December is a very confusing time in Australia. One the one hand we have hot long days, short nights, dry yellow grass and the real possibility of bushfires and snakes. On the other hand we are surrounded with all sorts of Christmas stuff, fake snowflakes on all the shop windows, decals of ivy, holly and mistletoe, Christmas lights everywhere and fat dudes dressing up in sweaty red suits. Not to mention the murder inducing Christmas carols stuck in a head near you.
For Pagans this confusion, this contradiction is even more obvious and in your face. We who, no matter our tradition, generally place some emphasis on the seasons and the natural world, can’t help but feel extremely out of place at this time of year.
It’s Harder For the South
Those in the northern hemisphere have only an inkling of how this feels – in the north, it is winter and you are about celebrate the Pagan Yule, or some other winter festival. You can easily use any number of Christmasy things to decorate and dress up your winter celebration, no one will be the wiser. You can face all the decorations on sale and hanging up on all the houses and shops and feel completely at ease. It’s normal, not just in human terms, but in the natural world – your fake holly and ivy, looks just like the real holly and ivy outside your window (regional dependent of course). The fake snow, even if your area isn’t snowing, it’s probably still pretty cold most years for that fake snow to feel comforting.
But you also have Jesus being born in some manger, bright stars set out by the one true God to lead wise men to some stable. You also have Christmas carols, some secular sure – but just as many, if not more, are just in your face indoctrination. That feeling you get when you have to listen to Christian music and look at Christian lore – that’s a small percentage of what it can feel like for us here in Aus.
For us in Aus it’s not just the Christian stuff that grates, it’s also the winter stuff. So much winter stuff, every year, surrounding us, closing in on us – you begin to feel like the natural world is wrong, because it isn’t matching the human world. Because Christmas is huge, yes, even in Australia, Christmas is huge. Huge enough that those “Stop the war on Christmas” people call it an Aussie tradition (like we invented it or something, ugh). Christmas is so huge that the human made commercial stuff drowns out the natural world and makes the sun the bad guy, the enemy, the black sheep – the thing that just does not belong.
But It’s Harder for the North
On the other hand, it’s actually a little easier for us down here. Because summer and Christmas are so different, for those of us who are openly non or anti-Christmas, we can be right out there with it and not have anyone confuse our solstice celebrations for Christmas. Up north, you don’t have that luck.No matter what you do, there will always be something inside of you that thinks of Christmas even when you are trying to do Yule. There will always be people thinking your house is covered in Christmas decorations, when it’s purely Pagan. Because Yule and Christmas are so similar, obviously, given their almost identical origins. To celebrate Yule the way you really want to, you cannot escape Christmas, and so Christmas will always be part of your Yule.
But not for us. Our summer solstice will look almost nothing like Christmas and so we can get rid of that confusion within ourselves with some ease. Yes, there is still the confusion from the outside human world compared to the natural world – but in our own houses, with our own families, that confusion disappears. Our houses can be filled with all summer decorations and all summer foods. It is not beginning to look a little like Christmas in this house.
But it’s Way Harder for Parents
But no matter where you live, if you are a parent of young kids and do not want to celebrate Christmas – you have it the worst. Christmas is everywhere, with Santa and presents and those mangers and of course the flashing lights – and every kid loves that. It’s so attractive, so enticing, so mesmerising. And if you have extended family who celebrate Christmas, things get even harder!
I am lucky, my family who live nearby either don’t do Christmas, or don’t care that we aren’t interested in their Christmas dinners. But the lights, and the trees, and the presents and just all of it, my kids are in love with it all (though my daughter tries to pretend otherwise). This year alone, my son has bought three or four mini Christmas trees with his pocket money from thrift shops. He also has a heap of decorations, and both kids rooms are so covered in tinsel it’s like trying to get through a laser security system from a movie.
I Will Figure It Out
Someday, someday I will figure this out, how to make the summer solstice more exciting than the idea of Christmas. But for now, paper sunflowers and real summer flowers just don’t compare to the holly and the ivy and snowflakes. Sun decorations can’t win out over those big bright stars, not to mention the angels who my kids are pretty sure are actually fairies.
My kids do get presents for the solstice, things that are summery. Sprinklers, water pistols, little swimming pools, new sports equipment, a 14foot trampoline – you get the idea. But these gifts don’t exactly sit underneath a heavily decorated tree, so they too are not as exciting as they could be.
I will probably be on my deathbed when I have the epiphany of how to make this work better. But at least I will figure it out one day. I will win. Just try to stop me.