top of page

New Year

There are measures of time during the course of life when things just do not fall into place. Often so overwhelming one can not help but have a metaphorical perception of being crucified.

The year 2023 was just that. A perfect storm of unfortunate events beyond my control.

As always putting my best foot forward before morning light I managed and got on with it.

Unusual weather patterns and wind storms destroyed my greenhouse, high temperatures and lack of rain lead to a historic drought in Galicia and to finish the year off, a huge fire destroyed the surrounding mountain scape disrupting day to day operations for several weeks once it was completely extinguished.

The greenhouse will be replaced. The weather patterns are uncontrollable, we simply just adapt. The fire was intentional, now we are aware of our surroundings more than usual.

But one thing nearly crushed me. I had to accept my little girl is not so little anymore.


Days of Yule

Once children stop believing in Santa Clause some of the magic of the season goes away.

There is no best behaviour. There are no surprised looks when strategically placed gifts around the home suddenly appear. When the advent calendar seems like a chore and there is no motivation to get a "jingle bell" in the everyday, I suppose a parent has to acknowledge that the magic of the the little lies that worked during the season has reached its end.

I have accepted that Candela has "grown up"

My girl is 12 years old... and yes, she no longer believes in Santa. Apparently for several years now.

I tried to hold on to the enchantment of the celebration last year when, with an eye roll, she told me she only believed in Santa because it made me happy. She was right it made me happy, I was holding on to the last year, months- days of her innocence, or so I thought.

This year we shook things up a bit after a failed attempt to travel to Faroe Island and spend the festive season amongst puffins and the Northern Lights. The volcanic eruption in Iceland was to blame or maybe thank for our new-found appreciation for the celebration of winter.

Candela now discovering and understanding tales of winters past, legends and myths from around the world I sugarcoated for her when she was younger, she is now mystified by the true legend of Krampus, Lads & Grýla and Frau Perchta and Yule thanks to my library lined with Joseph Campbell books and lots of literary folklore. Often believed sordid tales, we have gained a fresh connection to a more meaningful festive observance during the longest night of the year. YULE.

Living in rural Galician lands with Celtic tales and Viking legends that came to shore and have evolved into Galician Folklore an/ or modern day paganism, we decided to forgo the twinkles and baubles and celebrate the winter solstice as it was meant to be observed. Candela, the one person I learned to see things differently since my knowledge of her existence growing in my womb, re-ignited the joy of the season for me with curiosity, questions and conversation from her.

Her name meaning "Candle Flame" she chose what resonated most to her while asking how I celebrated the season so long, long ago.

My answer: we didn't celebrate christmas. My then family dynamic was peculiar in New York City. There was no tree, no merriment, no presents. Most of the time a new crips one hundred dollar bill was given to each of us to spend as we wished. It was just an ordinary day. My answer lead to more "grownup" questions from her and the connection to my now pre-teen girl has a foundation as she continues her life path towards adulthood.


The winter solstice begins with Capricorn the ruling zodiac sign... A Goat

21 December to 19 January.




The goat throughout history and mentioned in mythology is an enchanted horned creature. A symbol of wealth and fertility, strength and resilience, adaptable and strong with menacing pointed horns.

The horns often believed to be that of satan.


Goats and Christmas

Krampus the birch branch wielding demon who beats children who misbehave is symbolic of the goat.

The Entroido, the first carnaval in many regions of Spain, after the new year before the Epiphany, with otherworldly personalities and events and ceremonies all have a goat.

The Spanish Legion has a goat for a mascot.

El Hierro in the Spanish Archipelago just recovered a ceremony of the goat named "Los Carneros De Tigaday".



 

Carneros De Tigaday

Men dress in sheep's clothing heads covered with ram horns, cowbells tied to their waist and their face, legs and arms are smeared in black.

Accompanied by a shepherd, "El Loco" who makes squeaking noises by dragging chains and a machete across the ground. El Loco unleashes the El Carnero and it charges towards the crowd of spectators to rip a piece of clothing from them and smearing their face black.

A surreal beast, the ethos of ancestral fear of demons crossing the fine line between the world and otherworldly.

Toward the end of the menacing acts of the Carnero de Tigaday, it is symbolically hunted, killed and buried until its next resurrection during a long winters night.


 

The Shofar is a rams horn known to be used during special religious purposes and Shabbat. Also used for announcing the New Moon. It is often substituted by the horns from a goat.

"What is the deal with the goat" was Candelas question. The Goat means lots of things to lots of different people according to what they believe, but sadly, it has its demise. The Yule Goat sculpture is burned at the hearth for a wish to come true. The Carnero of Tigaday is symbolically hunted, killed and buried at the end of its annual ritual. The Spanish Legion's mascot is truly a food source, although not often executed, but there if ever the Legion runs out of provisions. At the end the goat always dies- except Krampus.

Although unclear of the origins of the Yule Goat, it is an animal representative in palaeolithic drawings to now modern day. The horns used as talismans throughout history for many tribes and cultures. The image and likeness of the goat used to frighten or protect depending on ones beliefs. A source of food to not go hungry when sustenance is scarce. Its fleece to keep one warm from harsh winters once sheered.



