Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Month of Celebration

I am giving you all a proper rant. Yes, that's right. I am not easing into it and I won't be gentle. Although this time of year was not always my favorite, I have come to love the month of December. I am more excited about the lights, the decorations, and the repeated visions of Santa at this point in my life than I ever was as a small child. But one thing seems to pop up every single year that bugs the hell out of me threatening to kill the damned joy of this, the one month of the year where nearly every religion on earth celebrates something. Now please, if you will, think about this for a moment. People from a variety of religions celebrating holidays all around the same time period that all, despite their different religious beliefs about the holidays, have one thing in common. They are all celebrations of hope, light, peace, and joy. So what's the problem, right? The problem is that instead of accepting that beauty of so many different paths, sending out good energy throughout this month, the people who follow different paths want to fight about who should "own" the month, over which holy day should rule the season. And I am here to tell you that it's total crap. Consider me your Ghost of Hanuyulekwanzamas (try saying that twice) as I attempt to bring back the spirit of December to you all....

Yes, it is true that the first celebrations on earth in the month of December north of the equator were performed by Pagans attempting to symbolically honor the sun in order to "lure" it back to the earth on the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice. Now, these particular Pagans knew that the sun was going to come back regardless of their rituals or lack thereof but their ancestors did not. I mean, imagine how scary winter must have been for prehistoric people, those wonderful cave dwelling ancestors of ours. Knowing nothing about science, about the relationship between earth and the sun that brought life to everything, and seeing the nights grow longer, the days colder...They were probably pretty freaked out. And when humans freak out we tend to turn to our concept of God for help, right? So it makes sense that they would do what they could to petition their protective energies to bring the sun back. From all of this Yule, the celebration of the Winter Solstice, was born. 

As we all know, a new religion rolled into town, so to speak, about two thousand years ago and as the followers of these new ways attempted to convert everyone in Europe to their way of thinking, they discovered that trying to take away the sacred days of the Pagan people was a terrible way to persuade them to leave a religion that was everything to them for a brand new way of thinking that was so different from all they knew. So these smart early Christians decided to compromise. They had a holy day already in place to celebrate the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ, who was the son of God. But this holy day was held in August (or July...isn't there some dispute about that? I don't remember...). Still, the concept was much the same. The birth of the sun/son that would bring light and hope to the earth was there, the celebration of the male aspect of deity was in place, and it was clear that this was one holy day that the different groups of Pagans from one end of Europe to the next would not give up. It was perfect. In exchange for their Goddesses the Pagans were given the beloved Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ. As for their beloved ancient holy days? The Spring Solstice became Easter and the Winter Solstice, their most sacred time for some Pagan sects, became Christ's Mass or Christmas. 

Have you ever noticed that the custom of decking out pine trees with lights and decorations had nothing to do with the birth of Christ even though it is one of the most recognized symbols of the holiday? That's because the custom goes back long before Christianity existed. The concept was simple. Take a tree that never "dies" and put the things you wish for yourself for the next year on it to draw it near you. By doing this you were honoring the eternal rebirth of the sun and you were taking in the luck of the new year. The lights? A ploy to bring the sun back of course. How about wreaths? I was Christian at one point in my life and I don't recall hearing about the Wise Men bringing wreaths to greet the newborn King. So where did they come from? They are a symbol of the wheel of the year as this was the time of the new year as well. Santa Claus? He has a long and rich history all over Europe. One story of a Santa-like figure even has the gift giver as a Goddess. That's right. Santa Claus is Pagan too....

BUT, my dear Pagan friends, why does any of this matter so much? The history is important of course and it should be remembered by all of us but that isn't what I am seeing every December. The burning times are over. We are free to worship on the longest night of the year without hiding behind the beliefs of others. We are free to put our stars atop our trees and smile at its symbolism. We are free to be who we are. And we are the ones who are always preaching tolerance, right? So what is it about this time of year, a time that is meant to be sacred and mirthful, that makes some among us act a damned fool? If Christianity had not adopted this time of year as a sacred time how much of our old customs do you think we would have today? The Yule/Christmas tree would not be shining bright in your living room, Santa would be banished to obscurity in the frozen land of the North Pole, no festive wreaths would grace your door, and I will guess that no one would get drunk and make out with a stranger just because they stumbled under mistletoe...Ok, perhaps that tradition could have been lost to us without being missed. But you get my point. There were certainly benefits we reap today from the early Christians' decision to have their holiest day just four days (or so..depends on the year and the Pagan path in question) after ours. Now they have theirs and we have ours and if we practiced what we preached we would stop the petty fight to assert our dominance when we should be co-existing as we have fought to do since the last of the witchcraft laws were repealed. 

To wrap up this boring history lesson of sorts: Christ is not the only reason for the season. Neither is the Winter Solstice. If you are wise, if you are tolerant, the reason for the season in general is peace, joy, and love. Certainly if German troops and English troops during World War I could set aside their differences to celebrate those sentiments together on Christmas there is no reason why all of us, regardless of our religions and our individual reasons for celebration this time of year, cannot do the same. The way that I see it, the protective force that watches over us does not care if you call it Jesus, Allah, Zeus, Athena, Isis, etc. It doesn't care if you name no names at all. The reason prayers are answered regardless of one's specific faith is because they are all valid paths toward the same energy. It is how an individual perceives it and the path a person chooses to walk toward it that creates our differences. But differences need not set us apart. And they shouldn't divide us so completely, have us fighting against one another over whose holiday is the most valid, the most sacred, when we could all instead put forth the energy of joy and goodwill toward all for one month. Imagine the things that could come of that. It's what our world needs and it is far more important to the greater good than arguing over who is right. Our December celebrations are connected for good or ill and that does not have to be a bad thing, folks.

In addition to this, I would like to thank those who do not get wrapped up in the religious arguments that seem to occur as soon as the calender rolls around to December 1st. This is especially true if you have a facebook. It's a bit hard not to scream in frustration from the posts that pop up constantly, isn't it? ;)

Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule/Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and if I left out a holiday I apologize. May the season be blessed for everyone. May we all find some peace, some joy, and a big dash of love. And if you do find these things, be sure to pass it on. Smile at a stranger. It's always nice but I have found that on a cold winter's day with the snow flying and the holidays fast approaching, it seems to work more magic than usual. Strange but true. 

In the weeks to come I am going to attempt to re-publish the posts I did last year with the Christmas movies, Christmas music, and Yule songs. The movie post took FOREVER as I recall and I am just lazy enough to try this short cut this time around. If that doesn't work there is always copy and paste and my lazy ass will have to find the pictures again I think. Either way, my countdown to Yule and Christmas (I do not know much about the other holidays, I must confess, but I might round up some songs to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanza as well if I can find some.) has begun and next week I will bring fun goodies to make up for this serious rant post. If I have offended anyone with my words here I am sorry because upsetting someone wasn't my plan. But if you got pissed off and then it made you think about the possibility that I might have a point, it was worth it to me. 

Have a beautiful week, my blogger friends, and remember to smile. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great post! People go on and on about how the Christians 'stole' Yule from the Pagans, but really, should't we Pagans just be happy and joyful that these wonderful traditions from the past have survived through the ages? We should, and thankfully there are many of us that are.

    Peace, love, and joy for the coming holidays, no matter what you celebrate :)