Festibond 2007

Festibond 2007 was a tremendous success. We all agree it was much better than Christmas and are eagerly anticipating the next one. In fact, we are considering making Festibond a semiannual family tradition.


Waiting to give gifts

Christmas, at least as it is celebrated in the United States, is a secular holiday. Santa Claus with his magic flying reindeer, the hanging of bright strings of lights, baked goodies, gluttonous consumerism, snowpeople, decorated indoor pine trees, sending greeting cards to rarely thought-of friends and family in distant locales, and spending time with family have almost nothing to do with the humble birth of precious baby Jesus. It is, quite simply, a secular holiday observed with silly traditions and symbols few people understand. Despite this obvious fact, many people consider it a religious holiday and, as an atheist, I wanted to distance myself from it as much as possible. Opting-out was an easy and natural decision for me. Kirsten, however, struggled with letting it go. She remembers fondly her childhood Christmas celebrations and wanted our girls to have similar memories. After many discussions we decided to let Christmas go and invent our own celebration and associated traditions.


Hayley reads her messages

Initially we referred to our new celebration as “The Danley Family Holiday Celebration”. Yeah, that’s like, way too long. One of our primary goals was to create a celebration that would unite the family. Therefore, Kirsten coined the term “Festibond” for our collection of traditions. So far, it has stuck.

We didn’t want the girls to be teased at school for being different or feel gypped because they weren’t getting presents like all the other kids. Our intention, therefore, was to make Festibond cooler than Christmas. This meant we were going to have gifts and we would do it before December 25th. Kirsten and I had many long discussions about what we wanted to do, what we wanted to avoid doing, and the lessons we wanted to teach the girls. We also had several family meetings to get feedback and ideas from the sisters. It was important that the gifts we would give each other would be small; that we would emphasize giving over getting; and that everything planned would foster love, appreciation, and cooperation.

The best idea came from Kirsten. She brilliantly suggested each person write a letter to each other member of the family. The letter was to include expressions and examples of why we love, appreciate, and respect the person to whom the letter was written.

At mid-morning on December 24th we ate at our favorite breakfast restaurant, Eggspectation, in South Portland. As usual, the food was excellent. After brunch we went to the mall for some last minute shopping before heading home. Kirsten, Hayley, and I had to finish our letters and Hayley had to wrap the present she had gotten for Kirsten earlier at the mall.


Skye and Hayley hug

For the gift portion of our Festibond we sat on the floor of the girls’ bedroom, each of us next to the small pile of gifts we would be giving. On someone’s turn they would first read their letter, give a hug to the recipient, and give them the gift. After the recipient opened the gift they would hug the giver again and place the gift somewhere out of the way. Then the giver would give their next gift following the same pattern until all their gifts had been given and it was the next person’s turn to give their gifts. This went on, of course, until each member had given all their gifts and read all their notes. When it was over we each had an envelope of letters we had received from the other family members. It was indescribably heartwarming to listen to the girls read their thoughtful, sincere, genuine, and immensely kind letters.


Jenna and Hayley hug

For the remainder of the day we played together and snacked on candy, cheese, crackers, and a Hickory Farms Beef Stick. It was a wonderful celebration that I’m sure we’ll each remember for a very long time. Festibond is unique and it is ours. I’m sure our observance of Festibond will evolve, and that’s okay. It will always be ours and always be exactly the way we want it to be. That, I think, is a very cool thing.

17 thoughts on “Festibond 2007”

  1. Your holiday sounds so much more meaningful than what so many have boiled xmas down to. Seriously, people get way too into the gifts, get stressed out, and then utterly destroy the holiday for themselves. Instead of enjoying the time with friends or family, they end up with a new ulcer. I congratulate you and your family for being different, and coming up with your own tradition.

  2. Thank you, DJ. I agree. The holidays have become so convoluted and stressful. My mom works at a department store in Denver. She told me a lady was in at the last minute buying more gifts because her sister, she had learned, had gone over the agreed upon amount. This lady didn’t want to be outdone so she was reciprocating. Yeah, that’s just fucking stupid.

    We didn’t remove the parts of Christmas we don’t like, we removed EVERYTHING and added back the few parts we do enjoy. Our celebration is simple, small, and much more meaningful.

    Thanks for stopping by from TheRhetoric.COM :)

  3. This was a great idea. The girls look so happy. I wish you and your family many more happy Festibonds. Hickory Farms – Yummy!

  4. what a brilliant idea! your photos showed that it was obviously a huge success…if the girls’ friends found out about it, they’d all be very jealous i’m sure!

    what? a joyous and meaningful celebration without the need for a god figure? get outta here!!

  5. Great post, Brent. I agree, our “Festibond” was awesome. I really enjoyed it and I know the girls did too. I was impressed and touched with the sweet and thoughtful things they had to say about each of us. I’m looking forward to the next one!

  6. I forgot to mention…

    We told the girls Santa Claus isn’t real. Hayley didn’t want to believe us. Skye, who has played “the elf” in years past, tried to convince her using simple logic.

    Skye: You don’t believe in magic, right?

    Hayley: No.

    Skye: Well, it takes magic to make the reindeer fly, right?

    Hayley: No. They use the roofs of the houses like little runways to take off.

    Hayley was a good Santa apologist. Her faith was ultimately shattered when Skye revealed that it was her who had been eating the cookies and drinking the milk.

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