For the last week, during prime holiday time, I have been comfortably installed in my childhood home in sunny Florida sipping tea, eating three square home-cooked meals per day, and enjoying my mother’s company. As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother is not Pagan but she identifies as spiritual. She views herself as a Black woman who has a powerful personal relationship with the divine. Like many others at this time of year, we focus on reinforcing the important relationships in our lives, including our relationship with divinity. Because my mother and I do not adhere to the same practices or pray to Powers in the same pantheon, our holiday time is often spent in conversations about our spiritual similarities and differences. Families in which most members believe and practice in the same way have the luxury of taking such things for granted. My mother and I however have had to craft our own approach to the holidays together. My mother and I talked and talked over honey roasted ham and Italian sausage dressing, over tea and tears and years. With time, we began to craft our own holiday tradition, one that honors my mother’s spirituality and mine.
For many years, both before and after I came out of the broom closet, we observed a traditional Christmas, complete with tree, cherry-cheeked Santa Claus figurines, a knitted Frosty the Snowman doll, decorative pillows covered in seasonally appropriate imagery, festive holly berry littered door wreaths, delicate porcelain bells, and more. My mother created a beautiful, distinctly Christmas environment decked out with the whole nine yards. Given the place of Christianity in my family as a whole and our investment in extensive Christmas décor, for all intents and purposes while I was growing up, Christmas was an expression of our religious convictions in addition to being a time for family and friends. It was not until more recently that I asked my mother what Christmas meant to her personally and she shared that the holiday is about love, peace, and heartfelt gift-giving with specific religious convictions as a resounding side-note. Her answer was not quite what I expected but it was not a complete surprise. I think it is my mother’s focus on spirit – in this case, the spirit of the Christmas holiday – rather than specific religious meaning that makes it easier for her to accept my spirituality.
Over time, as my Pagan identity developed and increased in importance in my life, I felt comfortable sharing what the holiday season means to me. As always, my mother listened enthusiastically. I agreed with her belief that the holiday season is about love, peace, gift-giving, and other acts of the heart. I also shared my encounters with the Gods and their role in my life. To my thinking, just as the holiday season is about connection with other human beings, it is also about connection with the deities and spirits with whom I work. It is about Winter Solstice, the longest night before the days begin to lengthen. It is about Odin and the Wild Hunt storming the skies, carrying away the old and bringing in new blessings (among other unequivocally magical things). It is about soul searching, grounding, centering, and preparing my own spirit for the New Year. It is about the magic of connection and expiation, purification and renewal.
The biggest change has been the Christmas tree. It became a Winter Solstice tree and a Yule tree too. Together we crafted ornaments using the runes, ancient Germanic symbols of the mysteries and magic strongly connected with Odin, the Norse god of inspiration, poetry, and magic. In the process, I taught my mother what each symbol meant and she shared her own thoughts on those mysteries. We also decorated the tree with frosted pine cones which have associations with Dionysos, Greek god of vegetation, wine, and ecstasy. Thanks to a gift from a good friend, we also added delicate glass ornaments with significance to me. My mother added the tree topper which has been in our family and adored our Christmas tree for years. She also added several decorations representing the light and joy that the season brings to her heart.
The Christmas tree isn’t the only thing that we have changed. While I am at home during this time of year, my mother eagerly seeks out her annual rune reading. We also set carefully dressed candles to purge the shadows and welcome the light. And this year we initiated a new aspect of our tradition. We began doing some much needed deep cleaning, including dusting, asperging, and censing, in preparation for the next year, to lend Frau Holle and her spirit-helpers a hand as they make way for the next energetic tide. I have explained, and my mom and I have discussed each new aspect of our holiday observance, and each one has passed my mother’s intuitive test to see if it resonates with her own unique view of the world and her own personal understanding of what wonders the universe holds.
As the years come and go, my mother and I continue to build our holiday tradition together, one that reflects who we are, our unique spirits, and our most sacred devotions. As my mother has come to learn more about my spirituality, the greatest gift she has given to me is her openness to crafting and sharing a holiday tradition that belongs to both of us. For that, I am immensely grateful. So, from my family to yours Blessed Sol-Mas Tide (or, if you prefer, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Blessed Yuletide)…and a Happy New Year!!