Yule Goat, Folk, Sculpture, Natures Material, Yule 2023
Folk Sculpture by Julissa Quesada

The Yule Goat

We have always had a goat ornament on our christmas tree since Candelas first Christmas in 2011. My reason was to symbolise a new beginning as a mother.

Although the origin of the Yule Goat

is not clear, it has always been very present all across Europe. In the late 19th to early 20th century immigrants in search of a better life in America introduced their customs to the continent. Each with its cultural variation but in conclusion symbolic for the same purpose.

I would always tell Candela the Yule Goat was Santa's backup in case the reindeer got tired. This year she rechristened its meaning to Strength as we wait for the spring because we never know what will happen.


Mōdraniht ( Mother's Night)- "What was grandma like?"

A loaded question whilst making every effort to be transparent and communicative with Candela after she called me out on all the little christmas lies throughout the years. I am ever so grateful to not have fallen victim to the cultish elf on the shelf shenanigans. The explaining of "WHY" of that elf would have taken a lifetime.

What was grandma like?-I owed it to her.

Grandma, my mother, was present as a mother but emotionally distant. Did not tell this to Candela. Instead... " We went to New York and grandma celebrated your second and her last christmas together in 2012. She even put up a tree with lots of lights, baubles and presents for you."

It was my mothers last christmas and although I knew her cancer was killing her, we spent 93 days together with conversations, explanations and finally a first and only blessing she had ever given me before she died. Telling me one thing to do that I live up to everyday. That one thing she told me is what keeps me going most times. And that one thing is what has helped me evolve as a person.

So in the spirit of Yule and trying to keep Pandoras Family Box closed until Candela is older, I shared the tale of Mōdraniht.

Christmas Eve is all about Mary. The virgin mother giving birth to Jesus. There are mangers everywhere we go in Spain and Candela is well aware of what it is all about although I have never displayed one in our home.

Mōdraniht is the night of mothers. We talked about mum and why Candela's middle name is a variation of hers as I with my paternal grandmother, Julia.

We discussed all their niceties to honor them and for Candela to be aware of them. She needs to know and remember who were the women in our family before her.

Sadly, I only have one candid photo of my mum I took on my second day during our stay at my childhood home. Sharing the one blessing she gave us we made a doll to represent grandma, (mum) as I relayed stories of their playtime together.



Mōdraniht (Mother's Night)

We recant the stories of our female ancestors who watch over us.

They help and their memories comfort us in times of need.


Where did the Rudolph come from?

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer is truly Ellen of Ways- The Deer Mother.



In a clearing in the vast frozen forest, all the animals from the biggest bear to the smallest mouse huddled together for warmth, the ice driving them from their winter slumber. The great bear declared that the sun needed to be brought back to the northern lands from the south, or all the animals would perish from the cold. This would take huge strength and courage. Only the Reindeer mother stood forward to take on this challenge. She was used to travelling vast distances and, with her branching antlers, could safely bring back the sun from the south. She set off through the forest and came across an old man as ancient as the woods in a cloak of evergreens carrying a large sack. The Deer Mother found the Sun Goddess in the southern lands, too exhausted to travel. Lowering her head the reindeer invited the Sun Goddess to travel with her back to the northern lands where she was so desperately needed. She climbed up into her antlers and away they flew to the north, bringing light and warmth back to the frozen lands.


In Conclusion

It is a fact being a parent is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever lived and am living. Although it sounds cliché, there is no manual and I have done this without a family member or my life long friends near. We live in a foreign country and in the woods and I wouldn't wish for things to be different.

I do not know it all, I make my mistakes and own up to them. Yes, at times I am exhausted and often times scared without flinching just to cope and feel in control. But this year, our celebration of Yule has brought us to a new level in our relationship with an understanding between us with open communication, admiration, respect, truth and wonder.... all that I ever wished for in this journey for me and my daughter. It's ok to just face the truth as I live forward to the end and she runs towards her beginning.


©2020-2024 NYC Artist In The Woods. All Rights Reserved.






6 Comments


Guest
Jan 21

Buenos dias, como te dije en el comentario de face, he estado leyendo tu nueva historia en tu blog, si he madrugado para hacerlo. Me he quedado helada leyendo lo ocurrido con tu mama y antes de nada , lo siento mucho, pero eres fuerte y seguro que lo superaras aunque nunca se olvida. Me gusta mucho la representacion de la muñeca y su significado,es fantastica. Y me alegra la complicidad entre ambas, eso procuro hacer yo con los mios, van creciendo y un dia te despiertas escuchando que papa noel o los reyes magos no existen, te dejan descolocadas, y tambien te das cuenta que de un dia para otro dejan de ser niños y empiezas de nuevo a…

Like
Replying to

gracias por tu mensaje, cariño y apoyo.

Like

Guest
Jan 21

I love this ❤️❤️❤️

Like
Replying to

So happy to know this. Thank you.

Like

Guest
Jan 20

Wow! First off ..you missed your calling! You should be a writer! Your fabulous. And while I've heard a lot of these legends you brought to.light many new things and I learned a lot. The wonderful gift God has given us is the ability to learn from our children and our grandchildren! Thanks for sharing!

Like