Counter-Point: Christians Should Take Back Christmas

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 23, 2010 — 92 Comments

The always-incisive T. Thorn Coyle, inspired by latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site, provides a counter-argument that Christians should take back Christmas, and Pagans should just leave it alone.

“Many people are likely to argue with me on this next point, and that is fine, but I say to anyone who is not a Christian and who celebrates Christmas: what exactly do you think you are doing? Why are you contributing to this beast, this monster, this creature that not only feeds on the sweat of poor people around the world but simultaneously takes more and more money to just maintain its caloric requirements? Why have you – atheist, Pagan, Christian, or Jew – been taken in?

Yes, Pagans have celebrated their Winter holidays for millenia, and with good reason. Yes, evergreen trees and special cakes were part of this. Yes, the birth of a baby God enters into some versions of the celebratory rituals. So separate it out again. Throw a party for your friends to ward off the cold. Honor Yule, or Winternights, or Solstice. Make gifts if you wish to. Cook food and kindle lights. But leave Christmas alone. Perhaps if enough of us cease to feed the monster, it will lose power, and Christmas can return to being a small celebration by a sect who believes that the Child of Promise so many Pagans speak of – the Bright One born from the cold – was named Jesus and came to work the magic of healing the sick and feeding the poor.”

I encourage you to read the whole thing and add your thoughts. You may also want to read her yearly solstice poem. If you have any other links to thoughts on this season, and our place within it, please share them in the comments.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • caraschulz

    I would agree with that basic premise. Here's where it gets messy in practice.

    *I* don't celebrate Christmas, but my extended family does. And they invite me to celebrate it with them. So do I refuse? No. I go to their Christmas eve celebration, but not the Church service. During the time after Solstice until the end of December, I am celebrating the Lesser (or Rural) Dionysia. I make up baskets filled with silly games, funny movies, wine, fruit, and nuts. Then I spend those 2 weeks giving the baskets to friends and family and spending the evening with them. It's great fun. My parents and sister and their family get their baskets on Christmas eve.

    • harmonyfb

      I'm in an interfaith marriage. Our family celebrates both Yule and Christmas. Yule is the quiet religious celebration, and Christmas is our exchange of gifts and eating of fancy foods. I have family traditions from my childhood that I enjoy (a special meal on Christmas eve, for example – mmm, country ham & biscuits!), and I love giving presents to people. I don't participate in the religious aspect of Christmas (though my husband does), but I do enjoy the cultural ones.

    • caraschulz

      I should say that Coyle does not posit that we shouldn't celebrate Christmas with our families…I don't think my response was clear on that. I'd come to the same conclusion about this entire holiday season as Coyle, just trying to find a way to live that out. The baskets are my way to honor *my* religious ethics and holidays while still respecting my family, friends (religious folks and non-religious folks) holidays that they celebrate during this time.

  • DeWayne Lehman

    Christmas IS for Christians. But that doesn’t mean they own Dec 25. I think those “War on Christmas” people are they types that if you don’t pledge to a flag “under God” then you are unAmerican. IE – ignorant. But let’s be real, Christmas is for Christians. I know this because I gave up Christmas in a custody battle to ensure I got Samhain. I gave up Easter to ensure I got Beltane.

    So Happy Holidays to all. If you are a Pagan, have a blessed Yule or Winter Solstice or other. Merry Christmas to Christians. Happy Hanukkah to Jews. And Happy Kwanza to those of African descent.

    There’s no war over who has holidays, it’s over who’s holiday is the real, valid holiday. And in that war, I wish to take no part. An it harm none, celebrate what ye will. :)

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Just another variation on "bah humbug."

  • Patrick

    The post is nonsensical. If Pagans give up buying gifts, then the Christians will be able to stop? What is Coyle saying? Ignoring the fact that the gift giving is the Heathen bit. Heathens celebrate Yule by putting up and decorating a tree, keeping lights lit at night, exchanging gifts, feasting, etc. This they were doing long before any follower of Jesus ever did it. Maybe what Mr. Coyle is saying is that non-Christians shouldn't go to Mass on 12/25. Okay. Fine with me, hardly worth an article. I didn't know there was a big plague of Pagans at churches on Christmas….

    I think the problem Mr. Coyle and the others have is that many people who identify as Christian don't celebrate any of the non-Pagan/secular parts. But this is a problem with their religion and not Yule really. In fact, if you took out the Pagan celebrations of Christianity, you wouldn't have many Christians at all. I suspect so many people identify as Christian, but don't actually do any of the work of being one, because of the tremendous guilt laid on them about the whole thing when they were kids.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisorapello @chrisorapello

      I agree Patrick. Thank you for this.

    • Ian

      Note, it's not 'Mr. Coyle.' Jason describes the author as 'her,' not 'him.'

  • http://twitter.com/chrisorapello @chrisorapello

    I think Lon Milo DuQuette has a better approach to Christmas as a non Christian. Conveniently enough, we talked about it in my most recent podcast Episode#018 – Low Magick.

    Libsyn: http://infinitebeyond.libsyn.com/episode-018-low-

    Show Website: http://www.infinite-beyond.com

    Coyle just sounds ignorant with this post not to mention that Frankenstein's Monster was actually a genius who simply wanted to be acccepted by society. Read the book you might be surprised.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      …not to mention that Frankenstein's Monster was actually a genius who simply wanted to be acccepted by society. Read the book you might be surprised.

      Yes, thank you for beating me to it — this has been one of my pet peeves since I first actually read the book. The Jim Whale film starring Karloff was an awful adaptation.

      That aside, I agree that Ms. Coyle's post, while well-intended and bearing a good point somewhere in there, just strikes as really ignorant to those who do understand the origins of most "Christmas traditions" as having pagan origin. Gift-giving and decorating with evergreen is a part of both Yule and Saturnalia; feasting and drink was a major part of Saturnalia, and I believe mistletoe is of separate Roman and Celtic origins; plenty enough of the "Christmas" symbolism is directly connected to pagan deities.

      While it's nice that she tried to give a pass to those who maintain family obligations to Christmas, I have pagan friends who do have those obligations who didn't feel she stressed that part enough, and felt that she preferred to guilt-trip people for having a big Christmas dinner with family and getting small presents for the present children.

      Like I said, there's a good idea in there, but she's otherwise junked it up with ignorant blanket statements and shaming language.

  • Don

    The problem is that Christmas is not just a Christian holiday anymore, but a larger cultural holiday part of American life that people of various (or no) religious affiliations celebrate. Coyle's post is no different from those silly Christians who say certain holidays shouldn't be celebrated because of their pagan origins–except now we are not allowed to celebrate holidays that were Christian in origin.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      Ooh! Does that mean that the revival of Yule is like the wife he wanted or did I fail at literature just now?

  • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

    Bah humbug! ;)

    We do both, because our family does both. As my husband just pointed out, let's see how well this scenario will fly over:

    "Hi Mom. We're not doing Christmas anymore because we're not Christian." Uh-huh. Yeah. Sure. We want others to take our beliefs seriously, but yet we won't extend ourselves to the people who matter most in our lives. How is that even remotely tolerant?

    Yule is the religious aspect, and Christmas is the fun. I like that the religious is separated from the fun, because for me at least, it keeps things in perspective. No different than Ostara/Easter. (I dare anyone to try to take away my chocolate bunnies!)

    I don't do Midnight Mass, and I don't set up a Nativity Scene, but neither do many Americans. Christmas is primarily a fun day off work! Seriously, what does running over small children with shopping carts in order to get to the last Kinect have to do with the birth of Christ? And, it's been my experience the ones who do celebrate the religious aspects do so out of tradition rather than any type of spiritual relevance.

    If it makes folks feel better, just call it Giftmas. We do as an inside joke, but refer to it as Christmas outside our community.

    • Danielle

      I agree. We really need a new name for the holiday without religous conintation. Then everyone could celebrate the religious aspect on their own and every could come together despite their faith and have a good old fashioned day of winter fun.

      • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

        FESTIVUS!

      • Thriceraven

        A wise older non-Christian mathematician I know just told me he likes to call it Xmas. Since X is the universal variable, he can define X as he wishes and so can anyone else he talks to. I know X is short for Christ in Xmas, but X as universal variable is a much closer to me culturally than is Christ, so I think I might take up the practice.

        • Bookhousegal

          Interestingly, while many 'War on Christmas' types claim the Xmas spelling is some secular conspiracy to take the 'Christ' out, it actually comes from a Christian reverence to make it *extra* special, the X is a Greek Chi from their own conventions.

          The which makes for a nice 'Dude, you're being paranoid and ignorant' smack when they act all oppressed. :)

        • Bookhousegal

          I mean, you know how they have that kind of bind-rune with the Chi and Rho together? The Chi part *is* the word *Christ* and the R's for some version of the root reg- for 'King.' (Theoretically, btw, *that,* not a cross, is the symbol that Constantine was originally supposed to be have had a vision about while staging his coup.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667952307 Jennifer Parsons

      Everyone does seem to worship gifts at this time of year; maybe there's something to that.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      Yule is the religious aspect, and Christmas is the fun. I like that the religious is separated from the fun, because for me at least, it keeps things in perspective. No different than Ostara/Easter. (I dare anyone to try to take away my chocolate bunnies!)

      I really don't want to sound like I'm coming down on you personally (I don't know you, after all), but I've seen comments like this elsewhere, and i kind of have a problem with this idea that one's religion can't be "fun", which tends to translate as "enjoyable".

      I celebrate Dionysia; I've merged a lot of aspects of Saturnalia into it, and I believe I have some historical reason to do so (which is beside the point), and I lack any family obligations to Christmas. Maybe this puts me in an unusual perspective, here, but I think that the Dionysia is fun — I mean, hell, two weeks of films, winter fruits, wines… How can that NOT be fun? My friends who do Yule, it looks like it's got gifts, feasts, mead — again, sounds pretty fun, to me. Yeah, maybe I buy ornaments to decorate my evergreens that are labelled "Christmas ornament" (I do stay away from symbols that have nothing to do with my holiday, though), but find me something labelled "Saturnalia lights" or "Dionysia ornament", and I'll give you a dollar.

      My own pagan holiday is perfectly fun, and I don't need to add "Christmas" to any of it to have fun. If I had family obligations to Christmas, yes, I'd participate and probably enjoy it, but that would hardly be the only "fun" to be had.

  • http://aquilakahecate.blogspot.com/ Aquila ka Hecate

    I get Thorn's point. Christmas has become a monster of consumerism and vapid sentimentality for sale.

    It's perhaps more glaringly obvious down here in the Southern Hemisphere, where people start going mad with fake snow, pictures of snowmen, fake icicles etcetera – in the middle of summer. The cognitive dissonance should just blow their heads apart. :)

    Love,
    Terri in Joburg

    • Don

      Then where was this critique come Halloween time?

      • http://aquilakahecate.blogspot.com/ Aquila ka Hecate

        Mine? On my blog, and from my lips, every single year! It's become known as "Terri's Halloween Lecture" among my long-suffering acquaintances.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steward John Deltuvia

      "Christmas has become a monster of consumerism "

      And Saturnalia wasn't?

      The idea of placing Christmas on December 25 was primarily
      1.) overshadow the Pagan gift-giving, partying holiday by making things quietly religious (didn't work); and,
      2.) not mess up the Christian liturgical calendar by placing the birth of Jesus where it could, some years, be the same day as Good Friday.

      If Christians want to celebrate Christmas as a quiet, non-consumeristic holiday, there's nothing stopping them from doing it. Obviously, from the economies in many countries where the majority of the population is Christian, they don't want to. But let's not mess with Yule/Saturnalia at the orders of some pope over 1,000 years ago trying to regularize the yearly Christian liturgical calendar.

  • http://crackerlilo.blogspot.com GreenEyedLilo

    Most of us are converts away from Christianity, meaning we have relatives who celebrate Christmas. (As caraschultz mentioned.) It is the time of year when many families get together. Some of my relatives make get-togethers difficult for me, and indeed, I successfully managed to skip Christmas last year. But to not give my relatives cards and gifts–or my Christian friends, for that matter–is unthinkable to me. Also, my path involves reverence for ancestors, including living ones. This means I actually have to go and see them every now and again.

    Things may be different as our children grow up and we have a larger cohort of adults who've always been Pagan. That'll be interesting to see. But we aren't there yet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MagickMike Michael Smith

      Actually, I converted from a sect of Christianity that found the commercialism and pagan symbology appalling and ungodly, who realized from the evidences that 12/25 is not Jesus's birthday, and whose brand of theology only did what it was commanded to do, i.e. not celebrate his birthday but his sacrifice.

  • Cheryl Taylor

    I think Aquila is the only person who gets it. The writer is not talking about the religious parts of Christmas, she is talking about the consumer monster it has become. It starts even before Halloween, Christmas related merchandise starts appearing even at gas station counters and hardware stores, for crying out loud. Every day for the past few weeks, I have heard someone complain about how stressed they are, how they'll be glad when it;s over, how much they still have to buy and do. People actually FIGHT over toys and electronics, no that is not a rumor, I worked in retail for years. And it's all peer pressure, if your decorations or your kid's presents are keeping up with everybody else's. Whether you can afford it or not. how many people complain about their January credit card bills being horrible?

    If everyone stopped buying into that, and just celebrated the season for whatever it means to them without making themselves miserable over it, we'd all be happier. Nobody said you can't give presents or celebrate other religions with family, but we don't have to get on the crazy bus.

