From December to early January many cultures around the world have traditional celebrations.
For most of human history, people have celebrated around the December solstice – the longest (southern hemisphere) or shortest (northern hemisphere) day of the year. The summer and winter solstices are still a time of celebration for many people. There are also other holidays and cultural celebrations that commonly fall in December, such as Chanukah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Yalda, Zartusht-no-diso, and sometimes Mawlid.
For me, this is a time to spend with family, chosen and biological, to celebrate our achievements, have fun and relax. It’s also a time for resetting, for reflecting on the year, and taking time out to prepare for the next. But, swept up in a sea of carols, it can be easy to forget that the holiday season can be a difficult time for some people.
At Bonnie’s, the women who live in our crisis refuges might celebrate Christmas, or one of the other cultural festivals that fall in December, or they might not. Either way, we all work hard to make sure that the spirit of giving is felt by every one of our families. We held a party earlier this month at which each family were given presents, food hampers, and special handbags, full of toiletries and other useful items, thanks to some very generous donations from our sponsors.
It was heart-warming to see the smiling faces of children and adults alike. We shared food, talked, and played games (including a very funny water balloon fight!). Despite coming from different backgrounds, we were still able to come together to share joy and goodwill, relax and celebrate the incredible things many have achieved.
One woman proudly told me of her milestones over the past year – leaving violence, living in a refuge, finding a new job and a private rental. But what really struck me was the pride she felt in the achievements of the other women with whom she had shared the refuge.
Bonnie’s staff have been sharing some of their family traditions, from the fun to the reflective:
“We take a family photo all in the same positions every year. Even though the youngest children are now bigger than their half-siblings, they sit on them, which usually makes for entertaining times.”
“When I have good energy and time to give, I road trip interstate to visit family and friends and spread good cheer.”
“Midnight Mass – overcrowded, hot and noisy, with much excitement. But I love all the carols and the children all dressed up – the beauty and solemnity.”
“We have a Christmas tree with lights and special ornaments from when the children were young, and others to remember our deceased loved ones and special memories”
“We have a tradition of prawns on Christmas day and sparklers are lit for all the family members who have passed on.”
“I like to take time out and go for a surf to connect with myself and the ocean, and to feel gratitude for our planet… and I love having quiet time to just ‘be’ at home – light candles, write Christmas cards, wrap presents, nurture my plants, potter about and just deeply appreciate my home, my neighbourhood, my life and my loved ones…”
We may not be as governed by the solstices as we once were, but people from all different cultures and backgrounds share the human desire to make time in their busy lives to stop, come together, give, be thankful, and share time with the ones they love.
It felt amazing to be able to share that with the families staying at Bonnie’s.
Written by Asha