Xmas and Feminine Wisdom by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


Katherine-Skaggs-1029.ABUNDANCE-ANGELI am not fond of Christmas and these holidays are very difficult for me to deal with. This has nothing to do with me being a Muslim. I have been a Grinch before this. I do not like excessive noise or crowds of people. It bothers me especially the excess, the lack of meaning and loud claims for kindness and mercy to decorate our lives for few days. This year is proving particularly hard for me.

Experiences of 2015 have forced me to question the paradigms under which I had lived until now. Life is suing me for an extra effort of introspective, growth and openness and that can be painful at times. A few weeks ago, I was venting my sorrows and doubts to my mother. I told her that the last thing I wanted to do was install a Xmas tree. She looked at her own Xmas tree full of golden balls and said:

“You know why I like Christmas trees? You were born a week before Pinochet’s coup. That year, the Dictatorship forbade people to buy, sell or cut pines trees under punishment, which ruined our Xmas, since plastic ones were very expensive. I built a tree for you at home, made of brass and wood. The center was a broomstick and the branches of wire. I cut leaves from empty cans of milk. I lost a child before you came to my life. And you were born in a country that suddenly lost freedom. I could not deny you hope. The Christmas tree has been my way to convey hope. That was my present.”

Listening to my mother, Christmas took on new meaning for me, a sacred dimension. I understand the sacred as those things, memories and spaces that are vital for us, all of what gives our lives meaning, purpose, reason and inspiration. I come from a family of women where husbands, brothers and male cousins are scarce. Joy, mourning, religion, knowledge or strength have been developed and shared from womb to womb.

Xmas is the temperance of my grandmother heading the table, handing out chocolate and cookies. Women and girls alone, keeping the joy up despite fear, because fathers and husbands had been caught for the curfew at work, the university or the pub, and they won´t be coming that night.

Xmas is the strength with which my aunt hugged me one Xmas Eve during the 80’s, with all the lights, except those of the tree, off. Lying on the floor in silence, while we listened to the sound of military boots and rifles, chasing people on the street.

Xmas is the faith of my friend whose son was lost at sea on the 23d of December, 15 years ago. She still waits for him and her tree is each year crowned with a picture of the boy, instead a star; and her energy to move forward with her life.

Xmas was the discovery of love and my first letter to declare it. 25 years later, I still write the same, because love is timeless.

Xmas is the endurance to face a prejudiced and orthodox society, when you’re pregnant and unmarried at age 17 attending Xmas Eve’s Mass.

Xmas is the sentiment of sisterhood of your sister and female cousins, posing their hands nicely on your 8.5 months pregnant belly, promising unconditional love and caring to the new girl to come, saying she is not yours, but OURS.

Xmas is the enthusiasm of my daughter at age 8, cutting paper angels for a garland to hang above her bed to ensure she would receive the gift she dreamed. This was not always possible so Xmas was also the honesty to talk about that.

Xmas is all the books I have received this month by post, expressions of feminist friendship worldwide- a beautiful, powerful network of which I am part.

There is a verse in the Quran, in Chapter 4 called “Women” that says: “and remember the wombs…” which has taken on new meaning along with this reflection. To “remember the wombs” is not only to respect women as part of creation, but also to honor the ties that bind us as women through those gifts of wisdom. Also, it means we should never forget our divine origin in the body of a woman and where we came from: Who were the women who fed us, loved us, cared for us, advised us, protected us and cherished us and how they have influenced our life experiences? It is a reflection that seems appropriate to make at the end of the year.

If Christmas is a celebration to remember God’s will for humanity, I have to say that for me, it is a perfect occasion to celebrate the sacred wisdom of women in my life and honor the divine gifts they have given me over the years. Looking back at my experiences, I have come to believe that the Divine lives within us. The greatest miracles of Xmas I’ve witnessed in my life come from the spiritual strength of my community of women. From the women in my life, the women I love, those women of all ages, past and present, God’s gift revealed through them for me, in this Xmas, is called RESILIENCE.

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Muslim Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam in Latin America on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities.

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Categories: Christmas, Faith, Feminism

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25 replies

  1. So beautiful! Thank you!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your personal experience of Christmas, Vanessa. You sum up the meaning of Christmas for me in your sentence: “Looking back at my experiences, I have come to believe that the Divine lives within us.”

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  3. I, too, have been feeling alienated this year from the mostly commercial spirit of Xmas exhibited all around me and all the Xmas music that I don’t resonate with anymore. Your post has reminded me of all the sacred times I’ve shared around this time of year, Vanessa, with family and friends and how it’s really, for me, about the deepening into winter’s dark time, searching within for the depths of strength and courage to continue moving forward. Another round along the spiral of life. Thank you.

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    • Sometimes the environment give us a narrow frame where to locate our experiences. I feel alienated for what Xmas it means to be: presents, excess, too much noise and colors, etc. However I have come to re-create it for me and make it an ocassion for a special memories and reflect how they have impacted my life.

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  4. I don’t know why i read your post. I usually don’t have tome to read any. This was a gift; I hate the commercial frenzy of Christmas, a holiday I see as devoid of depth and meaning, but your post so sweetly demonstrates a meaning.

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  5. What a beautiful reflection, Vanessa, thank you. I so appreciate that your mom shared with you the meaningfulness Christmas has for her and that you share it with us, May the depth of her words and yours ripple into the hearts of many and call us all to more meaningful reflection and action this holiday season. Thank you.

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  6. Vanessa, how beautiful. Thank you. I too stay out of stores from November until mid-January. It is all just too much. And my fondest memory of Christmas is when all we had was a thorn bush with hand made decorations, and we gathered together, singing Christmas carols until dawn.

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  7. I think this is one of my favorite posts you have written. Completely lovely. Please give your mom a big hug from me!

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  8. Tu naturalidad de expresarte es magistralmente admirable,ello hace para el/la lectxr una forma de empatía a lo que sentimentalmente expresas en el articulo,personalmente me ha llegado de una forma totalmente “intima”y”familiar”;bella reflexión.

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  9. Christmas is memories of mothers and grandmothers, food and care and love.

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  10. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for this!

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  11. My loss of interest in Christmas also came before my embrace of Islam. Now with a multi-faith family and grandchildren whose parent celebrate at different levels I have had to rethink it again. Nothing so moving as your womb to womb story but still I will take it as one way to remember it means different things to different people and we have to make our own peace with it aslo again and again…

    thanks for sharing and please give a hug to your mom… .That story was so powerful. Blessed be!

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    • I will hug her in your name. An interfaith family is a rich source of learning I think. I made my own family to become interfaith when i embraced Islam and even when I preffer to withdraw of all the madness of xmas and new year I am trying to find new meanings to meet around in these seasonal holidays and I am liking it. Love to you.

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  12. Dear Vanessa,

    Thank you so much for this authentic, moving Christmas reflection. I too have disengaged from the capitalistic Christmas kisch. I now practice Advent which teaches me the importance of waiting and gets me in touch with my deepest longings.
    May you be blessed with peace and joy.
    Robin

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    • Welcome Robin. I am very interested in knowing how women are transforming the meaning of holy-days in behalf of their own spiritual growing, enlightment and empowerment. There´s a wisdom there and an exercise of decolonization and seeking for autonomy from the narratives we have been told. Have a nice Advent and may it would be fruitful for you

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