Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It is NOT Christmas yet!

"Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe."
 - Christopher Moore, "The Stupidest Angel"

The quote is what has been coming to mind, and the title is what I've been yelling from the day before October all the way up to Thanksgiving. At the sight of every prematurely hung garland, and upon passing by houses which traded pumpkins for light-up lawn elves weeks ago, I have shook my fist like a cantankerous old fart in defiance of the Christmas spirit. I finally stepped back and admitted defeat after two events: 1. The arrival of the December issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, and 2. The annual hunt for, and decorating of, the perfect outdoor Christmas tree with my husband and father-in-law. And these, I think, have been the only two things keeping me sane this November/December. 

All of this comes down to one question that has set up camp in my brain this winter: Should I celebrate Christmas? Now, when I say Christmas, I am in fact referring to two holidays. One is the religious one, and one that I've never really celebrated in the first place. When I was younger I enjoyed setting up our manger scene, and as I got older I enjoyed corrupting the manger scene ("Lauren, why are all the figures looking at Mary? Isn't it cool, mom? I made Catholicism!" For those of you playing the home game, Jesus in the middle is Christianity, a tree is paganism, nothing is Unitarianism, the cow is Hinduism, Joseph is freemasonry, and the sheep is a cult.). Still, I've never actually sat down and prayed for the holiday, and never have celebrated the birth of the savior. No. My family and I celebrate the second Christmas - the commercial holiday. We use the time for family, food, and gifts. I'm all for the family and food. Food is a given. :) But I'm not so sure about the gift thing anymore.
Matilda Jane (aka: Tilly) hunting for trees.

Gift giving is an art - what you get, where you get it, how you wrap it, who gets it, etc. This year I'm having difficulty on all fronts. I especially have trouble with this universal expectation that I am supposed to give gifts, but even more, the expectation that I'm supposed to ask for gifts. After leaving the realm of childhood, the whole tradition has become strange to me. Not to mention, when I sit there around the Christmas tree and open present after present of stuff, I start to get pretty mean. I get slightly miffed wondering what I'm going to do with large badger head. Then it slowly turns to angry when I think, "I spend all year giving my stuff away to the Goodwill store! I've finally gotten rid of it and now I'm have to clean again!" I think the spirit of giving is lost on me. 

So if I'm not going to celebrate the commercial or the religious, then what will I celebrate? Yule is definitely there, but I'm trying to create Yule traditions from scratch. I need help. For those of you who celebrate Yule, what kinds of traditions to you have for your family? Where do you find good Yule music outside the Mediaeval Baebes? And where in gods' names do you find Yule cards that don't just say "Happy Holidays"? And for those of you who celebrate Christmas with family and another holiday on your own, how do you mix the two?

These are all in addition to the question I asked my mom a few years ago: "Mom, why do we celebrate Jesus' birth?" "Because he was a good person who helped other people." "...Then how come we don't celebrate Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday? He was a good person too." "Fine then! Fine! Go celebrate HIS birthday! I don't care! You won't need any presents this year then!" ...I add to holiday stress levels.


SpiritWings said...

I so understand where you are coming from! As a kid Christmas was about getting out of school for a week, the presents, and the food. There was abit of religion thrown in but nothing that made Christmas..CHRISTmas to me. Now as an adult I still followed all the traditions that I was taught as a kid, but with a different outlook. (I have always been a spiritual person, just not one who could believe completely in the doctrine of the faith my parents grew up with.) So when I put up my x-mas tree, I decorate it with my favorite ornaments along with ones that I feel represent Yule. When shopping for cards, I look for ones that don't say Happy Holidays but, one's that wish my family a happy and wonderful season. When I decorate inside the house I make sure to add things that will represent Yule for me.(I like to look for crafty things to do with pine cone and all natural things that remind me of the season) I will make a special Yule meal and have a gift (something small but representative of Yule) to hand out. We will still open the rest of the gifts on Christmas and celebrate with the rest of the family. But what I am celebrating while I gather with them is the joy and love that surrounds me, and the happiness of special moments shared.
As for different ideas, I love the Google page!!! but honestly, there are so many people who blog about their idea's and traditions about Yule, you will find something that rings true to you and start to include it in your on holiday. Blessings!!

Heathen said...

I have to agree with SpiritWings. Forget about the "right" way to celebrate and blend Christmas and Yule together in whatever way seems natural to you. Let's not forget that most of the Christmas traditions were originally pagan traditions for Yule. I don't celebrate Christmas in the religious aspect, but I still love the Christmas songs; especially the gospel tinged ones. I decorate for the Season and celebrate on both Yule and Christmas. Also, check pagan stores (there are a lot online) for Yule cards and music.

Faerie Sage said...

I know how you feel about the commercialism, I have taken a homemade for the holidays pledge, nothing bought, NOTHING, homemade or bust. I am encouraging others to do the same, if you don't have the time I say at least buy handmade from artisans. I also have to say SpiritWings is right blend Christmas and Yule, and do things the way that feels right for you. There are so many 'Christmas' things that have second meanings or you can create traditions and meanings for things yourself. I myself mutter blessings over all the Christmas food I cook/bake. Join me in the homemade/handmade challenge and do what feels right!

Mrs BC said...

I also like to mix things to my personal blend - the social tradition and the pagan one. Being eclectic I'm used to making my own way anyways! It's tougher this year as our 6 year old has just finished his fist year at catholic school so is just fully jeebers out, which is bringing a new dimension to our family christmas! I always make sure we have a real tree though..

Teresa said...

Everyone who's left a comment have some pretty great ideas!

This is my first season celebrating as a Pagan, so I'm pretty much looking at starting my own traditions. It's hard to find 'Yule' music, so I'm going to listen to the myriad of Christmas CDs I have . . . I love the music so why not enjoy it? I'm going to be celebrating the Winter Solstice out at Circle Sanctuary near Barneveld . . . they have a nice program planned. I'm also going to be burning the 'ol Yule log, one that I'm making from scratch, and I'm cooking up some homemade potpourri as I write this (check out my blog for a couple of recipes).

I'm with you on the whole gift thing . . . it just seems like you give one gift to get one back. I've explained to my family that I'd rather not have gifts (I've tried this in the past too) and that I'm not giving gifts. I'd rather celebrate the 'meaning' of the season than get caught up in gift-mania. I think eventually they'll get the idea.

In the end you have to do what feels right and gives your celebrating significance . . . you can't go wrong if you follow your heart.

Merry Yule!

Blessed Be,
Embracing My Goddess-Self