    • Robin Artisson

      You should work in the mental health field. Christmas drives many people who are already thought to be "crazy" even further into full-blown crisis. Everything gets interesting around this time of year. The images and icons and advertising and commercialization of Christmas forces all of our clients to realize just how much they lack in the way of family, how sad their individual histories were (99% have bad family issues in their past, no shock) and makes them yearn for the "normalcy" that our system has denied them, forever in some cases.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506500635 Vanessa Crosby

        It's not just mental health, either. The medical field is kept hopping while people who really don't require medical care fill up emergency rooms because they feel they need attention (yay Canadian health care :S) and there are suicide attempts and success to be dealt with as well.

        I really enjoyed Cole's essay, because there are some very valid points about the crass consumerism, and I very much like the idea of making gifts for the holidays and giving those. That's something that can be worked at throughout the year, the materials bought in February so as not to "feed the monster" and construction can go through the spring, summer and fall. I like that she's encouraging everyone, not just NeoPagans, to get back to the root of the holiday and away from this media induced mess!

        I'd love to give up Christmas completely, but it's not a viable option for me. Some of my close relatives don't know about my Pagan lifestyle, and I'd like to keep it that way. My partner and his family, although not religious, celebrate Christmas and so does my family. I also live in a small rural area, and were I to have children who didn't get to celebrate Christmas would suffer as social outcasts for it. The area just isn't exactly tolerant to difference yet. So I compromise by doing both, and I try to involve as many open minded people as I can in my solstice celebrations.

  • Robin Artisson

    On her point contra the commercialization of the season, I have no dispute.

    On this point:

    "and Christmas can return to being a small celebration by a sect who believes that the Child of Promise so many Pagans speak of – the Bright One born from the cold – was named Jesus and came to work the magic of healing the sick and feeding the poor.”

    I do have to take exception. It assumes that Jesus and the Child of Light or the "Bairn Mor" or the Child of Promise are the same thing. That's a very huge assumption, which gives Christianity far, far, far more legitimacy and power than it deserves, as it is nowhere clear that "Jesus" is in any way related to the more ancient notion of the Child of Promise, a spiritual icon/theme so beloved by Pagans in the past.

    This smacks of the "we're all worshiping the same thing/god/concept/idea" fallacy which is used by the universalists to try and normalize Christianity alongside Paganism and apologize for the same, and vice versa, all the way.

    Also, Jesus didn't come to just "heal the sick and feed the poor". He wasn't some gentle "Gandhi" figure, though many have tried to present him that way. As I have pointed out here many times before, he was violent, he called all non-Jews "dogs", stated his intention to set families to war with one another, said that he did NOT come to bring peace, and many, many other alarming statements and actions.

    We have to get honest about the extent that we're all unconsciously willing to let Christians get away, unchallenged, with their caricatures of Jesus, even to the extent that we're willing to accept him as "just another child of promise" God, which I must protest- it gives Christianity too much credit to do so. We're just completing their task of assimilation and the destruction of the Old Ways for them by doing so.

    As an aside, many of the early church fathers argued fiercely against the equating of Jesus with another form of the Pagan "reborn" God. They insisted that he was different. Who are we to tell these originating spokespersons for their faith that they were wrong about their own religious icon?

    • Bookhousegal

      I don't think she's trying to pronounce some dogma on any syncretism, but describe it. It's not as if the imagery isn't recognizeable, however very different the Christian viewpoint on it is, ….fact is, there are at least two Christian viewpoints on that imagery: (where that came from, anyway, wasn't so new to them) there's what they 'think* about it and how they *relate* to it, which are pretty detached.

      I don't think the problems around this holiday have much to do with Pagans taking the attitude 'It's just another Child of Promise,' …maybe it's more about Christianity saying it *isn't* and all that comes along with that baggage.

      No, we don't need that stuff, and especially in the context of this big alienating consumer nightmare/cultural war that Christianity's made of their own holiday and seeks to blame others for, that's the most important thing about it. We're Pagans. And actually, I always look at Christians wringing their hands about how they aren't meeting with their own ideals about it all (that, itself a major source of the holiday distress so endemic) and figure they could learn a thing or two.

      I think that for Pagans, it's not about gift-giving, or not, (frankly, I rarely see Pagans who do exchange gifts having very uniform rules about just when that actually happens. :) ) …but really about whether or not the doing of it connects or alienates. I'm sure that if I had a jump in income, I'd be pretty lavish in what I gave or made, (At least for one year, anyway) but that'd come of sincerity, not obligation. (Cause I really feel *that,* when I find myself a bit flush. 'Stuff' happens to one of my little talents: I may find shopping malls and such pretty bewildering, but as I go through life as a scrounger and crafter, I'm always seeing things I know someone could use, and I pretty commonly don't have the means to do much about it, so hey. I can see that very sort of sentiment leading to the out-of-control consumerism: what about next year, can you go back to the simple stuff without seeming to disappoint, etc. ) You could see that sort of thing if you backtracked from any given nouveau-lace-curtain Irish family: where you can see how maybe this exuberant idea, "Now we're going to give the kids *everything* eventually turns into seeing it too much in terms of what's *less* than 'Everything,' to the 'things' becoming the focus, to eventually supplanting the very affections they're supposed to express.

      And I think that's where the 'monster' comes from.

      Then what happens is the devout Christians look for the old hobgoblin 'sin:' and try to moralize away the emptiness they still try and fill with more stuff and stress. (And I remember how in so many families, the ritual became, 'Be good and listen to more moralizing or we'll take the stuff you were going to get as a substitute for affection *away,*' and all of a sudden people are feeling ripped off or like they're ripping someone off if they *don't* overspend while trying to find someone to blame to extirpate the need for 'penance'….. (cause, especially, it'll prevent 'Godless Socialism' to the extent that failure to participate in Black Friday nightmares is unpatriotic…. Meanwhile, do a little charity to extirpate the 'guilt,' and in the process associate poor people *with* guilt and avoidance, ….And there's your Frankenstein.

      It's a long way from Pagans recognizing a familiar mythic symbolism and having our generally-simpler, but much warmer, Yule and Solstice celebrations.

    • Bookhousegal

      (continued)

      I remember observing all this as a child: being one of those people born remembering past lives darn smart, and not really believing what they called 'religion' was the same thing as the Gods (more like the Santa Claus thing for adults: Believe this and avert threats, hopefully get rewards,) …It provided a certain detachment because I didn't really know what that activity *was,* ….I had a lot of brains, experience that said whatever the Churches were saying was kind of some abstract threat, not the natural order: ….and the emotional and cognitive maturity, …of a child that age. You couldn't *not* feel these dynamics all around.

      The 'monster' isn't really so much about what people *say,* or moralize about or analyze, ….I think it's about things people generally *don't.* Or in some cases *can't.*

      I think that in a lot of ways, we're the same kind of people, just in a rather different context, one which I do of course much prefer. When we gather in our communities, it's *simpler,* for one. It's still always a little strange to interact with Christian relations: *their* context is weird, but we're not immune to it, either. Just visiting it, sometimes. :)

      I agree we should really leave it to them, though, their religious take on it. Where we don't actually already have so much of the customs in common and almost always have. But it's with irony I observe when I look around any given Yule celebration, that what *we've* got is so much of what the Christians with the money and power feel so desperately to lack. And try to get, with 'more.' More things, more moralizing, more authority, or any combination of those.

