On Holiday Rituals and Embracing the New Year, By Kahlil S. Apuzen-Ito

“Life is like a flowing stream” is probably the best cliché or metaphor to describe our year in 2013.  We went through dramatic changes adjusting to our newborn baby, Nia, a new house, developing a community project, and having family and friends coming and going almost every other month. Lastly, a natural catastrophe in the Philippines devastated my mother’s home town and many others, compelling friends, family and me to help fundraise for those affected by typhoon Haiyan in the busiest time of year—November and December. As Christmas was approaching, I was not quite sure how I could manage to bring “normalcy” in celebrating the holidays into our home, but like a stream meandering through eddies and pools, our home rhythm flowed, morphed and circled around the changes, settling down, integrating the challenges and richness of experiences. Our holy day rhythms, that we had developed for several years, served to anchor, inspire, and rejuvenate us. 

Apart from putting up our “Charlie Brown Christmas” tree and Christmas decorations, my seven-year-old daughter, Sekai, and I listed acts of kindness, giving, and helping that we could do starting December 1 up to Christmas day.  Some of our most joyful favorite family holiday acts of 2013 include inviting our friends to hike with us to pick up trash at Wailupe forest trail the day before Christmas; picking up trash at the Baby Makapuu beach on Christmas morning; and making beeswax candles (with my brother Krevo’s help), as well as sweetbread and gingerbread cookies to give to our neighbors and friends. My daughter also wanted to give part of her monetary Christmas present to the children affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.  She wanted to make gift baskets for the children that her Lola (grandmother) in the Philippines can give to each child—an idea that we will continue to work on this year.

Whenever we finish our acts of kindness, helping and giving, we write them on the back of paper stars and hang them on the Christmas tree.  I started this tradition because I wanted to impart to my family the spirit of Christmas that I grew up with in the Philippines—a spirit of helping others, especially those in need.  Meanwhile, Sekai counts down to Christmas day by moving a butterfly from house to house on our advent calendar.

On Christmas day, we baked a birthday cake for baby Jesus and placed it in front of the nativity.  We sang a birthday song, made a wish for peace in the world, and blew out the candle.  We have been enacting the Christmas story for years, but due to some changes in our rhythm this year, we planned to make a Christmas puppet show or play on the day of Epiphany instead [Jan. 6]. 

What has helped hold me together and inspire me through this holiday season and beginning the New Year, amidst all the changes, challenges, chaos and news coming our way, is the daily remembrance of the positivity meditation in Rudolf Steiner’s “Six Exercises.”  Instead of saying to myself, “Oh no, how could this happen!”, I try to remind myself daily to look for what I can learn from the situation and, if possible, see the beauty, the good, the ideal, and the growth and evolution that can arise.  It is another way of saying “Yes” and “Thank you” to life, opening our arms to embrace the new year and what is to come with new beginnings.