Contact Nesdon's Rant Festivus Kwanzaa

Holly Daze is a fanciful twelve day holiday that starts on the Winter Solstice, and ends on New Years Day of the modern calendar. Each day is represented by an idea aimed at improving the quality of our collective lives.

It is a secular holiday, but there are inevitable spiritual connotations involved in the cycles of the earth's seasons, and it is meant to incorporate the best parts of all the various religion's winter holidays.

Holly Daze is meant to be an truce in the petty squabbles between obsolete human tribes about the true meaning of the season.

We have taken ritual aspects of all sorts of winter-timed observances and tried to meld them into a single fun and sensible tradition. The various holidays of Yule, Saturnalia, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and even Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah have all been light-heartedly folded into Holly Daze like a big ol' omelete.

We invite you to join us in this remix mash-up to create your own authentic celebrations, and look forward to the expansion of Holly Daze in scope, practice and humor.


Holly pyracantha

Since the Winter Solstice is the moment when the sun's apparent movement south ends, and it begins to move back northwards, we see the celebration of light as a central theme. Lighted decor, candles and fireworks are appropriate symbols of this celebration of the return of the sun.

This is especially significant this year as the first day of Holly Daze is also supposed to be the last day of the world. When those apocaleptics wake up the next morning, I imagine they will be ready to party.

Of course almost all life on earth (I guess those chemoautotrophs will have to think up their own rituals) is nourished by the sun's energy and so that light also makes a great symbol of our shared life. It is pretty amazing to remember, at any time of year, that every other person on earth is your literal cousin, that we are all, even every beast and bug, related; sharing the same magical and mysterious spark of life that has been passed, from parent to child for the whole history of this wonderous thing we call life on earth.

And so to celebrate how this life we share has managed to overcome every freezing winter, every cataclysmic challenge to its existence, we see the evergreens and especially the bright red berries of fruiting winter plants like Holly, Toyon, and Pyracantha as symbols of this magnificent, shared and indomitable life.

Red runs in every one of our veins, as it does on these glad fruit, and so we bring them into our homes as a remembrance of this holy connection.

This return of the sun, with its promise of the fecund seasons of spring and summer, is a time for renewal. When the canopy of a tree is built anew, when the rains and snow wash away the dust, and the year resets to day one. So too, do we see this primarily as a Festival of Renewal and Redemption.

The 12 Days of Holly Daze. 

We have come up with a principal for each of these twelve days that we think, when thought about, should help make the upcoming year better than the last.

On each day we light a candle, have a feast, and give a gift. A couple of interesting traditions, born in poverty have developed in our family around this longer celebration. Stuff is cheaper after Christmas, and we ofter have gotten things we can regift, so we save all our big presents for the last half of the holiday. It's fun to do our shopping when the stores are quieter and littered with crazy sales.

Another favorite tradition (especially among the boys) is The Stealing of the Tree. We do this late on Hope (Christmas Eve to you), when the moment a tree lot closes, any Christmas Tree left over instantly turns into compost, and represents a cost to the tree seller. By jumping the fence and stealing a tree, we are actually saving them money, even as we we get a little thrill of faux-larceny.

We then go and find someone selling Tamales, and easy task on Christmas Eve in here in LA, which we eat while trimming our tree (or trees, one year we hung 12 upside down from the ceiling) and wrapping our presents.

We've divided these 12 days into a Quartet of Trinities, each joining to construct a pattern of renewal. On each evening of Holly Daze, we light another candle to represent each one of these principals, much as is done for Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

The First Trinity deals with the formation of Community both in spirit and in society. We think of spirit in its most literal form: Spiritus, as the breath of life that unifies us.

The First Principal is Unity. Nothing is more fundamental to the formation of community than being united. On this First Day of Holly Days, the 21st of December, the first day of winter and the date of the actual solstice, we consider our Unity.

The  Second Principle we celebrate is Compassion, because to feel with those with whom we share our lives is essential to forming a livable community.

The Third Principle we consider is Kindness. Kindness builds connections between us. Kindness is a gift that forges gentle obligations of reciprocation.

In the Second Trinity we come together through Sharing. Gifting is the most primary and powerful economic form, and the most behaviorally rich and best loved aspect (at least by the kids) of both the Christmas and Chanukah holidays.

On the Fourth day, the 24th of December, which is Christmas Eve, we consider Hope. All of us want more for ourselves and our loved ones, all of us hope for better world, and as we share our longings with each other, we can see more clearly what we need and celebrate what we have.

The Fifth day, the 25th of December also know as Christmas, is Generosity. On this day we give generously of ourselves. We try to fulfill each other's heart's desires, and we think about the way giving can be so enriching, not only to our own spirits, but to our communities..

For the last of the Sharing Trinity, on the 26th, also known as Boxing Day, the sixth principal is Gratitude, for giving without gratitude may breed resentment and greed. Gratitude for all we have always puts perspective on our lives, which are such amazing gifts, and beyond which we really should ask no more.

The Third Trinity consists of Personal Ideals that we feel can help us achieve more internal harmony in our lives. We've tried to give this bit of coasting betyween Christmas and New Years something deeper than just getting over food and drink hang-overs

The Seventh Principle then is Truth. Seeking the truth is one of the most glorious pastimes humans have ever devised, and it is a path that has no limits. We have faith that the more we see ourselves and our world clearly and honestly, the better able we will be to live good lives.

The Eighth Principal is Love. When we built love within ourselves it heals us as much as it does those things and people that we love. We also have faith that whenever we strive to muster Love within us, our lives will be enriched.

The last of this internal trinity, the Ninth Principal, is Courage. So much within us resists growth, fears change, and can cause us to cower, almost lifeless. We believe that only when we buck up our Courage can we move into the unknown and develop new and better ways to be.

The Fourth and final Trinity is about Rebirth. These are based on Judaism's High Holy Days of Awe, shifted around to our Julian Calendar.

On the Tenth Day we consider Atonement. We try to face our guilt, and see what things we might do better, take responsibility for our actions, and prepare to move forward.

Then on New Year's Eve, the Eleventh Principal is Forgiveness. Without this, hate and reproach fester and poison every endeavor we undertake. As the new year starts we share a Kiss of Forgiveness with those we love, and even with those we may have hated.

Finally, on New Year's Day, we consider the Twelfth and Last Principle, Redemption. Each of us wishes to be reborn each day, wishes to find our better self and the world we long for in our hearts. It is this spirit of the Redeemed that we celebrate as we end our celebration, and prepare to return to our mundane lives.

On this last day all twelve of our candles burn while we share one final feast,
and for us at least, we really do feel
Renewed and Ready for the next orbit of our Mother Sun.

This is our menorah made from 1/4 in. copper pipe, with 13 candle holders.
One for each day, and one for the helper or shamas candle.
We like this because 13 is seen as a powerful number.

Nesdon's Rant