Yule. It’s little more than a week away. But I’m willing to bet most of you don’t even know what it is – other than an alternative word for Christmas. It’s a lot more though, I promise you.
When the early Christians were out shopping for a day to celebrate Christmas they chose December 25th because it coincided with the Pagan celebration of Yule. Hoping for a great many converts from the old ways, they thought that usurping the high holy day of another faith was a good call. Meh. Not so much. I have to admit though, it does give me a bit of a chuckle when I hear complaints of how secular Christmas has become, or how awful it is that non-Christians have usurped their holy day.
There are a lot of Pagans who hold a little bitterness over the theft of our celebration. Everything from the tree, to the star, to the holly, to the gifts, to caroling, and more… these were all Pagan symbols and rituals. However, I don’t think it’s worth the anger. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before, but I generally believe anger to be a wasted emotion. I’d prefer to exert my energies in a positive way. If you’d like to read a great little piece that talks about some of the early world’s December celebrations visit http://www.religioustolerance.org/winter_solstice0.htm – and the writer presents everything in such a way as to give equal weight to all celebrations.
Having been raised Pentecostal (fundamentalist Christian for those who don’t know. Borrow Jesus Camp from your local library to see Pentecostals in action – some call it crazy, but growing up from within the Church it was the way it was, it was our normal), my extended family all celebrate Christmas. And I didn’t seek another path until I was 18, having always just accepted our faith as truth. Now though, I happily celebrate both the original celebration of Yule and a turkey-day version of Christmas.
Some members of my extended family don’t really understand my choice to celebrate the Solstice… and one in particular who self-identifies as Christian (but who has never been a church goer and doesn’t celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas) can’t seem to help but give me flack about it. Snide comments in regards to our inability to wait to open gifts until the 25th really do hurt when they come from someone you love. But it is what it is. Generally I really love that we get to celebrate both holidays. For us, the celebrations last from December 21st through December 26th… which is fabulous!
On the Solstice we (my immediate family) go on a tour of holiday lights, and exchange gifts, we eat, we drink, we enjoy the spirit of the season just the three of us knowing the rest of the world is on high stress trying to get ready for the 25th. It’s a fabulous day and night that is just full to the brim with love.
On Christmas Eve my parents host an annual holiday party for old friends and some family. We eat a TON of food (all finger foods)! We play games, we laugh, we drink home made eggnog (I made some last year, and at request will be doing so again this year… and likely every year after that). It’s just a great way to say goodbye to the craziness that often fills the couple of weeks leading up to this day.
On the 25th the wee girlie will awaken to find her stocking full of treats and little trinkets and toys. Then, bright and early, we’ll head to my parents place again for hours of presents. We unwrap one at a time, taking turns “playing santa” by picking the next gift. With 12 people there, we really do spend hours opening gifts and sharing in one anothers surprises. We’ll stop every so often to eat leftovers from the night before, and to make a fresh pot of coffee. And then it will be time to open packages, insert batteries, plug new gadgets in, and play together.
Boxing day (for those outside Canada, that’s the 26th) all the Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Great Grandparents and sometimes more all gather for our big holiday dinner. Everyone brings something. And we also play a white elephant gift exchange game – all vying for whatever the best gifts were that year and trying to avoid the booby prizes (for a few years in a row, a half used tube of toothpaste kept finding it’s way back into the game). Trading and laughing until whomever set the rules for the game that year says “enough”. And we all giggle over who got what. Games, desserts, visiting, and more laughter… followed by major clean-up.
Yep. I love all of our traditions – Christmas AND Yule. And the fact that the beginnings of our celebrations are a week away has me awfully excited. So whatever you celebrate during this season of darkness, however you celebrate the Sun’s rebirth, I hope it comes with many blessings for you and yours. No matter what we celebrate, we should celebrate with tolerance, acceptance, and love… for no matter what our beliefs, we share the journey that is humanity.