      We know it's simpler. And would do well to remember that. :)

  • caraschulz

    Also want to add – UMPA (Upper Midwest pagan Alliance) has had a somewhat similar thought about Christmas – we're Pagan, we don't celebrate it, so let's do something on that day that helps others – which is living out our Pagans ethics of community service and caring for our elders.

    Each Christmas UMPA volunteers deliver meals, chat, and sing carols to elderly residents in two towers in the Twin Cities as part of their Meals on Broomsticks. Perhaps Pagans in other parts of the country could start doing something similar?
    http://pncminnesota.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/give

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Some people really need to go and watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" again, and also the Simpsons episode where Lisa freaks out because she doesn't know what to do on Christmas since she's a Buddhist.

    Also, when buying gifts the whole point is to get people something they will want, not what you think they should want. Oh, and gift giving is not some evil corporate mind-fuck. Well, except for when it is.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisorapello @chrisorapello

      Thanks Apuleius.

  • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

    "Also, when buying gifts the whole point is to get people something they will want, not what you think they should want."

    OMG someone else actually came out and said this. Thank. You.

    I give hubby a long list of everything I really want, and somehow that's considered rude, because when he strays from said list, he gets upset when I'm obviously disappointed. I say if he's going to spend our money on buying me a gift, spend it on something I truly want or need. I ask him, kinds tell Santa, so why is it any different?

    And because I understand he's not a mind reader, nor is he good at picking up subtle clues or even hearing me repeat what it is I'm always saying I'm needing, I provide a list. A long list. A list so long, I will indeed be surprised if an item on said list is chosen, be it the $2 tea infuser from Ikea or the super sweet coffee table that rises to dining table level I saw at the furniture store. (Neither one I expect, one because Ron hates driving to the suburbs, and the other because…. uhhhh… it's expensive. But they're on the list nonetheless.)

    I truly do understand and appreciate gifts from friends and family, but I'm not one to fake enthusiasm. I've never been good at that. If I get the ugly Christmas sweater, my opinion of it is written all over my face. Even so, I do appreciate someone thought well of me to give me a gift, and I thank them for it. I really do appreciate it, but uhhh… welll… maybe if it's laundry day and I wear it under something… or if the furnace goes out… or I can donate it… or hey! Here's the receipt! Thanks!! :D

    • Khryseis_Astra

      LOL My husband and I just give each other a set sum of money that we can spend on anything we want. :) So come Solstice-time, I usually do a big amazon.com order or buy some art supplies, and he gets some video games; we each get what we want. Some people think we're weird, but it works for us.

      • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

        It's not weird; it's practical, and it's what works best for your family. :) Actually, if it wasn't for our son being home this year, we'd probably be doing the same thing. After all, I've always felt that aspect of the holidays are tailor-made for children, even though Ryan's far from being a little boy anymore.

        As adults, we can buy ourselves anything we can afford, rather than relying on mom and dad to supply us like when we were kids. Most of the year, we choose not to, opting to instead pay down bills or whatever. But come the holidays, we get each other needful things we also /want/ and dress them up in gift wrap and bows – stuff we've been saving up to buy ourselves all year long. It's because of that alone I suppose I become less than enthusiastic when Ron gets me something I neither want nor need.

        I still like surprises though, so my list is very long! I figure if kids can write Santa a list of what they want, what they've been good for all year long, then why not me? ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000638761514 Ebon Dragon

        The Amazon wish list is a sign that the gods love us and want us to be happy. And the Amazon wish list tool bar which lets you add items from other websites to you Amazon wish list is doubly brillant. My husband and I while having all of the important things in common, have very different tastes in hobbies. The Amazon wishlist makes gift buying for each other wonderfully simple, and not just for Yule but birthdays and anniversaries as well.. Not only do we each get something we will truly enjoy, but if you're talking clothing ot jewelry (rings, especially) we are sure it will fit and be the right color.

        I've always wondered at people who scoff at the notion of giving cash as a gift… or an Amazon gift certificate. People say it is "impersonal." But you know what? A lot of personal energy went into earning that money and a lot of thought and possibly sacrifice went into being able to give that money away instead of using it to pay the electric bill. I also notice that people who complain that money as a gift is "impersonal" very rarely give it back…

        • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

          Amazon is also one factor in the unfortunate disappearance of brick and mortar bookshops, especially independently-owned ones. Don't forget to balance your spending by supporting independently owned businesses as well! This helps our communities and ultimately gives us more choices as consumers.

    • Nykti

      This is what aggravates me, too. I've been doing a deep cleaning of my room, and I've come across so much Christmas stuff I was given, like little Chinese pouches and "purses", chopsticks, little books on cats… and I have no idea what to do with them all. It's a waste of their money, and a waste of my space. Last year I gave a list that was mostly gift cards (books, books, books) and money, along with some DVDs. Instead I got a bunch of cat stuff (earrings, necklaces, books [HOW MANY BOOKS ON CATS DO I NEED?!], treats [which were, admittedly, needed] and a collar — because I had gotten my first cat in August of that year), and most of it now sits at the bottom of a box because they're useless to me. When I asked why I was given so much random stuff, I was told its because they don't like giving gift cards, they want a physical gift I can unwrap. So this year I ended up just putting DVDs on the list, although I think in the years to come if I keep getting random crap, I'm going to ask people donate to a charity instead of buying me gifts. Less waste, less money wastefully spent, and it's doing some good.

      But what you and Khryseis_Astra describe is pretty much what me and my BF do. I don't see the issue there. It may be less of a surprise, but its a welcome gift regardless.

      • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

        That's a very thoughtful and selfless idea. :)

        I read the advice columns regularly, and lately, it's no surprise it's been all about the holidays. One of them was about this very thing, that people give gifts based around the one interest they know about the recipient, and often, it seems it tends to go into overdrive. It has me wondering why that is: do we not project our various traits and interests enough? Do we pigeon-hole ourselves? Or, is it simply because we liked something once, and that theme is repeated over and over in cookie cutter fashion?

        (Hopefully Ron's not reading this. If he is, DON'T! LOL!) We exchange the bulk of our gifts on Christmas morning, again, as we like the fun stuff. He gave me a list of all the things he wants, but because he can get them anytime he wants, he does NOT want us to get them for him. Oh gee, thanks for making it hard on me.

        So, I had Ryan help me figure out what he needs and wants that he would only buy for himself /after/ he actually needed it. Since he manages a fleet of vehicles, he's constantly having to give the crews jumps, and the cables he has never seem to be long enough. That's especially true when a van is parked on a one-way street, and the battery is on the far right, and our car's battery is on the far left! So, one of his gifts is 16' jumper cables. Is it flashy? Is it fun? Is it even remotely close to something he'd ask for? Nope, but we guarantee he'll be surprised, and he'll use it often!

