Winter Feast Man and the Broken Bowl

Dec 25, 2013

We asked you for heartwarming atheist Christmas stories, and you responded!

This one, by Ieva Zagante

The first thing I remember from my life is me, my little sister and my mother making gingerbread cookies. The table was just a desk, for most of the time fixed to the wall, since kitchen was very small. We used sand moulds instead of cutters: there was a green ram, red fish, and pink cup with embossed cherries at the bottom. It was evening, because my dad was snoring loudly in the room, and certainly Winter Feast, the time of gingerbread cookies, tangerines and chocolates.

Yes, Winter Feast, since, we, Latvians, have no name for Christmas with Christ in it, which is fine with non-believers, as well as most of the Christians and Pagans, so, except for some hardcore Christians, we can celebrate this day in many different ways. 

According to the Latvian traditions, which is highly recommended by Gastroenterologists and Dieticians, it involves a lot of singing and dancing, and consequently less time for eating and drinking, especially if people dress up as different characters and organise a procession to visit their distant neighbours. 

December is also season of concerts by excellent musicians and singers, both foreign and local, and local choirs often sing free. Or one can simply use this day to meet relatives and friends.

I grew up in the Soviet Union which had moved all celebrations to the New Year's Eve. However, my Name Day is on December 24th, and name days are almost as significant as Birthdays, so, having chosen my name, parents evidently made this day more significant than December 31th.

This approach was complicated by the fact, that neither December 24th nor 25th were public holidays, but making gingerbread cookies did not take that much time, and bacon tarts together with cottage cheese pie were made on the nearest weekend, when we also enjoyed boiled potatoes with pork chops and stewed sauerkraut.

Searching my memories, I wonder, did we actually celebrate anything but my Name Day? I think yes, because I remember a decorated fir-tree, everyone got presents and, what is more important, wonderful things happened then, like when I accidentally broke the ornate lead glass bowl and did not get punished. On the contrary, were visited by the Winter Feast man that year, who just put the shards in his sack and took out a new bowl. Of course I was old enough to recognise my father and knew that bowls cannot be mended that way, but I still do not know how he managed to find similar bowl in empty shops within a couple of hours.

So it is not surprising that I remember December celebrations, instead of Birthdays – in December I got involved in preparations for the feast, but Birthdays just meant cake and presents.

Ieva Zagante

Written By: Ieva Zagante
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