If Hallmark made cards for Hyperborea, I might consider sending out holiday cards at midwinter. I probably wouldn’t, really, because I’m bad at that sort of thing, but I would look at them, think “I should send out holiday cards,” and put them back on the shelf. I really feel the mild disappointment and loneliness that comes with not being Christian during the midwinter season. Try wishing a happy Hyperborea to a complete stranger and see what happens. Happy Chanukah still gets weird looks in these parts, but at least most people are generally more cheerful than weirded out.
I want cheesy television specials about Apollo at the North Pole. I want an inflatable baby Dionysos to put in the front lawn. I want a three-month sale on wine and movies, and I want chocolates shaped like bunches of grapes.
Hyperborea is, in a nutshell, the time of year when Apollo packs his bags and heads to sunnier climes for some down time, leaving the management of the Temple of Delphi in the care of his half-brother, Dionysos. Hyperborea means, essentially, “really far north,” and is a paradise where the sun doesn’t set and snow nymphs bring you appletinis while you chill by the pool. The scientific explanation is that the ethylene gas that fueled the Oracle’s visions wouldn’t rise into the adyton, the chamber where the Oracle sat, when it was cold out. That works for me as an explanation and, as I always say, just because we know how it works doesn’t mean the Gods didn’t have a hand in it. It’s not certain when exactly Hyperborea began and ended, but I feel that from late October to early February is close enough. In this area, that’s more or less when the first and last hard frosts are and when my electric bill has its hyperbolic curve upward as the temperature falls. Baby, it’s cold outside.
I celebrate at the beginning with some prayers, incense, and a fair amount of wine and at the end with prayers, incense, and brunch and coffee. The middle part, however, is not really a structured worship. We have parties to go to, family to see, pie to eat, and movies to watch. What better way to worship Dionysos than to take the kids to a movie and then have the traditional Solstice ridiculous coffee drink followed by the traditional Solstice pizza that you eat in the light of the Chanukah candles next to the Christmas/Yule tree while watching the Veggie Tales show about St. Nicholas (I figure they have to learn about Christianity somehow and instructive talking vegetables who sing silly songs is good enough for me. Also Lord of the Beans is hilarious) or having a glass of wine while visiting with all your relatives or having a little too much pie at Thanksgiving or getting schnockered at New Year’s Eve, or insert your holiday traditions here.
This season is about “too much.” There’s too much food, too much alcohol, too much shopping, too much family, and too much of everything. Dionysos is the god of too much and how we handle this season is a test of character. Do we roll with the punches and show the best of ourselves while having a great time or do we let the excesses of the season bring out the worst in us? Excess isn’t bad in and of itself, but how we handle it can be. If the Gods want us to show humble excellence, and I believe they do, Hyperborea season is the time to do that in honor of Dionysos.
So, happy Hyperborea and may Hestiôs Dionysos (Dionysos of the feasts) continue to bless this season for you and yours. Maybe next year I’ll send cards.