        I figured he loved the 4-cup coffee maker we got him for Father's Day, since he's the only coffee drinker in the house, so I went again with the utility notion. He also seems to like new socks and underwear, so that's another one of his gifts. I'd never buy him other types of clothes though, because as he says,

        "I can dress myself, mommy!"

        Outside of buying him a car though, I don't think I can ever top the birthday present I got him the first year we were together: a black Les Paul. ;) Although, there was the time I won a high end black BC Rich Warlock at a show and let him have it. Mostly, it was because he was so excited for me and drooled over it, so there was no way I could keep it for myself. Of course, that was after I taunted him by saying I was going to have it painted in hot pink enamel and put bunnies and rainbows all over it. Yeah, I can be cruel! >:)

        So really, a gift to me is giving something I know a person has an actual use for it (not what *I* think he/she needs).

    • Mikka

      I love giving someone a mystery box and seeing their eyes light up when it turns out to be something they really get a kick out of or can really use, especially if it's something they'd never get for themselves. My best trick for it is to keep an eye out for stuff they gush about, and see if I can get whatever it is. It's not just always a thing, one year I gave out housecleaning coupons and everybody loved them.

  • afsanaydely

    They should first look at the history of Christmas, Christmas prior to the Church renaming the date was the original date of the Winter Solstice/Yule, as with all dates the Christians wanted to dominant so they made us move ours back.

    • afsanaydely

      However, the word Christ in Christmas does not mean Christ as in the form of God, it defines who were are and what we strive fore, the Christ within us all, which is there as by the Gods and Goddesses. Jesus was born to a woman whom was with child upon the arrival of Gabriel, he was and is a demigod born of human and Angel. Jesus was born a man who married had a daughter and was murdered for standing up and defending the innocent and the weak, he was a man of free speech, free thought and he taught his people that they did not have to submit or be oppresed by man. He was a man who his teachings are the deepest root of the Hidden Mysteries of the Occult. His birth was not during the December month, it was in the first month of April in the year 0007.

      I find it not so interesting that he was murdered by the Romans the same people who murdered Giordano Bruno many centuries later for pretty much the same thing, for teaching people they were free to think, free to speak and that they did not have to submit or be oppressed by man to stand up for what you believe. Both were maytrs for thier beleives and the freeing of the oppressed at the hand of the Church.

      • afsanaydely

        http://www.blogtalkradio.com/hexeducation, please listen to the 29 Dec 2010 Hex Education Show where the discussion in the beginning discusses Christmas and the original origins and more. In one of the replies and it based of historical facts, it is revealing that the original Winter Solstice was on the 25th of December and Saturnalia was/is on the 21st of December as the Church wanted to steal from the Pagans.

    • lysana

      I'm sorry, but that claim isn't borne out by any evidence I've ever seen. The Solstice takes place around the 21st of the month now, and happened ten days earlier under the Julian calendar. Before that was invented, there wasn't a December 25 to have. December 25 was the feast of Sol Invictus in Rome, a perfect fit for an early Christian church to use as the feast day of their Son of a God.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        The difference between the Julia and Gregorian calendars didn't exist back then. It's due to the precession of the equinoxes since then.

      • afsanaydely

        Many things in which I have been taught are not found in books as my tradition is that of oral teachings Yes, Sol Invictus is celebrated in Rome on the 25 of December, he is Apollo the healer of the sick and this dates back to the time of the Iatromantus and those who were known as the Dream Healers as they received through prophecy on how to heal someone. This is one of Apollo's cults.

        Many Blessings to All this Season.
        Ariana

  • afsanaydely

    I am proud to be a Witch and I am proud to Honour my Gods and know that without one there cannot be another. Female and Male.

  • KhalilaRedBird

    Jason's post was, to me, right on; and Thorn's post made an excellent point about the commercialism of the frantic holiday. I am a Quaker Witch; our family celebrates Christmas in the family tradition — highly eclectic and welcoming. For the Christians among us, and for the formerly-Christian folks, the tradition is rich in sacred associations, lessons, and connections with That Which We Hold Most Sacred. For the others, the family tradition itself is sacred ritual of bonding and connection from which no one is excluded or unwelcome. The tradition does, therefore, what good ritual should always do — it realigns us to our highest ideals and purposes, including the fact that we are all members of the human family. It reminds us that a newborn child is a child of promise — any newborn. It reminds us that shared joy is a delight worth seeking.

    I am bothered that Pagans or Christians feel called to make proprietary claims on this human celebration. Doing so appears to me to be more akin to hate than love. I am not saying it IS hate, but I call on all of us to consider what we are saying when we try to stamp brand names on something wonderful to keep the riff-raff out.

    • northernsea

      Wow, what a Norman Rockwell xmas you must have. I never had one of those. The best xmas I had was when I invited my ex and his new wife and afterwards my sons said they so totally got why I was no longer married to him. Bless those boys.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Coyle's column is about getting upset over how other people celebrate at this season. Don't we get enought of that from Christians at this time of year? The ones who hate "Happy Holidays" from shopgirls whose employers chose not to insult Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem and Pagan customers?

        Many of us with families live on both sides of this hedge and have to cross it each in our own way. Wish us sureness of foot; don't tell us how to do it.

  • http://twitter.com/PaganMomBlog @PaganMomBlog

    I love Coyle, I think she has some wonderful insight and I often look forward to one of her books or her blog posts. This one however, I have to respectfully disagree with. To begin with, no one owns a day. It's free for anyone to do as they wish. I grew up in an atheistic home and we celebrated Christmas secularly. We had family who celebrated it religiously whom we celebrated with sans church services and Mass. I loved our celebrations. It wasn't about the gifts for me but the family time and feasting. Now I am married to a Christian and one of my daughters is Christian. I happily celebrate Yule beginning on the Solstice and for 12 days. It LOOKS like Christmas as it did when I was a child. But I do not celebrate with church services.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=780639610 Happydog Potatohead

    wow, all the indignation…even Pagans can't abide someone asking why we even do the Christmas thing? Personally I have wished many times that I could go somewhere for Christmas where they didn't celebrate Christmas. At all. Celebrating Christmas has come to mean nothing but stress, anger, frustration, and exorbitant expenses. If it was just sending cards I could deal, but the cooking and the baking and the mess and the families that don't get along and the horrible songs and, like Thorn said, the BUY BUY BUY hammering…it's just too much.

    • http://twitter.com/PaganMomBlog @PaganMomBlog

      I don't see much indignation. I am seeing people voice their opinions and debating the topic. And Christmas celebrations don't have to be stressful or about money. It's all up to people how they choose to spend their time.

  • http://FernsFronds.blogspot.com FernWise

    As Elena Kagan pointed out during her confirmation hearings: even Jews have Christmas day traditions (involving Chinese restaurants). So, too, many neopagans do, usually focused around spending time with family and/or other loved ones.

