Gather 'Round The Fire|
Posted: December 18th. 2000
Times Viewed: 5,390
In the next few weeks, people of many different religious backgrounds will be traveling, visiting and getting together with family and friends. Some see their favorite people on a regular basis, some only can get together once or twice a year and some may only be able to travel the miles between less often than they would prefer. But wherever people find themselves during the Holiday season, it is quite possible that they will take some time to remember Holidays past, recall scenes from their childhood or relive treasured memories. Nostalgia is as much a part of the Holiday season as candy canes, Yule stockings and that perpetually reincarnating oddity, the fruit cake.
For every person who opens a box of ornaments with excited anticipation- and lovingly fingers an old family glass orb or paper snowflake made by a child- there are those who would echo Mr. Scrooge's 'bah-humbug' and wish the entire affair was over and done with. Certainly those February credit card bills may give some folks cause to reflect if it was all indeed worth it and the holiday blues are as predictable for certain people as the annual rerun of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer'. (And just what ARE 'reindeer games' anyway?)
However we may feel about the various customs, Holidays are traditionally about gathering together with family/friends and so-love 'em or hate 'em- why not make the best of the situation?
Photo credit: The picture to your upper right was is of Maya Heath and was taken at the Autumn Meet Festival in the fall of 1999.
And Tell The Tales of Olde...
One of the best presents that we can give, share- and even keep a portion for ourselves at the same time- is the gift of family and ancestral history. Often in these modern and hurried times, a video camera is the only resident historian. Panning around the room, as paper and ribbons fly off secret packages and Uncle Bob (A little tipsy even this early in the day) sings "Goddess Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" at the top of his lungs, the cold glass eye will pick up on the deepening laugh lines around Grandma's mouth, but cannot ascertain just what events put them there in the first place. For that we need Grandma, we need Grandpa, and we need their parents and their parent's parents: we need our personal family history to be told. And told not in the listings of names and dates (which is all that many of us today know about the people from whom we share more than DNA strands), but told in the human voices of stories, tales and recollections. To make our human story real, we must once again bring those ancestral voices within our circles and listen to their lives as told by their children and their children's children.
All folktales (literally tales of the folk) begin locally. As Linda Richter Neves writes in All About Folktales, "People told folktales long before there were books, newspapers or televisions. Folktales were a way to bring news from one village to the next. Parents used folktales to teach lessons to their children.
These stories helped people learn and understand the customs of their village. Folktales also explained the wonders of nature, like thunderstorms and the phases of the moon.
Folktales tell a lot about the peoples who invent them. For instance, the early American settlers believed in hard work. A lot of their stories are about rugged individuals like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, who were strong and brave and accomplished a great deal. Many cultures have one clever character who is always getting into trouble. Native American Indians have Trickster, Cape Verdians have Los Nobos the wolf, and Africans have Anansi the spider.
Folktales are told over and over and they change with each retelling. Each storyteller breathes a different life into a story. The storyteller is always making choices; where to begin, where to end, where to add a dash of humor or a sprinkling of suspense. It's like a big story stew!"
Looking at some General Folklore and Mythology, we can see just how powerful and lasting these once very localized tales can be. While no one can guarantee that your family's personal tales will one day be viewed as a classic of mythic proportions, that same humble local origin is from where most of these now well known stories and fable so originated. Many teens find history a boring subject in school, yet who could find tales of their own ancestors to be anything but engaging? (You just know that there is a family scoundrel in there somewhere!) Younger children still like stories like Snow White (who incidentally has a wonderful page of links to bite into) and a good storyteller can make family history into a storybook-like tale suitable for their young age. (AKA: A Wren Story - My First Initiation)
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