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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,974,475  

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Question of the Week: 89 - 12/15/2002

Bah-Humbug! Are You Offended by Christmas?

Do all of the Christian-based celebrations, songs and religious programming at this time of the year irritate you? Do you, as a Pagan, feel slightly uncomfortable if someone wishes you a 'Merry Christmas'? Do you 'correct' him/her, just let it go (The season is just too short!) or counter with a 'Happy Solstice' or 'Merry Yule' without further explanation?

Or, on the other hand, do you think that PC (political correctness) has run amuck and that the efforts to please everyone -- and to offend no one -- during this time of year has virtually expelled any and/or all spiritual meaning from the season? Is Christmas just another secular/commercial holiday these days?

And finally, what does the Yule season mean to you and how will you celebrate? Will you also join in Christian or Jewish holiday events with family or friends? What do you love about this time of year and what always makes you want to snort, 'Humbug'?

 Reponses:   There are 173 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Not Christmas, Just Christmas Junkies Dec 19th. at 1:36:03 pm EST

Jess (Wilton, NH) Age: 25 - Email - Web

Christmas, in and of itself, is a beautiful, magickal, mystical, sacred holiday, filled with light, peace, and warm blessings. I am very much Wiccan, but I still carry the special, spiritual lessons of Christmas in my life. Yule and Christmas have so many wonderful parallels; to celebrate both Yule and Christmas is neither contradictory nor conflictive, in fact they are quite compatible.

That being said, I hate the fact that Christmastime has become a trashy, commercial, loud, obnoxious, industry-fueled season of gluttony and greed. People in general have totally forgotten what it's all supposed to be about. They spend lavishly on excessive and wanton luxuries, heedless of the impact of their actions on the environment, and detaching themselves from the true meaning of the season.

If we could just get back to the simple joy of this sacred time of year, I would love Christmas so much more. Link to More info related to this post -- HERE

Who Cares? Dec 19th. at 3:26:00 pm EST

Kristi (Litchfield, NH) Age: 18 - Email

I feel that if someone wants to wish me a merry christmas, they can do so. I dont feel that if someone wants to express their holiday feelings, that you have to shoot them down. In any religion, for any person i feel if you want to express yourself, do it. most of us at least believe in something. I dont take it as an offense when people wish me a merry christmas, i just realize that they are trying to be nice. I would hope noone would take it to offense if i wished them a merry yule.

XMAS BEGAN WITH PAGANS! Dec 19th. at 4:09:27 pm EST

Mandy (HOUSTON TEXAS) Age: 24 - Email

Alot of folks seem to have forgotten that christmas is only a modern,
christianized celebration of Yule. Ive copied this from my webgroup(thanks Moonhunter's haven)
and to the nice lady who originally posted it. So after reading this, I hope we all
learn something. I know I did.

Yule vs Xms

Our Christian friends are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically we Pagans celebrate the 'Christmas' season. Even though we prefer to use the word 'Yule', and our celebrations may peak a few days before the 25th, we nonetheless follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, carolling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a 'Nativity set', though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Nature, Father Time, and the Baby Sun-God. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.

In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with it's associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made illegal in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes. And many of them (like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur) possessed a narrative of birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to that of Jesus. And to make matters worse, many of them pre-dated the Christian Savior.

Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God -- by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, 'the dark night of our souls', there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth.

That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians. Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it, and tried more than once to reject it. There had been a tradition in the West that Mary bore the child Jesus on the twenty-fifth day, but no one could seem to decide on the month. Finally, in 320 C.E., the Catholic Fathers in Rome decided to make it December, in an effort to co-opt the Mithraic celebration of the Romans and the Yule celebrations of the Celts and Saxons.

There was never much pretense that the date they finally chose was historically accurate. Shepherds just don't 'tend their flocks by night' in the high pastures in the dead of winter! But if one wishes to use the New Testament as historical evidence, this reference may point to sometime in the spring as the time of Jesus's birth. This is because the lambing season occurs in the spring and that is the only time when shepherds are likely to 'watch their flocks by night' -- to make sure the lambing goes well. Knowing this, the Eastern half of the Church continued to reject December 25, preferring a 'movable date' fixed by their astrologers according to the moon.