    I think we're mostly in agreement that those sorts of traditions, any day of the year, are good things.

    What Thorn is saying TO ME is that many of us are called to 're-enchant the world' (as the tradition I'm in puts it), and for some of us manifesting that as showing a way out of consumerism can be part of that. Helping folks find ways to heed 'that still, small voice' to quote the Bible, or "hear their quiet voices sometimes when I pray" as The Isaac sang, can be a good thing. For Thorn, it seems that part of her helping manifest that in her life is to stand apart from the commercialism.

    Yes, she's sharing that tip directly in her words to neopagans, because we're the folks who tend to read her books/blog/etc and attend her classes, rather than showing us only in her life. And, probably, because no one likes to be lectured on how to live their religion by someone IN their own religion, let alone by someone OUTSIDE of their own religion.

    Gift giving …. ah, there are so many ways to look at the point of that. I dunno about y'all, but the gifts the Gods tend to give are usually not what I expect or thought I needed, let alone wanted. Doesn't make them any less gifts, any less needed, any less blessings, any less manifestations of love. Since I see us humans as 'the hands of the Divine on Earth', I have no problems emulating Their approach to gift giving!

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    It's fun to get a few gifts if you can afford it. I do like a certain amount of gift-giving.

    But, no matter what you celebrate, there's no need to destroy yourself.

    You're supposed to be celebrating.

    Celebrate, don't suffer, and don't worry so much about details like names and what belongs to whom, or if we're technically celebrating something we don't really believe in, so long as you're making good decisions over what does or doesn't bring cheer at this potentially very dreary time of year. "Happy Holiday" isn't just the "Holiday" but the "Happy." What about the "Happy?"

    And if we could all just worry more about the "Happy" and less about the "Holiday" and the things we feel obliged to do, or the specifics of exactly what we're supposed to be celebrating, or whether or not we're technically celebrating someone else's holiday. There are plenty more times of the year to gripe about our differences.

    I think there's something other than materialism that makes a child feel like Christmas is the turning point of the year in a way that goes beyond the technicalities of what they tell you you're celebrating (For a child, "Yay, Jesus is born!" is happy in the way that "Yay, somebody was born!" is. At least for me, it was).

    Be glad the sun is coming back. Do something special if it pleases you, and share a gift if you so desire. Don't make yourself miserable over it, and the monster will weaken.

  • TeNosce

    This article reminds me of a joke I once heard – Q: How many vegan feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: That's not funny.

    The criticism of American culture is a valid one. However, if the question is why do I, as a pagan, have a tree? Why did I watch Polar Express last night with my 2 and 4 year-old? Why does my son believe in elves and hope that Santa brings him a Transformer and an Iron Man mask?

    Um… 'cause if you have kids it's fun.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      Santa is fun indeed…

      But I am suspect of all the to-do in culture about believing in Santa.

      What do you think, as a parent, of all the movies whose plots center around believing in Santa ("When did you stop believing?"), or all those "Believe" themed Christmas things?

      • TeNosce

        I've struggled with that.

        Honestly, I think one has to teach kids to occasionally have faith in improbable things. Life as a grown up comes at you fast, and can seem pretty hopeless at times.

        Ambivalence and cynicism come far too easy in Postmodern culture. Research shows that happy people are actually delusional in a positive direction – – and that this skill is learned. The last time I pondered whether or not my 4 year old was too sophisticated for 'belief' I looked over to find him talking to a stuffed duck, for Christ sake.

  • Pitch313

    What we call "Christmas" these days is not a religious, spiritual, or secular holiday. It is a period of directed and intensive economic activity that, among other things, determines the value and financial health of many, many interlinked organizations, activities, and groups. Jobs, income, stock value, having a job during the coming year, and all sorts of other economic and financial circumstances depend on or take their direction from our aggregate economic activity called "Christmas."

    I don't think that many Americans, in these times, could or would give up the economic activity called "Christmas."

    • http://twitter.com/PaganMomBlog @PaganMomBlog

      Imagine how many businesses would shut down due to lack of shopping at this time of year? Many rely on Christmas to make a profit! Loss of business is loss of jobs.

      • TeNosce

        I agree. People have been bitching about Christmas starting after Halloween for a long time.

        Why should I care if people are making money and having fun? Heck, I'm a business owner myself. I'm pretty burnt out on worrying about my carbon footprint. As it is I'm vegetarian and limited myself to two kids. Can't I just enjoy my kids and the pretty lights?

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Pagan Mom, this is why Christmas isn't going to change any time soon. There are millions of jobs that depend on their retail employer making a profit for the year during this season.

      • lysana

        To politely rephrase how a friend of mine puts it, the economy is tied to Santa's sleigh.

        • Pagan Puff Pieces

          As to the right and wrong of that… that's a question to ask economists and political philosophers.

  • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M.

    I love celebrating Christmas. Baking, Christmas trees, wrapping gifts – bring it on! Our culture is so work-oriented it's nice to see people do something different. I do agree with Thorn about the environmental costs, though. The madness is OK; destroying the planet is not.

    Our culture has been arguing over Christmas for centuries. In Europe it used to be a time of drunken revelry and debauchery. If you look at the words of some carols and wassail songs you can see they were meant to be sung by drunken ruffians demanding food, money and booze from their aristocratic landlords. It was hardly the family-centric cozy holiday we think it was. That image was created by writers like Clement Moore and Charles Dickens who were trying to show people a better (more familial and consumerist?) way to celebrate. If you were to celebrate an authentically old-fashioned Christmas today you would get arrested. People who talk about the "true, spiritual" meaning of Christmas are continuing a centuries old argument.

    A lot of non-Christian supernatural lore is associated with Christmas. Throughout northern Europe and England the twelve days of Christmas are a time for werewolves, the Wild Hunt, Frau Holda, the horned Krampus and ghosts. In southern Europe beings like La Befana and the kallikantzaroi of Greece are active. Santa Claus, elves and flying reindeer are just the American equivalent. Lots of spirits are out and about at this time of year!

    I don't think there is much Christianity in Christmas. If you take out Santa and all the revelry, you're left with a myth that even a lot of Christian sects don't think is accurate. The Puritans didn't celebrate Christmas, and neither do the Jehovah's Witnesses, because there's no biblical evidence for when Christ was born.

  • Sharon Knight

    I posted this over on Thorn's Facebook, but thought I'd add it here as well. I love the spirit of this season, the gift giving, the feasting with friends and family, the time for togetherness. The tree represents the world tree if I am not mistaken, the cornucopia of plenty. That is an invocation of abundance and prosperity I like to share with my loved ones. And it is easy and fun to give small gifts that enhance our loved ones' lives in small ways. We can make them. We can support local artists and small businesses. We can simply bake or write each other blessings. We don't have to kill ourselves buying meaningless plastic crap. Like Thanksgiving, which also has a lot of negative crap associated with it, it is what we choose to make it, and I enjoy that there are a few rituals I share with a larger circle of humanity than my usual Pagan clan. Because sometimes we Pagans can be too damn insular and it is nice to share in a feeling of ritual celebration and good cheer that transcends any one religion sometimes.

