in an overarching theme to support this concept of global human connection. These are constructed as a quartet of trinities.
The first regards formation of community
1. Dec. 21 - Unity, the day of the actual solstice
2. Dec 22 – Compassion
3. Dec 23 – Kindness
The Second: sharing
4. Dec 24 – Hope, the actual day of Christmas Eve
5. Dec 25 – Generosity, Christmas Day
6. Dec 26 – Gratitude, Boxing Day.
The Third: personal integrity
7. Dec 27 – Truth
8. Dec 28 – Love
9. Dec 29 – Courage
And the Fourth: rebirth.
10. Dec 30 – Atonement, in a nod to the Jewish New Year’s Yom Kippur
11. Dec 31 – Forgiveness, New Years Eve
12. Jan 1 –Redemption, New Years Day.
The Booths see these ideas as already resident in all of the competing celebrations, and Hollydays only as a distillation of the real underlying aspirations of all people over all times.
On each of the 12 Hollydays, they discuss and reflect on each of these concepts as they gather, share and feast with their friends, hoping to make the next year, for themselves, their family, their communities and their planet, better and more harmonious than the passing one.
For one and all, Happy Hollydays!