A Multicultural Maelstrom: A.K.A. – Christmas at the Folmers’

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I never quite realized how extraordinarily unusual my family really was until after I moved away from home. Every single adult member of our household is of a different religion, which makes for some really interesting writing material. On a couple of occasions I’ve tried to describe the family dynamic, and one question I get asked fairly frequently is how we handle holidays. So how do a Heathen, a Jew, a New Age Hindu, a Mormon, a Pagan, and a young Agnostic celebrate Christmas? Oddly, it’s easier than you’d think.

It’s 5:30 AM, and I’ve just gotten off work. Usually I would be heading home and getting into bed, but on Christmas things run a little differently. I get home just before six in the morning, and start a cup of coffee mixed with Chai. I contemplate drawing a Helm of Awe before daring to try waking up my wife at this hour. I settle for a muttered plea to Thor before braving the she-bear’s den, and presenting her with her favorite coffee.

After that adventure, the two of us pile into my smart car and make our way over to my parents house. My wife doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas at our house because she feels this will somehow make her “un-Jewish”, but she LOVES giving presents and playing with my little siblings. Her family is all Jewish, all the time, so they don’t really celebrate Christmas. Thus she’s always thrilled to be a part of the festivities at my parents’ house. This usually works out fantastically because we can always go to her folk’s place for Thanksgiving, and my folks’ place for Christmas. No constant arguing/competing over where we’re going to celebrate each holiday, we’ve got a system!

We get to my parents’ place by about 6:30 in the morning and are greeted by their roommate, Spencer (the New Age Hindu). Like my wife, he has no religious attachments to the holiday, but loves giving gifts and playing with the kids. Like myself, he’s probably been up all night just to make sure he’s here for the festivities. This guy would probably rather spend all of his money on his friends than himself.

My parents were blessed with children who would rather sleep in on most days, so it’s up to the three of us to start rousing the kids. Meanwhile I can hear my parents alarm going off in the next room. We keep all three of the children corralled in the hallway, keeping the mountains of Christmas Swag out of sight until the whole family can be there to watch their faces. My step-mother is the first one out. (My parents are the opposite of my wife and I, with mum usually having to beat my dad with a stick just to get him out of bed). My step-mother (and her two youngest children) are devout Mormons, and thus Christmas does have an important religious meaning to them as well. She usually keeps a small nativity set on the shelf by the tree. The more religious part of her holiday usually happens the night before when she and the kids go caroling with her family.

Once my father finally emerges from his winter cave, we prepare for the epic photo op, and release the children into the landscape of multicolored paper. For my father and I, Christmas is basically a late Yule. Both of us are solitary, and don’t tend to do much on the holy days. Christmas is a conglomerate of a half dozen Pagan winter festivals anyway, so for the most part we just agree that it’s “close enough” and enjoy watching the smalls go nuts.

Once we’ve strip mined about three-quarters of the present mountain, my father and I disappear into the kitchen to start making breakfast. We rotate between flipping eggs and frying bacon, and about five minutes in dad remembers that he should have made my wife beef strips first, and now we’ll need to use another pan. We manage to get breakfast cooked and served, pull the kids away from their frenzied wrapping paper snowball fight, and promptly realize that the Christmas curse has struck once again and we have NO KETCHUP.

After a round of blaming everything from ancient Gypsy curses to Perry the Platypus, we enjoy our breakfast anyway. We have a little time after the meal where we all sit together in the living room while the kids play around with their new gear, until their genetic father comes to pick them up and take them to their grandma’s house. This is about when my second wind dies and we all seem to realize that this would be the perfect time to go back to bed. So we say our goodbyes, head home, and I curl up next to my wife and pass out.

Christmas at our house has something for everybody. It’s about Kith and Kin, it’s about celebration, and it’s about remembering the wonder of childhood. See? I told you, it’s easier than you’d think.

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/


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