Thus, despite its shaky start (for over three centuries, no one knew when Jesus was supposed to have been born!), December 25 finally began to catch on. By 529, it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks, bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season. This last point is perhaps the hardest to impress upon the modern reader, who is lucky to get a single day off work. Christmas, in the Middle Ages, was not a single day, but rather a period of twelve days, from December 25 to January 6. The Twelve Days of Christmas, in fact. It is certainly lamentable that the modern world has abandoned this approach, along with the popular Twelfth Night celebrations.

Of course, the Christian version of the holiday spread to many countries no faster than Christianity itself, which means that 'Christmas' wasn't celebrated in Ireland until the late fifth century; in England, Switzerland, and Austria until the seventh; in Germany until the eighth; and in the Slavic lands until the ninth and tenth. Not that these countries lacked their own mid-winter celebrations of Yuletide. Long before the world had heard of Jesus, Pagans had been observing the season by bringing in the Yule log, wishing on it, and lighting it from the remains of last year's log. Riddles were posed and answered, magic and rituals were practiced, wild boars were sacrificed and consumed along with large quantities of liquor, corn dollies were carried from house to house while carolling, fertility rites were practiced (girls standing under a sprig of mistletoe were subject to a bit more than a kiss), and divinations were cast for the coming Spring. Many of these Pagan customs, in an appropriately watered-down form, have entered the mainstream of Christian celebration, though most celebrants do not realize (or do not mention it, if they do) their origins.

For modern Witches, Yule (from the Anglo-Saxon 'Yula', meaning 'wheel' of the year) is usually celebrated on the actual Winter Solstice, which may vary by a few days, though it usually occurs on or around December 21st. It is a Lesser Sabbat or Lower Holiday in the modern Pagan calendar, one of the four quarter-days of the year, but a very important one. Pagan customs are still enthusiastically followed. Once, the Yule log had been the center of the celebration. It was lighted on the eve of the solstice (it should light on the first try) and must be kept burning for twelve hours, for good luck. It should be made of ash. Later, the Yule log was replaced by the Yule tree but, instead of burning it, burning candles were placed on it. In Christianity, Protestants might claim that Martin Luther invented the custom, and Catholics might grant St. Boniface the honor, but the custom can demonstrably be traced back through the Roman Saturnalia all the way to ancient Egypt. Needless to say, such a tree should be cut down rather than purchased, and should be disposed of by burning, the proper way to dispatch any sacred object.

Along with the evergreen, the holly and the ivy and the mistletoe were important plants of the season, all symbolizing fertility and everlasting life. Mistletoe was especially venerated by the Celtic Druids, who cut it with a golden sickle on the sixth night of the moon, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. (Magically -- not medicinally! It's highly toxic!) But aphrodisiacs must have been the smallest part of the Yuletide menu in ancient times, as contemporary reports indicate that the tables fairly creaked under the strain of every type of good food. And drink! The most popular of which was the 'wassail cup' deriving its name from the Anglo-Saxon term 'waes hael' (be whole or hale).

Medieval Christmas folklore seems endless: that animals will all kneel down as the Holy Night arrives, that bees hum the '100th psalm' on Christmas Eve, that a windy Christmas will bring good luck, that a person born on Christmas Day can see the Little People, that a cricket on the hearth brings good luck, that if one opens all the doors of the house at midnight all the evil spirits will depart, that you will have one lucky month for each Christmas pudding you sample, that the tree must be taken down by Twelfth Night or bad luck is sure to follow, that 'if Christmas on a Sunday be, a windy winter we shall see', that 'hours of sun on Christmas Day, so many frosts in the month of May', that one can use the Twelve Days of Christmas to predict the weather for each of the twelve months of the coming year, and so on.

Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again. To conclude with a long-overdue paraphrase, 'Goddess bless us, every one!'

By Mike Nichols

Offended By Christmas? Naah.... Dec 19th. at 4:34:17 pm EST

Aedh Rua UiMhorrighu (New Richmond, WI) Age: 37 - Email

No, I'm no more offended by Christmas than I am by Channukah or Ramadan. And, I grew up with Christmas, so it has a soft spot in my heart. Indeed, wondering about some of those funny not-very-Christian Christmas customs was one of the many things that led me to Paganism. So, no, I don't get offended by "Merry Christmas" at all. I just reply with "Glad Yule", and no explanation as to why. Most of my neighbors must think I am a diehard Scandinavian....

