Posts tagged ‘Chalica’

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Considering Chalica

Yes, I spelled that right- Chalica (chal-ick-a)

It’s a new(ish) winter holiday (2005) honoring the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and our symbol, the Flaming Chalice. It was started by a group of young adult UUs who wanted our own winter holiday. Groups or individuals light a chalice (or candles from a central chalice) each day for a week (starting the first Monday of December) for each principle, discuss the principle and take an action related to it. The last part isn’t always included, but I saw the idea in one of the articles and thought it was a good one. Another unique winter holiday is IllUUmination, celebrated by the UU church of Little Rock, Arkansas since 1994.

OK, I admit the first time I heard of it I thought it sounded really silly and contrived. There are some criticisms that it’s a rip-off of Hannukah, especially with the rough similarity of the name, but if you’re going to go that route, accuse Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa first. Kwanzaa bears more of a resemblance to Chalica, with its focus on a different set of seven principles, the Nguzo Saba. Some UU congregations do observe Kwanzaa, particularly if they have more African-American members. However given how white our congregations tend to be, and the simple fact that few African-Americans grow up celebrating Kwanzaa, I don’t think it’s that common among UUs. Many Jewish UUs celebrate Hannukah, and Pagans and atheists/humanists celebrate the Winter or Summer Solstice with mythic or scientific slants as they prefer. I’ve also heard of Humanlight, a specifically Humanist* holiday, celebrated on December 23rd. Seriously, that name is worse than Chalica! Most atheist & humanist groups that I’m aware of stick with the solstice.

And yes, a lot of us still celebrate Christmas! It’s just as much are holiday as it is for all the “proper” Christians. Heck, it was a Unitarian, Charles Dickens who single-handedly re-invented the holiday for the English-speaking world with his book, A Christmas Carol. Before that, it was like 12 days of Mardi Gras, and the Puritans banned it both in Britain and the American colonies when they ran things! Dickens re-oriented it towards family and charity for the poor. My church, Unity Unitarian is waaay into Christmas, we even have an extra hymnal for carols that the UUA took out of the official hymnal ‘cuz they were too old-school! We even have a traditional pageant, with Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels. I haven’t been to it yet.

Come to think of it, I wonder if it would be better for Chalica to be celebrated at a different time of year with less holidays. Christmas, Winter/Summer Solstice, Hannukah and Kwanzaa are all valid holidays for UUs to celebrate. Our calendar is already so lop-sided, and we only have two other uniquely UU celebrations of Flower & Water Communion. I think we could in general use some more liturgical “oomph” for both of these.

*Trust me, there’s a difference between capital H ones and lowercase ones.

References & Resources:

UU World– Chalica

The Examiner- Chalica

Chalica Info

The Chalica song (if it has a song, then it’s a real holiday!)

A better Chalica song (amazing how he fits in those long-winded principles!)

Why Do We (UUs) Have So Many Winter Holidays? Sermon by Rev. Amy Zucker Morganstern

The ghosts of Unitarian Christmas

How to celebrate Humanlight

November 13, 2014 at 10:32 am Leave a comment


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