Happy Thor’s Day. Also happy first day of Yuletide – Tonight is Mother’s Night which is a celebration to honor the goddesses Frigg, Freya and Disir. It marks the Winter Solstice eve. The official last day of the year in some Germanic and Celtic Traditions. Today we remind ourselves of the Virtues of Motherhood and Industriousness.
I had an awkward conversation at work about Christmas. Basically people wanted to do a secret Santa thing and to be honest I am way too broke for that right now. I basically said my religion is complicated. This post will drop on December 20th which is the first day of the twelve nights of Yule or Yuletide. This is a really complicated time for pagans in that different pagan traditions celebrate the end of the year in many ways. The Germanic, Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian traditions all get mixed up here in the united States, but most of what you see as far a traditional ‘Christmas’ is actually Yuletide symbols and traditions from those pagan traditions, mixed with a story about a baby in Bethlehem and presto – Christmas.
That said this holiday had a long-standing tradition before Christianity arrived, which is about ultimately a Celebration of the Winter Solstice and the rebirth of the sun.
My faith is complicated on this subject because to be quite honest one of the main reasons I say I am a pagan is so I can celebrate holidays with everyone else. I have no problem celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday at this time of the year along with Yuletide with the pagans. I look for the commonalities of faith in this holiday and in large part it is about final ending and starting the New Year. It is a season of hope and joy regardless of tradition and so that I can join in with my fellow humans and celebrate the end of the year and the rebirth of the new one.
The pagan traditions that survive at this time of year are quite extensive, from decorating trees, to the yule log to Christmas carols. Kissing under the mistletoe is a favorite of mine. The resurrection theme in Christmas is just as prevalent in the idea of the resurrection of the sun only Christians will talk about the future resurrection of the son of God. Gift giving predates Christianity as does holly and even fruit cake,
I find the fact that the whole twelve days of Christmas thing is actually a response to the twelve nights of yule. The actual tradition is very complicated but I found a good web page on Nordic Wiccan about it called The 12 Nights of Yule. Next year I may do a series about this holiday marking each of the twelve days as I find the whole thing fascinating. I am kind of new to this pagan thing, so I am still learning and the more I learn the more I enjoy the mythology behind it all.
I suppose the real powers that be don’t mind us humans celebrating that which makes humanity great even in the middle of the darkest time of the year. Us northerners have four seasons and it gets darker and darker and then as winter continues it gets lighter and lighter and eventually the sun’s rebirth will cause life to return to us in Spring. The idea of rebirth is an old theological concept and it isn’t just found in Christianity or Paganism. Nearly all religions have a concept of rebirth. This idea of hope in darkness and joy in the midst of darkness is pretty common too.
I am not sure how I feel about Christmas as an X-Christian other than the story is nice. one of the things I may start doing is looking at certain Biblical stories and pointing out why they are problematic and the whole Nativity story is really problematic. I also think that on a human level I can learn spiritually from any faith that genuinely tries to celebrate spirit of joy and hope. It is a family holiday and a time to remember some important things. I guess I like the fact it is a time of celebration from a standpoint of Yule rather than a single day.
I like Yule and I like the concepts it is trying to both teach and uphold. I think if I had more time I would have liked to dig deeper into this for this year, but it will just have to be a time of wonder, joy and peace for me this year. As I go through next year, part of what I will be doing is researching all this. As a writer of fiction, I smell a lot of potential stories in all this. A time to enjoy my family and life.
So I remain,
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.