I bought a tree last night. I’ll decorate it this weekend. And it will be fabulous!
Thinking about decorations has me sorting through memories and thinking about the season. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you in the next few weeks. My thoughts today are about seasons greetings. Literally. I’m talking about the things we say to one another to share our well wishes for the winter holidays.
I grew up in a home that adored Christmas, and that experience fills me with wonderful memories. We decked the halls. We jingled bells. We rocked around the Christmas tree. I don’t go all out for Yule like my family used to for Christmas, but I am still very fond of the holiday and I love decorating a tree. [I have a real tree. Read why here.] As a Pagan, I basque in the glory of a holiday with a very (and varied) Pagan past.
I admit though, when I first embraced Paganism, “Merry Christmas” did wrankle my feathers. I felt like non-Pagans were exploiting ancient traditions with (what I misconstrued as) willful ignorance. But I’m older now and, gods willing, a little wiser, too. All those wonderful childhood memories I have were forged with no knowledge of Pagan ties to Christmas. Am I angry at my younger self for having cloistered holiday joy? No, of course not. I eventually came to realize I couldn’t get mad at others who don’t know about the Pagan-Christmas link for their holiday joy, either.
While I didn’t know about the Pagan roots of Christmas when I was a child, and to my knowledge neither did my family, what we did know about was that something magic happened at Christmas. Neighbors and friends spent time together at gatherings. Families worked together to cook, clean, and decorate. People gave up things they wanted so they could give gifts to others. If I place my memories in my current faith context, it was like wyrd shimmered and sparkled for a few weeks. And while it’d be nice if this magic lasted all year, the temporal limits of this shimmer is what made it special for me — still makes it special for me.
And now I have a deeper appreciation for those things — time together, working together, generosity. Now I know that’s what our ancestors did to make it through winter. The long nights and (often) scarce resources probably led to a sense of community for them like it does for us. I’m sure it led to a lot of breaks in agreement and civility, too, like it does for us. But I like to think the bonds outlasted the breaks for our ancestors, like they do for us.
So I no longer get upset when people wish me a “Merry Christmas.” I take it in the spirit in which it is given — in the spirit of that wyrd shimmer, of that winter magic, of that community bond.
Whatever your faith orientation, if you’re connection to others (present and past) sparkles and glows this time of year — you are alright by me. Yule tidings. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. I appreciate all season’s greetings and happily accept and return them.
What about other Pagans? How do you feel about “Merry Christmas?” And non-Pagans? Do you hesitate to say “Merry Christmas” to others?
Featured image, Published by Currier & Ives, c1876, New York.