Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas Traditions in a Pagan House

Merry meet once again!

I was on Facebook earlier, and I read a post by Rowan Pendragon which asked if there were any elements of Christmas that you have rejected or let go of now that you are an adult and on a different spiritual path.  I did post a reply, but I realised that this is, for some people, a very real question to ask, and one that goes right to the heart of their spiritual identity.

I didn't grow up in a religious home, but I must admit I have tried to keep as many of my family's traditions alive as I can.  Yet I also acknowledge that my husband has wanted to keep some of his family traditions, and indeed we have created our own to reflect the fact that we are also a family unit, just the two of us.  This is how it should be; traditions are passed down through the generations, but get tweaked along the way to make things better, easier, or whatever.

My childhood Christmases were generally really happy times. While society at large always joked about drunken uncles and big fights, we never had any of that.  Yeah, I can remember the odd raised voice, but for the most part they were great times.  In fact, it was the only time of year that us kids didn't complain about having to wash the dishes, because unlike most families who opened all the presents early in the day, my parents used to give us a stocking in the morning, but we would have to wait until after lunch to open the presents under the tree.  This is the tradition that my husband has most trouble with, but I've always thought it was a great idea because it meant that the thrill of opening presents lasted a lot longer.

St Mary's Church, Hadleigh, Suffolk
The one thing I remember about Christmases past is the joy of spending time with family.  We were lucky; we had an extended family dotted around the village which meant we saw each other quite regularly throughout the year, and yet we still looked forward to getting together over the festive period.  It is this aspect of the festivities that I have carried in my heart all this time, and it's a much healthier way of looking at it than getting stressed because you can't get the latest toy or gadget.  I didn't grow up in a Christian household, though as a child we did a Nativity play at primary school and sang carols in assembly.  As an adult I went to Midnight Mass a few times with my mum, not out of any religious reason, but because our local church, St Anne's always looked so pretty, the carols were a reminder of my childhood, and also because my mum wanted to go and wanted some company.  Even last year, when my parents came to stay for Christmas because my husband was serving in Afghanistan, I went to Midnight Mass in the village I was living in because I knew that for mum it was a nice tradition.  She went up for a blessing and got a lot out of the experience on a spiritual level; I got a lot out of it because I was sharing my mother's spirituality.  Yes I found the religious side a bit annoying, but I let that wash over me and in fact was surprised how many pagan elements there were.
Our Yule log

As an adult with a husband and my own household, we celebrate Yule as well as Christmas. My husband and I exchange Yule presents, I cook a feast and we make a Yule log, light candles and give thanks to the new born Sun for the heat and life He will bring to the land, then a few days later we have another feast and set of gifts for Christmas.

Back in the UK our home would be decorated with holly, ivy and mistletoe, just like my dad showed us, and we would make sure there was food out for the birds and they have water.  This year is different; it is our first Yule in Florida and it is messing with our minds!  The sun is shining; you can't get a Terry's chocolate orange or tin of Cadbury's roses unless you know where to look, and here it least, there isn't a high street or town centre where you can wander from shop to shop ticking off items on your gift lists. However yesterday we had an impromptu picnic on the beach, eating mince pies in the sun while watching dolphins play in the Gulf of Mexico, and for Christmas day we will go to a friend's house and celebrate with some of the other military families out here.  This year, more than any other since we started living together, we are having to start new traditions, but maybe there will be some that we will bring back to the UK when we finally return.

Blessed be )0(