    That's why I celebrate.

  • Sharon Knight

    I guess I also just like to celebrate! For me Yule starts Dec. 20th (my sweetie's b-day) and goes through NYE. For me NYE starts at Samhain and ends Jan. 1st.

    Let's party!

    (Meaningfully of course! ;+) )

  • DeWayne Lehman

    Someone just pass the real liquor egg nog. I’ve got family to be around this time of year, and Jesus couldn’t negotiate any better. ;) That said, I stick to my original comment. Everyone has something to celebrate this time of year. I just don’t call it Christmas. I’m very happy not to call it Christmas. I’m equally happy if others do. Just don’t ride my rear end for celebrating my holiday at “your” time of year. Christmas is Christian. They can own that. What they cannot own is the calendar or its days… The Romans own that… Pagan Romans. Come on, that was funny… Ok, it was close to funny, haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1008131810 Chelsea Rose

    I don't celebrate Christmas less because it's a "Christian" holiday and more because I can't stand the rampant materialism and consumerism associated with it.

  • Henry

    consumerism and religion? hmmmmmm

  • silentflame

    I found T. Thorn Colye's essay a rather interesting, challenging, and a passionate piece to not only to the broader Pagan Community, but also to the world populous at large about the nature of this holy day, and its rather nasty counter part of Christmas AKA, consumerism. Although I am still molding over this interesting counter proposal from Coyle, as I am a Pagan who is from originally a Christian faith background, and whom still visits family on this particular holy day, I do appreciate the core sentiment of this article of realizing that Christmas should be honored as one sees fit, regardless of ones faith and not to push ones own faith into another's festivities and not to be swept into the illusion that this holy day should be some hair brained stress fest day of "rampant consumerism" as Colye had commented in her piece.

    So,at least from me, thank you T. Thorn Colye for the courage to go against the stream of things, to speak up, and to challenge even my own assumptions as a Pagan, on what Christmas means to myself as well as others.

    May we all have a blessed holiday season.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1135952217 Annette Tita

      well spoken!

  • Chris McConnell

    Railing against Christmas is not going to change anything. The fact is that 99% of xmas traditions are in fact pagan so… who cares what its called. This game of names is pointless, its what we do not what we say. Let the christians get wrap around the axle on what its called and we heathens and pagans can simply do what we do. Give to others, celebrate on our days or crazy as it sounds all days. My heathen ancestors adopted the holidays of many cultures they meet and I'll bet that is true of most ancient cultures. "Whats that you say? party on tuesday for (enter deities/ritual/observance here), sure I'll be there! need me to bring some thing?".

    • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M.

      I agree! I think the sheer act of celebrating can be sacred. It's that Dionysiac impulse most (all?) of us have inside of us.

  • chuck_cosimano

    I love Christmas. i love the music, especially my parodies of it. I love our custom of going out at midnight and blowing up the manger (that was my father's idea many years ago). I love seeing the lights and the tree and above all getting lots of presents from my wife and seeing how happy she is at the stuff I get her. I love reciting the real ending of that dreadful Dickens thing wherein Scrooge awakes with a mighty, "Bah Humbug!" after which he and Marley's Ghost go out and drown Tiny Tim in the Thames to the rejoicing of the rest of the abominable Cratchet clan who could not stand the sugary little bastard either.

    But most of all, I love to read the annoying blather about how people should not enjoy the holidays and live like dour Puritans, lest they actually spend money and provide some employment for someone. And I love to read it because I know that no one is actually going to give a damn and they will enjoy the holidays no matter what anyone else thinks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1135952217 Annette Tita

    What I don't understand is that people say (people being the general public I deal with in retail daily) that Christmas is stressful, horrible, expensive, and anxiety ridden. People wait in line and get into screaming matches to purchase things. They wish me a Merry Christmas sometimes after I ring them up, but 5 minutes before they were talking about how much they hate the holidays. Yet, roll the clock back to August. I had dozens!!! of customers coming into my store asking when I was going to start getting holiday product. I told them not until Thanksgiving. "So late?!" was the answer I'd get. One woman stomped out of the store b/c she thought I had all the Christmas product in August and was merely hiding it from her to make her mad.

    So if Christians want everything to be simpler, less stressful and like the bumber stickers I keep seeing "Keep Christ in CHRISTmas" – why go nuts throwing punches in the parking lots for a space (true story from last Saturday). Why wait on long lines yelling about how long it's taking to buy things the other person probably doesn't want? Why not take a stand and say No. We're going to celebrate life, and family and not blow our rent on useless gadgets and gizmos.

    I'm not saying this to be rude in any way. I'm really trying to understand.

  • Marie

    I agree with Thorn's point in part, as I think its the rampant consumerism that has created the monster called Christmas in America. There is this expectation that you *must* buy gifts for people or somehow you are a proverbial Scrooge.

    But I also see another point in Thorn's article, whereby at least if we're going to participate in the madness, let it be with true intention. Are we trying to buy gifts for people because we truly want to give something to someone we love? Or are we doing it because its expected of us? And, what are we actually giving? Are we standing in line at Target at 3 am on Black Friday just to get the best deal on the newest version of a Playstation/XBox/huge ass screen tv? Or is this a good opportunity to express our love or fondness to a family member or cherished friend .

  • Marie

    Personally, I think its a good idea to stop and really reflect on why and how we participate in celebrating Christmas. I don't think you have to be Christian to celebrate it any more than you have to be Pagan to celebrate Yule. But you also don't *have* to celebrate it in the same way as others do. Particpate consciously and not just out of obligation. Celebrate in those parts that you do enjoy – gathering with friends and family, decorate a beautiful tree, share a lovingly prepared meal with people you love. And, if upon reflection some part of the holiday is causing more stress than joy, then don't bother. Neither Santa nor the Christians have any Christmas Police who are going to come knocking at your door because of it.

  • Tomb

    I celebrate in a manner of a nod of honor and respect to Yahweh and his son and that its the time when I get to see all of my family, get stuff, and have a good time. Even though not a Christian their is still alot of good memories attached.

  • http://www.thorncoyle.com T. Thorn Coyle

    Hello all,

    Here is my response to all of the responses left here, on my blog, and on Facebook. Thanks for thinking with me!
    http://www.thorncoyle.com/musings/?p=822

    blessings – T>

    • Robin Artisson

      This response to the responses was a bit short and unsatisfying to me, but hey- that's just me. There was also a bit too much sentiment in it. I do, however, appreciate the clarity that peaks through some of your turns of phrase. I don't normally give people that I perceive as being very eclectic or too far in the eye of the mainstream the time of day, but I've been pleasantly surprised with some of the things I've read from you, Coyle. That's an important lesson by itself.

