Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winter Holidays

It is almost September, which means we are slowly but surely making our way into late summer and early fall, at which time the fall and winter holidays will be thrust upon us (whether we like it or not).  Already I've seen Halloween decorations out in anticipation of "smart shoppers" grabbing the goods before the rest of America begins to prepare for the festivities.  It makes me a little sick-- I mean, come on, it's not really even September yet!-- and at the same time I'm incredibly giddy and excited, because I have to be honest, I'm a sucker for the holidays in the dark half of the year. Samhain? Totally psyched. Day of the Dead? Bring it on. Hanukkah?  It's been awhile, but I'm totally ready to spin some dreidels. Yule?  My knees are shaking with excitement.  And there are so many other holidays in the coming months that I haven't mentioned, from all kinds of different cultures.  I'm totally ready to spend the months celebrating!

Ready to party.




However, there is one particular holiday that I won't be celebrating, and that one is Christmas. Now, before everyone grabs their pitchforks and attempts to throw me out of the village, let me say this-- I harbor no ill towards Christmas.  I don't think that anyone should stop celebrating Christmas if they don't want to.  If you love Christmas, if it's part of your own traditions and beliefs, then celebrate to your heart's content, I encourage you to find joy and happiness in your winter holiday.  My reasons for not celebrating Christmas after 22 years of presents are my own, and I'm not trying to be a grinch. The fact is, last year when we attempted to celebrate the Sabbats, our plans were often abandoned in favor of the holidays I grew up with-- Easter and Christmas being the big ones-- and that was sort of expected. Old habits die hard.  I've spent my whole life celebrating these big Christian holidays, I mean, since before I can remember.  However, as I explore my own spiritual path away from Christianity, I've realized that for me, continuing to celebrate these holidays has taken away from celebrating the new ones.  I put more of my energy into the old holidays, and then I have no space in my brain for Yule, or Beltane or whatever holiday that comes up.  I don't think we even celebrated Yule last year-- it was more of a "Oh, it's the Winter Solstice today, Happy Yule!" as we scrambled to buy gifts we couldn't really afford with money we didn't really have for people who would love us even if we didn't get them gifts.



Of course, I think I'll miss the holiday sweaters the most...

For me, that's a disconnect between my words and my actions. I say I'm going to celebrate the sabbats, and then I make no time for them. It's the same with prayer. I say I'm going to give thanks every night before I go to sleep, and then I forget. And this causes a distance between me and the Divine, because I'm not giving it its due.  And really, it's the least I can do to say a prayer, light a candle, and eat some good grub in honor or the Divine and my ancestors, right?  It's not like it's a bummer to celebrate the Sabbats, it's actually fun!  But I have to devote time for it, to focus my emotional and physical energies towards it.  And that is why we are not celebrating Christmas this year, after much back and forth and debate.  Instead, we will be pouring our energies into having a festive and spiritual Winter Solstice.


Trees don't need to be cut down to be decorated!
The great thing about the solstice is that it encompasses a lot of the same imagery as other popular winter holidays-- snow, the concept of (re)birth, a celebration of the light, snow-covered trees, mistletoe, etc. The parts that don't fit are the santas and the nativity scenes (although there are probably still sort of nativity scenes involving the sun instead of... "The Son."). There will still be some gift giving (small, handmade, and meaningful), and there will still be music.  There will still be family time and holiday cheer and I will probably still watch Elf-- I mean, let's face it, who can resist Will Ferrell as an elf?!-- but instead of getting gifts from Santa and celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas day I will be giving gifts in honor of the Solstice and celebrating the rebirth of the sun and the slow transition from darkness to light, from winter to spring.  I'm really excited about it. Kourtney and I have been throwing around a few ideas, and we're thinking of doing the 12 days of Yule, but we're not sure yet, so stay tuned.  Perhaps we will find a good ritual that we want to adopt, or perhaps we will start from scratch and create our own traditions.  Who knows?  But I'm ready, and I'm excited!

Maybe we'll watch the sun rise....

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