I have a confession to make. Yes, I love Christmas. I’m Pagan, and I love Christmas — not just Yule or the Winter Solstice (although that is part of it) — I love Christmas. We just brought in our live Christmas tree and I’m listening to “Silent Night” and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Time is Here” on the radio. My love of Christmas is not politically correct in Pagan circles — this is after all the time of the year for Pagans to complain about Christians stealing their holiday.
(In my mind, the Pagans who complain about the Christianizing of Yule or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, are no better than the Christians who complain about the Pagan origins of Christmas. Folks, that train has left the station.) Unlike most Pagans, I like celebrating the solstice on Christmas Eve, when all the Christians are also (unwittingly) celebrating the return of light to the world.
Apparently it’s not popular to like Christmas in Unitarian circles either, as I learned last week during our annual grouse about the commercialization of the holiday. Last week, the discussion in our Spirit Circle discussion group started with someone asking the question, “How do you maintain your spirituality during the holidays?” I was taken aback: The holidays are (part of) my spirituality.
I love everything about Christmas. I love the lights, which become so much more significant in this darkest time of the year. I love the Christmas carols, even … no especially the Christian ones, baby Jesus and all. (Apparently, so do the all those old humanists I go to Church with who show up every year for the Christmas Vespers service when we sing all the traditional Christmas carols — even the one’s that reference Jesus’ divinity.) I even find myself singing Christmas carols in the shower at random times throughout the year. I love the imagery of the little child in the manger with Mary and the wise men, and the symbolism of hope eternally reborn. I love my little African manger scene that I am so protective of. I love feeling the anticipation and watching my kids’ anticipation. I love spending time with my extended family. I love how it always seems to snow just on time for Christmas in the part of the country where I live. I even love Christmas shopping! I love the Christmas music piped into the mall — a place I avoid the rest of the year. I love thinking about what to buy for the people I love. I’m sure I get more excited about giving the gifts than they are receiving them. I even love the Christmas crowds — because we’re all out there doing the same thing, and I love being a part of it.
And what’s more … this is part of my spirituality. The cycle of my spiritual year would not be complete without Christmas. Of course, we are going to have our Pagan celebration too. We’ll sing paganized Christmas carols and send off Chinese sky lanterns with wishes for the new year written on them. But for me, it’s part of, not separate from the Christmas holiday.
“I don’t hate Christmas. I don’t even dislike it. In fact, I celebrate it quite happily with my family. Why? Because it makes sense. What is Christmas but yet another version of the Sun/Son being born of the Mother? What is the narrative of Jesus but yet another version of the Willing Sacrifice? [...]
“There are levels and levels to the world in which we live- and layers upon levels to the truths we have believed for so long. I celebrate Midwinter as a time of joy, revelry, family, and returning light. These things seem to be constant. These things transcend religion, they are human and they are magical.”
This Pagan’s Yule would just not be complete without Christmas: baby Jesus and crowds in the mall and all.
And the “commercialization” doesn’t bother me. Do we really think that ancient pagan festivals were not exploited by the merchants of their eras? Is not every contemporary Pagan gathering of any size accompanied by vendors of every kind? What does bother me is all the talk about commercialization. We say it so much, I wonder if we even know what we’re talking about. We live in a commercial society after all. Why should Christmas be off limits? For me, Christmas sacralizes shopping for a period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Rather than commercializing the sacred, it sacralizes the commercial. And for me, that’s the genius of Paganism — it recognizes the sacred in the everyday. Every part of being human can be sacred — if done in the right time, in the right place, in the right way. And Paganism, at least the way I understand it, tries to find a time and place for everything human. For this Pagan, this is the reason for the season.