During research for my forthcoming book I stumbled across a hand produced notebook that had been compiled by students in the community where I grew up. Within its pages were notes from the community secretary describing a meeting that took place among leaders during the community’s inception. In that meeting it was agreed that no Pagan holidays would be recognized or publicized. And with that declaration I was unaware of Christmas, never knew of Halloween and its Trick-or-Treating, did not hand out Valentine’s cards and did not gather Easter Eggs in the spring.
Living in this closed community I had no idea when I was young how the rest of the world lived or what outsiders celebrated. Due to the continual efforts of members in our community, our Zion on the hill became a magnet for others who wanted to experience our clandestine lifestyle. As more people moved into the community they brought with them their worldly ways, and some refused to give up what they brought with them. They brought their ideas, traditions and celebrations.
Although our founding fathers were firmly against the celebration of any Pagan holidays and traditions, some of the newer members refused to give up their worldly celebrations. Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, although not celebrated openly, were secretly celebrated in individual family’s homes. When many children began arriving at school with new toys and new clothes for Christmas, I was devastated, as were my brothers and sisters. Feeling the pressure, and not wanting us to be completely left out, my parents gave into pressure, and we created a gift-giving tradition of our own.
Every New Year’s Eve we had a celebration that rivaled that of any neighbor. My mother’s handmade doughnuts and Chex party mix were the talk of every kid in town. After the children were sound asleep, my father placed a box the size of a refrigerator on the center of our living room floor. My parents filled the box with gifts for their many children. Nothing extravagant of course, with a dozen mouths to feed money was in short supply. The gifts were nothing more than the necessities of clothing, and each of us received one toy. New Year’s morning we all woke up with the exuberance of any child at Christmas to unwrap the treasures that await us in the “big box.” New Year’s Day was always the biggest day of the year in our house.