Now, I am offended by those morons who insist that we "put the Christ back in Christmas", given that he hasn't been there very long to begin with. I do find Nativity Scenes on public land to be offensive, but I am not sure we should fight to remove them. Maybe by letting the Xians do that, we can lull them into complacency, and take fuel from the fundies' fire. Then, when our numbers have grown to a majority, as they might, if we are very lucky, by something like 2020 or 2030, things will change very suddenly......BWAH-HAHAHAHA!!

The comercialization of Christmas is also very offensive. I actually saw an ad for a jeweler which stated: "This Christmas, show her how much you really love her. Remember, the quality of the diamond says how much you care". Ten years ago, this would have been a Saturday Night Live fake commercial, or maybe one of the "commercials from the darkly humorous future" in the first Robocop movie (the one which was real satire, and not exploitation). Between this and Christmas decorations going up in September, it is pretty hard for any decent person, of any religion or none, not to be offended.

All of which leads me to believe that Yuletide, especially the old Germanic Heathen version or the old Gaulish Deuoriuos (basically Germanic Yule in Gaulish), is actually a better holiday than Christmas anyway. It is not commercial, is not made up, is really old, and has its own deep spiritual meaning which goes beyond "spring is coming", as some rather soul-less people have insisted is all the holiday amounts to. No, Yule is about the triumph of light in times of darkness. It is about rebirth, even in the dead of winter. It is about hope.

In a time of darkness and the triumph of evil, we need this more than ever.

To Each One's Own Dec 19th. at 4:46:25 pm EST

Catherine Suchowij (New York, NY) Age: 34 - Email

I believe the season brings out the best and worst in people. Working in the Retail industry for three years, I see the RABID commercialism that takes over and destroys people's humanity. Imagine being cursed out on Christmas eve by someone who will receive a package on the day after, just because only so much work can be done in one day. Gift giving should not be the point of any holiday. I am a firm believer in Political Politeness as opposed to Political Correctness. As part of the Global Villiage, we come across so many different people in a day, it is impossible to try to make everyone happy. If a person wishes me well, I cannot politely "correct" them. I simply respond with a smile and say "Happy Holidays" back. To people I know a little better, I will say Happy Yule even if they are not familiar with my spiritual background. I do not feel at odds with family and friends who prefer to celebrate Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ is comparable to the birth of the God or the return of the Oak King. It is a celebration of life and light whether it is called Kwanza, Chaunakah, Saturnalia, etc. It is a time of hope and renewal.

The part of the holiday season that makes me say "bah humbug" is that RABID commericalism I mentioned before. Retail people are so busy serving others that their own lives are put on hold until the season is over. These people work to the point of exhaustion and even dispair! I know people who break down in tears due to the pressures of sell, sell, sell! My best request is that anyone who reads this, while in the midst of holiday shopping, even if it is just for groceries, stop and tell the person serving you that you appreciate their efforts.

A Blessed Holiday Season For All.

Does Christmas Offend Me? Dec 19th. at 5:28:01 pm EST

Pixi (michigan) Age: 14 - Email

Actully christmas does offend me. People come up to meand say merry christmas i admidietly correct them. Its almost like someone comming up to me and saying happy brithday to me when its not my birthday. I do not celebrate christmas becasue its not what i belive in. I just sit aside and watch my family celebrate it. (not to be mean) I want to know why people celebrate christmas so heavily but dont think anything of our religion.

Better Than A Kick In The Butt Dec 19th. at 5:47:41 pm EST

Ronda (California) Age: 26 - Email

I say it's the thought that counts. If a person wishes me a Merry Christmas, I am grateful to recieve it. What's wrong with it? So what if I'm not Christian, if they want to use the beautiful winter to celebrate their Christ, so be it... he was supposed to be a good person, wasn't he? I just think of it as a celebration of the idea of goodness and giving. Yes, it's commercialized, yes, some people over-do it... as with pretty much anything and everything you could possibly mention. Anything taken to an extreme can be a bad thing if we allow it to be.
I don't have to pay attention to the commercials and the drunks in Santa suits littering the corner. I prefer to enjoy my lovely wintertime and revel in the enjoyment that others get from it. And when my Mormon family gathers and does the Nativity on Christmas eve, I just think that there are worse things they could be doing... a Merry Christmas wish is much better than a kick in the butt!


