Yes, I know, I’m more than a year late. But I’m doing it.
“X is for Xmas”. Why would I choose “xmas” for a Pagan blog project.
Well, you can blame the CBC for this one.
A couple of days ago (possibly on a slow news day), they ran a spot on the radio about “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays”. Now, on the one hand, I understand why people who do celebrate Christmas in the “Jesus is Born” sense of the word would perhaps appreciate it if their holy day wasn’t so overwhelmingly coopted by consumerist crap. I can totally get behind that. On the other hand, I’m a member of a religious community (or “umbrella-termed group”, more accurately) made up of numerous different small-population faiths, all of whom get lumped together under the heading of “Pagan” (there’s just over a quarter-million of us in Canada, as of the 2011 Census). For some of us, the month of December is no big deal but, for many of us (and many of you reading this, I’m sure), December means celebrating Winter Solstice with longest night vigils and returning light parties. The trappings of our temperate climate midwinter festivals – and for good reason – look a lot like the trappings that people outside of our faiths probably think of as “Xmas Stuff”.
Winter Solstice falls between the 20th and 22nd (or so) of December. Unlike the lunar-cyclic feasts (like Diwali and Hanukkah), it doesn’t move around. It’s always right next to Christmas. Combine this with a population that, even now, is still largely comprised of converts and, frankly, most of those converts grew up with feasting, presents, music, and candle-light around this time of year, even if our parents called it something different.
For those reasons, I really apreciate “Happy Holidays”. If I answer someone’s friendly “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Solstice”, I really do get looked at like I’ve grown a second, rather ugly, head. “Happy Holidays” lets me wish people a wonderful season of light, regardless of which one they’re celelbrating, without either (A) guessing them wrong, (B) pretending I’m something I’m not, or (C) having to do a lot of explaining to get rid of those Weird Looks.
Works for me.
But that still doesn’t explain “Xmas”.
If you look at the tags, I have one for “secular holidays”. Primarily, the secular holiday in question is “xmas”. Well, let’s break it down:
On Solstice, I kiss my wife (it’s our aniversary on December 21st), feast my nearest and dearest, hand out presents to people I care about, fill my house with people, lit candles, and food, and light up my altars in thanks for abundance and good people in my life.
On xmas, I kiss my wife (’cause why ever not?), feast with my family of origin, or hers, or potentially both, hand out presents to people I care about, and help fill someone else’s house with people (and potentially lit candles, if I happen to bring some over). My relatives sometimes go to church (for Christmas), but I join them after.
Xmas is a place where I can meet my relatives in the middle, take part in my family’s “special day” without having to pretend to be something I’m not or have to do a lot of explaining.
So, there you go. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 And there are lots of ways for individuals who celebrate Christmas to shut out that consumerist crap – like staying out of the malls and turning off the TV. Focus on the people who are important to you, and on spending time with (rather than money on?) them. You know how that goes. 🙂
If you’re into the socially-acceptable-excuse-to-give-presents stuff (you would not be alone if you were), try doing DIY or all-second-hand goodies for everyone on your list, or opting to give entertaining-educational gifts like classes (belly-dancing, glass-blowing, cooking, sword-fighting…).
 Which falls on November’s New Moon.
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