Winter and Christmas

Somehow it’s December already. The Wheel of the Year moves inexorably around, the Earth turns through its orbit around the Sun, and we are almost at the end of one cycle and the start of another. We have almost made it, and by the Winter Solstice, we here in the Northern Hemisphere will be halfway out of the dark once more.

This time of year can be a wonderful time, and a difficult time, for Druids and Pagans. Wonderful because many of the traditions and symbols of the season we are now surrounded with either have genuinely ancient Pagan roots, or if not, at the very least feel Pagan. Pine trees, holly, mistletoe, candles and warming fires, feasts and hot mulled wine.

Cultures around the entire world and at every point in human history have celebrated the return of the light at the Winter Solstice and this celebration doesn’t belong to any one religion or one community, it is part of our shared human experience, so enjoy it!

At the same time, this can be a difficult time. The dominance of the Christian festival of Christmas can leave those of other faiths, and of no faith, out in the cold. To explain that you don’t actually celebrate Christmas, you maybe celebrate Yule, or Alban Arthan, or something else, or nothing, is to out yourself as an other, to invite further questions or pitying looks.

Christmas shouts, and it shouts with two voices, proclaiming the doctrines of Christianity with one and the commandments of consumerism with the other. To Pagans who have neither the religious inclination to celebrate the mythical birth narrative of a 1st century Jewish preacher, nor the greed and selfishness of the capitalist overculture of buying more and more things we don’t need, Christmas leaves little room to breathe.

And for all its modern secularity, Christmas remains for many a religious festival, and one to the exclusion of others. The “war on Christmas” propaganda in US media and denunciations of Paganism by Popes and pastors proves this. For many Pagans who come from Christian families, this is a time that reinforces that division, that separation.

The same is true for many in the LGBTQ+ community. For all that the dominant narrative of Christmas is one of home and family, there are many people who, for many reasons, do not, cannot have this experience.

It’s OK to reject the standard narrative – to celebrate something else your way, with friends, with found family, with yourself, with the land and the sea and the sky. It’s OK to not participate in earth-destroying consumerism. It’s OK to not sing Christmas carols. It’s OK to not go home for the holidays, if home is not safe and welcoming. It’s OK to know your own boundaries and your own will.

Whatever you do, this time of year is time for you. Time to recover, to reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead. Time to rest, and breathe, and feel the faint sunlight and know that in the midst of darkness, the light will return.

9 thoughts on “Winter and Christmas

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  1. This is an excellent post.

    I must say I’m enjoying the tendency of North America to say “Happy Holidays” and refer to the upcoming festivities as “the holidays”.

    But it’d be nice if people could remember what our festivals are called and wish us a merry [specific festival]. My particular pet hate is people saying “oh I suppose I can’t wish you a happy Christmas” — well they could, if they must, or they could learn to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Yule”.

    Anyway I wish you a blessed Alban Arthan and a Merry Yule!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I made a happy holidays whiteboard in the library I work for the students, with all the different midwinter festivals from different cultures and religions – I think it’s important to show not only that you’re “inclusive” but that you make the effort to learn what people celebrate, so I completely agree!

      I did have a very pointed “merry Christmas” hissed at me after wishing a colleague happy holidays the other day, so some people still don’t seem to get it.

      Merry Yule to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah “Happy Holidays” doesn’t seem to have caught on in the UK. It is slightly more common here.

        I sent out an email in my last job in the UK starting with Happy Holidays and wishing people a Merry entire list of midwinter festivals. Point entirely missed by most recipients, except atheist boss with Pagan wife.

        Liked by 1 person

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