an American Pagan in winter
It’s December in America…a time of colder temperatures and celebrations with friends and families. Every where you look lights adorn houses in everything from a subtle expression of holiday spirit to a garish explosion of color and sound. Trees are dressed in lights and sparkly bits. Presents are bought and exchanged. Feasts are prepared and tables set with the finest of china and silver.
There was a time, back before we had strings of electric lights and airplanes to whisk us off to visit family, when these traditions were part of a simpler time, when there was a meaning to the lights, to the feasting. We’ve lost that meaning today, and in our modern world those meanings no longer hold true.
The winter solstice no longer represents the mid point of our winter, the time when we can stop rationing our meager stores because spring is coming. The dark of winter is no longer so absolute that we light candles to entice the sun’s return.
Over the years, these traditions have changed, been adopted by people who do not understand their origins, morphed into the versions we see today, with blow up snowmen and Santa Claus, electric lights and nativity sets that depict a scene that would have been foreign to my ancestors.
Every December in America, people try to “reclaim” Christmas, try to remind everyone of the “reason for the season” but they don’t seem to know it themselves. It isn’t about the birth of Christ. It isn’t about Hanukkah. It isn’t even about the Solstice, not really. We’ve come so far, so much has changed…and yet we’re still here.
Traditions change. They grow. They merge with other traditions. The meaning behind what we do can change. We can create new traditions.
This December, Solstice will see me at a gig in LA. I will celebrate music with friends. When I come home, I will continue what has become a favorite tradition of mine. I will refresh my altar, make an offering of whiskey or wine and I will light a single candle and meditate on what I am laying beneath the ground this winter, what I am letting go of so that when spring comes I may rise up strong again.
But even that isn’t what this season is about. That comes on Christmas day, when I gather with my family. It doesn’t matter what gifts are exchanged. It doesn’t matter what food is on the table. It doesn’t matter that some of us are Pagan and some are Atheist and some are Christian and some are undecided. It doesn’t matter that some of us are straight and some of us are bi and some of us aren’t sure.
What matters most is that we love each other. Unconditionally. Fiercely. With all of our differences and all of our similarities, with all of our faults and our sarcasm. Celebrate that. Celebrate love. Stop fighting over stupid semantics and word games. Let love take root in your heart and let it guide you to some new traditions.
Love yourself. Love others. Give your love freely. Consider opening your home to someone with no family of their own. Consider welcoming chosen family to join you. Consider giving gifts to those in need…not just this winter either. Needs are higher in the colder temperatures, this is true. But there are people in need year round.
I challenge you to find the true meaning of the season, the meaning for being here. Carry socks in your backpack or briefcase and offer them to the homeless you pass every day without seeing them. If you knit or crochet, use your yarn ends to make hats, scarves and mittens and do the same, give them to those who need them most. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture to make a big difference in someone’s life.
And, you might be surprised how good it makes you feel.
Happy Holidays, whatever holiday you celebrate…and however you chose to celebrate it.