I Wouldn't Exactly Say It's All That Bad.... Dec 19th. at 6:23:28 pm EST

Bevin Moonshadow Faolan (Ridgeley, WV) Age: 15 - Email

Christmas may be rooted on the birth of "Christ", but it's really been so commercialized that the focus is no longer on the roots, but on presents and lights and really seeing how much money you can spend in the time from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. But to tell you the truth, I'm not really all that bothered, my family is all Catholic, but they've accepted my so-called "differences" and I celebrate Yule anyways. But really, if you think about it, Christmas traditions aren't truly Christian or Catholic. When I was younger and had to go to sunday school with my family they would teach us all about the "Christmas traditions" of bringing trees indoors and lighting candles in windows, along with all the other christmas stuff. But I realized how much they lied or just "omitted" to me when I was younger. The truth about most christmas traditions isn't even rooted in christianity. Bringing evergreen trees inside around this time of the year was rooted with the Druids, who brought them into their houses because they saw them of having very magickal properties because they stayed green all year. Yule logs were another tradition not rooted in christmas, although that story has slipped my mind at the moment, but most things like present giving were rooted internationally. Infact, in italy, their "santa" is a kind old crone who delivers presents as she searches the continent for something(for some odd reason what she was searching for evades my short memory too) Nonetheless, the comercial christmas, or I would be more correct in saying X-mas goes by whatever name you call it, mine may be Yule, others may have different names, but whatever it is, it makes everyone feel close and spreads a sort of joy and ood will towards men that wouldn't be around any other time of year. I'll leave you with those thoughts. *Insert Holiday name here* Greetings to you and yours! ;)

So What.... Dec 19th. at 6:48:18 pm EST

Stacy (Mesa, AZ) Age: 23 - Email

So what if someone says merry Christmas to you, just reply with Merry Yule, there is no reason to bite off their head. They are in a good mood and this is the best time to create awareness of the Pagan community, people are not only more open hearted but open-minded as well, we should set an example of this by not getting mad but making others think. I personally celebrate both cause my family is totally Christian and my seven year old daughter still believes in Santa, I usually meet with them at this time of the year as opposed to any other time because that is when we arrange to get together and their is no good solid reason not to visit with them, so what if they celebrate Christmas because of the birth of Jesus and I celebrate it because that is when Santa visits my child. I celebrate Yule with others like myself on the 21st and then four days later celebrate Christmas for my daughter. I am raising her to know the true history of this season and unfortunately not many people have that luxury so they should be made aware, how can we help them become aware by automatically getting after them for their "Merry Christmas" comment. So what I was born on the 21st and they think they were born on the 25th, That does not mean I cant have my birthday, just as they should be able to have there’s four days later, if you get bad over this than it is like telling a child that they have a right to be mad as hell because there sibling was born a couple of days after there birthday party, to each their own. Tolerance is the most important thing.

Holidays! Dec 19th. at 7:12:02 pm EST

TigerSong (Plymouth Meeting) Age: 15 - Email

Well, considering that my mom was raised atheist Jewish, and is now Buddhist (kind of), my dad was raised Lutheran and is now atheist, my sister is Catholic, and I am Pagan, we've celebrated so many holidays in this time of year it's not even funny. This year, to cut down on holidays ;), we opted for Yule (YAY!), though when we go down to Florida we're going to have Christmas with my Unitarian Jewish aunt and uncle...

...confused yet?

There are very few holidays at this time of the year that I don't at least have some connection to. Though I don't celebrate Kwanza or the Islam holiday of this time, that still leaves four others. With a schedule like that, you really can't get offended at whatever holiday someone tells you to have a happy one of.

After all, the point is that they want you to be happy, right?

Oh Yeah! Dec 19th. at 7:13:48 pm EST

TigerSong (Plymouth Meeting) Age: 15 - Email

Did you see the Holiday Greeting thing that Nickolodeon has as one of it's commercials? It made me very happy.

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Happy Kwanza
Happy Solstice

The Time Of Year To... Dec 19th. at 7:20:00 pm EST

Whitetiger (Arlington, Tx) Age: 29 - Email - Web

Laugh, cry, scream, and feel pressured... That is was Christmas seems like anymore in this time and age.. we have the pressure to buy things, spend loads of money, and eat lots of food..
it is also the time where people push, shove, and yell at the stores.. and well all chaos reigns..

So do i mind when people say merry Christmas.. Nope.. I just return there cheer with happy holidays, Happy yule., and even Merry Christmas!..

i try to spread as much joy as I can during this time of year.. greating people with smiles and laughter and just trying to make this all to stressfull holiday better.

Do I think it is all about the mighty dollar bill? OHH YES..YES it is.. There seems to be no Religion in this holiday anymore.


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