I feel like I should make some kind of disclaimer. This post is seriously all over the place–it’s basically a bunch of my random thoughts about Yule. So, sorry, bear with me. I have no real point, just a lot of thoughts.
Also, I seem to be a day late every week. Sorry. At least I’m posting, right? So anyway.
I loved Christmas when I was a kid. LOVED IT. The lights, the music, the snow, the treats, baking and wrapping presents and decorating the tree and Christmas specials on TV. I believed the cultural myth that magic happens at Christmas, that miracles are possible. I watched The Grinch, and A Christmas Carol, and believed that people could be transformed by the power of the season.
As I got older, I got too tired to celebrate much of anything. After discovering paganism my holiday changed from Christmas with it’s focus on baby jesus to Yule with it’s focus on the returning light, but my enthusiasm never returned after my mid twenties. The holidays were something to endure, a time of disruption and expectations that left me feeling exhausted and anxious. January would always come as a huge relief, a sort of Thank God THAT’S over, now I can go back to trying to pretend I’m not deeply depressed.
But somehow this year feels different. Maye it’s that I was just laid off from my job and I know I’m going to have an awful lot of free time while I search for a new one. Maybe it’s that I’ve fallen in love with someone who helps me feel more happy and content and safe than I’ve felt before. But whatever it is, I’m stupidly excited about Yule, and Christmas. Since December hit I’ve been listening to Christmas music on Pandora, bugging my sweetie to watch Christmas movies, and craving eggnog. I want to put up lights outside. I want to decorate a tree. I want to make paper snowflakes!
Yeah, I’m a Pagan, but to me this season isn’t necessarily about my religion. Or it is, but not in the way you might think.
See the thing is, I feel like the whole purpose of spirituality is to make us better people, and to help us be better to each other. In that way, the most important spiritual work is building bridges between different people–finding ways to understand each other, finding ways to be kind, finding ways to respect even those you don’t agree with. I’m not super great at this–I was raised by fundamentalists, remember, and fundamentalist habits were ingrained in me at an early age. I have to work consciously to not be all judgy and hatey.
But the holidays are such a great opportunity to work on this. There are so many different ways of celebrating. But also, there is so much overlap. And one thing all the winter holidays seem to share is hope.
Hope for a savior. Hope for the return of longer days and warmer weather. Hope for transformation. Hope for renewed closeness with our families, hope for peace at last. I celebrate Yule, but I also celebrate Christmas with my girlfriend and her mom because they’re part of my family now. You can wish me Merry Christmas and I won’t get mad. If we let it happen, the December holidays can bring us all closer as we celebrate the same thing: hope in the middle of the darkness.
Of course this kind of unity means that there also needs to be space for the ones who can’t or won’t celebrate. I’ve had plenty of years where I wanted to ignore the whole thing, and I was fortunate to be surrounded by friends who let me do what I needed to do without judging. I’ll try not to be annoying with my enthusiasm for the sake of others who are in that place.
For the rest of you . . . let’s drink spiked eggnog and watch The Grinch.
But don’t you dare try to make me listen to that Amy Grant Christmas album.