Keeping the Faith

 

I love this time of year.  I love bundling up in bulky sweaters with leggings, pulling on boots over wool socks then donning a final exterior layer of a warm coat, mittens and a hat. I like wearing my protective warm cocoon while the world around me is cocooned in a shroud of snow as the plants and trees slumber until spring.  Warm drinks like cocoa and cider are nurturing and comforting, warming your core while magically lifting your spirit. The time for celebration is here and I adore celebrating the Winter Solstice and Yule, sharing cookies and potlucks and social occasions and sharing Yuletide spirit.  I have to admit, while I have much love for the season, sometimes the reasons I celebrate and how I choose to celebrate according to my beliefs are also why I have a bit of trepidation for the season. Why is that, you ask? Well, as a Pagan I feel an underlying dread of confrontation by the question asked at least once during the holiday season—how are you celebrating Christmas?

Yeah, that question. I do try to keep my calm, though I do feel a sense of defensiveness start to rise. I know I shouldn’t anticipate that I will be personally attacked for launching the “war on Christmas” and that the situation will get ugly, though several times in the past my response has generated backlash. I’ve been questioned as to what I do actually celebrate, then after calmly explaining I celebrate Yule, I’ve had some people respond angrily, “Jesus is the reason for the season!”

It’s when I hear that I find that I have to pause, take a breath and decide how I will respond. Do I tell them that Jesus was Jewish and that Hanukah was celebrated by the people in Israel first? Do I tell people that many non-Christian religions also have celebrations at this time of year and that many of the symbols that have been incorporated into Christmas celebrations, items such as wreaths, pine boughs, trees and mistletoe are things traditionally used by pagan people to celebrate their ceremonies? Do I even mention that I attended divinity college for two years to define my own personal spiritual relationship with my creator?

No. I breathe. I explain there are many different reasons for the season but the important reasons are that we are able to celebrate in our own ways, according to our belief system and share a little bit of our traditions and include each other in our celebrations and joy for the season. I’m a kitchen witch. I love to make jams and jellies and teas, and I bake to my heart’s content over the season, making cakes and cookies to share with family, friends and neighbors. I enjoy driving around my neighborhood looking at all the lights and decorations. I take time to donate items to help out however I can, and I try to maintain my anonymity and stay humble. I’ve quietly paid for someone’s meal in a restaurant or paid for the vehicle behind me in a drive-through. I make sure that I continue to celebrate my holidays as I choose to.  Just as I don’t expect Christians to explain to me how they celebrate, I don’t feel the need to explain to them why when we get a tree we leave an offering or why we decorate our home and adorn a Yule log. We are grateful to have a warm house, a solid roof over our heads and to have each other as well as family and friends. I’m incredibly thankful I have so many positive things in my life and I know my faith keeps me focused and grounded. I remember all these things as I say, Yuletide Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Eid, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Hanukah and Happy Holidays. I enjoy the ritual and celebration of the Yuletide season, and I’m comfortable enough with my faith to want others to enjoy theirs as well. As to those people who ask me to explain my beliefs? I tell them I will be happy to openly discuss my beliefs with them—after the holidays are over.

 

(wreath image via http://files.all-free-downloads.com)

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