I hope everyone had a lovely and blessed Yule over the last few days! Now it’s time to make way for other holidays and possibly some time with friends and family as they celebrate their seasonal festivals. Many of us Pagans and Witches will still gather around a tree in the name of Christmas this Sunday and exchange gifts and break bread with our loved ones. Please do this in the true spirit of the holiday, the spirit of love, peace, joy, and kindness. Your spiritual differences do not need to keep you away from your loved ones at a time of year like this. While I know there are some among you that can’t do this because of serious issues with family who disapprove of your chosen path, just know that by NOT adding fuel to that fire on your side of things will at least give you more peace this holiday season.
We all have a path to walk and most of the year we talk about wanting to that through understanding and learning to coexist. This can be a tough thing to achieve but if it is your goal and thing that is most in your heart, you’re at least striving for the highest and best. You can only do what you can to make it happen; remember you’re not the only one involved so you don’t have to be the only one to make an effort toward change.
It saddened me to see a few times on Facebook this year that some Pagans got upset at the thought of other Pagans celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah with their families. I heard things like “Yule is your holiday, do not bow to Christians.” I have seen Pagans get upset at the thought that another Pagan would wish someone a “Merry Christmas” rather than a “Merry Yule” or simply “Happy Holidays”. Oh, to long for the days when your holiday greetings weren’t being picked apart and analyzed for possible derision.
Personally I think it’s a matter of kindness to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” if it is Christmas that they celebrate. You know how (some of) you get upset that people wish you “Merry Christmas” in a presumptive way? Consider that when you’re wishing everyone a “Merry Yule”. Don’t create a double standard.
The holidays always remind us that the Pagan community is so full of opinions, varied views, and its own level of dogma. If you really feel that by celebrating Christmas with your families that you’re somehow offending the Gods then you may need to rethink your Gods. You may need to rethink this path your on. And you may need to rethink why you are on the oath you’re on.
Being on a spiritual journey should be about making you a better person, an enlightened person, a more fulfilled person. Using it to create dividing lines among friends and family is exactly the opposite of what it should do. And for many of us we say that this is the very reason we came to this path and chose to be Witches and Pagans; there was this idea that Pagans were more open minded and that this was a path that was more willing to embrace differences and that made us happy after maybe growing up in more exclusive spiritual paths. Yet we often find that we fall into similar traps but because it’s in the name of the Goddess or the Ancient Ones it’s somehow more justifiable.
The truth is, it isn’t.
The fact is that the holidays are a confusing time for many Pagans. There is that question of “Do I still honor the holidays I was raised with,” for those of us that weren’t raised Wiccan, Pagan, etc. Personally I think the answer is both simple and complicated, depending on your personal situation, but not nearly as complicated as we make it.
Remember, first and foremost, this is a time for family!
Before the Christian co-opting of Pagan winter traditions, the main focus of the winter solstice season was about gathering with friends and family as well as to honor the awesomeness of the Gods. This honoring of the Gods was because there was this belief that if they didn’t honor the Gods with their rituals of lighting fires and whatnot that the Sun wouldn’t return and they would be shroud in cold and darkness forever. Because of this families and whole villages gathered together to spend time with each since, in all honesty, there was a level of boredom to deal with. These were people that spent a lot of time working outdoors all year and when winter came for many people that meant sitting inside with little to do.
But think back to Samhain. One of the things that were honored at Samhain was the process of divining who would live and who would die during the winter. Winter was a time of small means for many and when your Samhain harvests of roots and meats came in that’s all you had for the winter season and, quite often, there was the risk of there not being enough to make it through those months. At Yuletime people would come together to celebrate and honor one another since there was a chance that in a month or two they might not all be together since some may have passed away from cold, hunger, disease, etc.
So this was a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate having made it this far. With that they would do their acts of offering and sympathetic magick to hope for a safe rest of the season and a quick return of the Sun. Obviously today we don’t have those same worries, at least for the majority of us. But keep in mind that these were the reasons that people got together like they do and clearly we enjoy it and need it to some extent because in our modern world of abundance and convenience, we still do this!
Be a shining example of Paganism during the holiday.
And by that I mean show love, honor, and respect, “perfect love and perfect trust” if you will, to those around you of other faiths and persuasions. You don’t have to use the holidays as a time to do spiritual battle with those that don’t agree or don’t understand your faith. This is a special and sacred time for you as well as them. Give them the space that you wish them to give you to honor spiritually as you wish while still being able to enjoy each other’s company for the holiday. In other words, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
It’s really that simple. Just enjoy yourself. Enjoy your friends and family. Be thankful for what you have, even if it’s less than you’ve had in the past. Know that you will have more again in the future. Remember that it’s not just about what you call the holiday or what God you’re honoring but about who you have to spend it with.
So to answer that question, “Do I still celebrate the holidays I grew up with even though I’m now a Pagan”…
The answer, for me, is yes. The answer for you may be no, but when you make that decision be sure you know really why you’re making that choice and be sure that you know what that might do to those around you. Is it just that you’re going to forgo midnight mass or are you going to pass on all Christmas activities with your family? Why? Are you doing this just because you feel you need to take a stand or make a point or are there other reasons? Be sure you know why you have chosen to say no to those things.
But for, it’s a yes. I still see my family, attend dinners and parties with them, and give a few gifts. My family knows of my chosen path and they don’t make me go to church or lay guilt on me for that. And for that I am grateful since I know not everyone has that experience. But if I were to say “I can’t attend Christmas dinner because I’m Pagan” would be more painful and cause more problems than for me to go, sit at the table, eat dinner and share in conversation with my family. It’s about honor and respect and that goes both ways.
And with that I leave you with this classic by Dar Williams and I wish you a wonderful holiday season, whatever it is you’re going to celebrate and however you decide to do it.