Holiday Celebrations, or lack of
From: Patty M Gourley (
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2000 12:37:41 -0700 (MST)
Judy Baxter, Monterey Cohousing Community,(MoCoCo) Twin Cities Area,
Mpls.,MN writes: 
"Where our common kitchen was shared by 4 or 5 families at diff times on
day, we've had 2 Hannukah dinners/parties, a Solstice dinner, Carol
Stocking stuffing event,  etc, etc".

Robyn Williams  Pinakarri Community Fremantle, Western Australia
"Where it's hot, hot, hot.  We had a low key solstice/carol singing
celebration where we all  gathered around a small fire in the fire-pit. 
On Christmas Day, we had a shared
breakfast on the lawn early before we repaired to our individual festive
Our family, like many others down here, had a ritual swim at the beach
before lunch."

Dear List,
These two comments about holiday celebrations (plus another one from
Marty at Two Acre Wood describing Chunnukah, Solstice and Christmas
gatherings) have set me to thinking about the rhythms of our community
life here at Tierra Nueva Cohousing on the central California coast.  

We have been living here for 2 to 2 and a half years, depending on
move-in dates.  This year's holiday season has seemed muted somewhat on
the community level.  At one point in early December an anonymous note
appeared on the meal sign-up board asking "Where is our holiday spirit,
when is our holiday celebration?"  to which another anonymous answer
appeared:  "Plan it and we will come".  

In the next two weeks I announced our 2nd annual Solstice Play casting
call and two new characters showed up and so were added to the play.  One
Solstice eve, when Grandfather Sun wearily teetered around the campfire
circle stage, he had a new young actor (playing the earth and the moon)
to twirl around in their orbits (one of the Sun's many jobs)...and our 5
year old new star, Molly, portrayed all the children thanking the Sun for
all the work done over the year.  As expected,  the Newborn Sun was
reborn, and Riley (age 5, reappearing in his role from last year)
strutted joyfully in gold lame costume and glittery golden mask around
the fire.   The audience in attendance was relatively small, about half
of the numbers who showed up last year.  But the spirit was cheerful and
appreciative and many wishes were made as candles were lit and set into
the fire ring rocks.  

Two nights later we gathered for our Saturday meal and celebrated
Channukah, with a story and candle lighting and traditional foods,
fruited pot roast and latkes (oil, more oil and yet more oil!).  The
attendance was lower in numbers than before, but interactions were
heart-filled and warm.  

Christmas was celebrated privately, for the most part.  There were some
efforts made at the last minute to put up a tree in the common house, but
families chose to celebrate privately at home, or with two or three other
families on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning was very quiet around here.
 Several families have gone to visit relatives or find some snow for

New Year's plans include a party in the common house with a Benefit
Auction to support our still unbuilt community workshop.  I expect the
turnout to be smaller than our Y2Kasino party last year, but still
heartfelt nonetheless.  

The general feeling I am getting from watching our community in the past
month or two is that we are in a transitional space....the early
enthusiasm for living here and sharing community celebrations has waned. 
Certainly the honeymoon is over...and a newer sense of maturing is only
just beginning to bud.  In the meantime, we are wrestling with
contentious issues, like parenting styles, community participation in
work crews and process issues regarding building on common land.  Common
meal cooking and cleaning signups have dwindled to two meals a week.  Our
community life meetings, called to deal with "non-business"
inter-personal issues, are well attended, but difficult when we get the
core of the problems.  We are learning to be gentler with our words, but
feelings are hurt, and mediations are being called for more often, to
help with the communication between neighbors.  We've established "Purple
Cards" thanks to Gretchen's descriptions of them in her community in
Portland (Trillium?, correct me, Gretchen).  The fallout from using those
purple cards has been interesting, since it offers a medium for
expression, where non existed before....and with the voicing comes
consequences.  Hearing and listening to each other's truths requires a
generosity of spirit, that we are new to experiencing.  

It is all good.

And it is not always easy.  

This growth spurt has seemed to put a certain damper on the holiday
celebrations compared to what we experienced in our first two
Christmas/Channikah/Solstice seasons.  Some other "real life issues" such
as one of our families going through a divorce (with both parents living
in two different houses here, sharing custody of the kids), and a couple
of other members struggling with depression, and withdrawal from
community life, has changed the tenor of all our interactions.    

An unspoken dynamic which seems to be surfacing to my awareness is that
many of the members of our community expect things from the community,
without contributing an effort to make it happen.  The "busy bees"  like
myself, who take great joy in planning events, plays and parties have
stepped back a little to rest, and so there are fewer activities that
"magically" appear for those members who expect them to happen so
effortlessly.  In the space created by our resting, the other members are
learning to do some of the planning, OR some things just don't happen. 
And folks feel kind of confused by the vaccuum.  

Again, it is all good.    I really trust this process of change.        It
feels more real to me than the giddy first years of celebration, and I
trust it will reap a valuable maturity in our community body.  But these
in-between times are itchy, uncomfortable places.  

I am reminded to breathe through it, like a woman in labor during
transition, or like the sign on our common house laundry wall: 

"Before using the dryer:  Take three deep breaths.   Then, repeat the
following mantra,
"I will empty the lint trap.  I will empty the lint trap.  I will empty
the lint trap."

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva, central CA coast




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