  • Skye

    As an Asatruar, this issue is a lot easier to settle. My ancestors celebrated Yule in the way many modern peoples celebrate Christmas. So most things that my family does I can participate in without a guilty conscience (until they start praying that is!) Still, the biggest difference is that gifts were given to the land spirits instead of people, but that's easy to fix: I just give gifts to both!

    Blessed Yule.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stenobauer Cathryn Bauer

    Thank you, Thorn. Yes, Christmas is a monster, at least if you accept the way it is generally supposed it should be instead of taking charge of the holiday for yourself. It can be a genuinely happy time if you chart your own course and just opt out of what I have come to see as pure awfulness. Sadly, that's how I remember the childhood Christmases I worked so hard to create. Underneath the tinsel and compulsive spending (my mother had some issues in this general direction), there was just so much tension and fear that the you'd be the one to break the fragile holiday spirit. I love Winter Solstice, the drama of the longest night of the year, and this year was exceptional for reasons we all know! That's now the real holiday as far as I am concerned, the one that calls to me to be celebrated. My husband and I have discovered great pleasure in gifting those who support our very career-driven lives (I am sure we have the world's best housekeeper) and giving to the animal rescue groups we endorse at this time of year. We know we are lucky to be able to share, and selfishly, I've found it does increase my sense of my own good fortune. That's become the heart of the holiday for me.

    This year, we are taking charge of our holiday in a way that would make Martha Stewart cringe. Since December has been characterized by overwork for both of us, I suggested to the Spousal Unit that he head for the hills for a day of indulging in his passion, skiing, while I will be vegetating at home with the complete set of Six Feet Under DVDs. Not entirely post-consumerism, but it sounds great to us.

    So, fellow Pagans, cast off the shackles of the seasonal expectations and make it your own! And thanks not only to Jason but also to the many who make this forum a fine stone soup of dscussion. Blessings to all, and may all have the holiday they most desire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stenobauer Cathryn Bauer

    Correction in first paragraph: not that I worked so hard to create, that my parents worked so hard to create. Not what I intended to write, but yes, it probably was quite the Freudian slip.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sheski1 She Szimanski

    I like her article and mostly agree with it, except as Robin pointed out I feel it is wrong to equate the characters of the Abrahamic religions with the icons of older pagan religions. My perspective is a little different from most, because I was never a Christian and I do not have any warm fuzzy feeling towards any of their trappings. When I was a teenager (because my family was and still is Christian) I tried on that belief "that we all want the same things and after all no matter what you call it all gods are one god & all goddesses are one goddess", now I have survived on this planet for over 4 decades, I have read from a "study bible" that contains several translations, and I have had someone in my life who actually gave a damn how I felt about things, so now I do not feel I am obligated to pretend to be just like every one else around the holidays. In my home there will be lights and sometime evergreens, and cookies, but I will not have my decorations for Yule or feasting for a solstice blend in with my families Christian traditions or run around buying multiple expensive commercialized gifts just because it is a state holiday. My mate and I handfasted on the Winter Solstice, so it is a special day for me in more than one way, now that he is gone I see no reason to taint our honest celebrations of the returning light with Christian stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

    I posted this to Thorn's blog, too.

    I celebrate both Yule and Christmas, the latter with my family and my husband’s family.

    I’m sorry some members of your family are greedy, ungrateful jerks who didn’t appreciate your carefully-selected gifts. But gift-giving itself is not really the problem in that scenario, is it? It makes me sad you turned your back on gift giving all in one fell swoop like that.

    I have always encouraged and practiced gift-giving that honors the handmade, the recycled, the creative. I realize some people don’t appreciate that kind of thing, but fortunately for me, my friends and family aren’t really among them. And if ever they don’t appreciate a gift, either they’re too polite to mention it, or I don’t let it faze me.

  • Edmund Howls

    Consumerism sucks! In other news, water is wet.
    Snark aside, these are interesting stories about folk's practice.
    I disengaged from christian and the mainstream winter holiday observances some years back. Very theraputic and all – a bit like being a gay separatist. But lesson learned now, and we are walking. … There's good stuff in these holidays and we can use it.
    Pagans steal from EVERYbody, and if we are smart, we appropriate the best and remix it to what serves us best. What gets us throught the dark of the year?
    Historical christian artifacts, like their music, aren't intrinsically bound by their origins: steal them back! Great art is independent of what anyone in particular thinks it's really about.; one can sing the Halleluja chorus from The Messiah just as heartily as Light is Returning from our friend Charlie Murphy. At our house, it's all ultimately about survival of the light and life and what connects us.
    Christmas tree farms are a great asset to land use in my appalachian county, Heifer international makes lots of money off of ethical holiday gift donations this time of year, and many of those folks making the cheap plastic shit are probably glad to have jobs. Tell me these are not good things.
    Can we do better? Thorne's usual question. Yes, we says.

  • jake

    I think all this arguing is stupid over this holiday .THe story of Jesus birth is in the bible as well as the resurrection.This major part of the Christian faith .aside from the old testament.Christians descend from the Jewish faith . Their beloved savior means a lot to them as did the Jews back in the day when he was born , for those who believed he was the chosen one.anyhow people came from all over to visit the christ child.It was said it took possibly , months to a couple of years for the 3 kings to reach Jesus.It is believed that theirs enough historical evidence to suggest this man really did exist , weather or not people believed this man was god is another story.

    The piont is weather or not he was born on the 25th , witch their enough evidence to point towards perhaps he was not.How ever to say that Christmas was just about the pagan rituals that were adopted . or weather or not Christians celebrated the birth in ancient times in the christian faith .The point is they have celebrated Jesus birth , for long time from generation to generation.I agree the Christmas tree and gifts and be done away with .This never had any bearing on what was important to these people , its celebrated JESUS birth straight from the bible weather or not they had a date for him , he was BORN as far as Christians are concerned . Their are Christians who don't think christmas trees or santa has anything to due with it , older people preach children shouldn't focus in on this.In the 16oos Martin Luther (founder of the christian religion Lutherans ) changed Santa clause to the crisangel so that children would take thier focus off ov Santa Clause and presents . so the focus would be more on Christ so they would get presents from crisangel instead witch is still practiced in Germany today.

    I can understand this winter solstice , yule celebrations , and that it may have come first ,but the belief in Christ has nothing to due with it and regardless on how this date came to be , it is still a very meaning full holiday in the spiritual sense for the few Christians left that aren't over run with American culture as everyone else in America with SANTA CLAUSE. They have practiced it long enough i don't see changing it , except for Christians leaving the trees, ect.. anything that does not directly reflect JESUS.or perhaps conceiving a different date.

    I believe theirs a strong possibility their was pagan in flounces in the development of the Christmas.
    The Norwegian christians present day, still carry on some of their ancestral traditions from their pagan ancestors.Who could have been descendants from the Norse.Those rituals ,(remnants) are still apart of their heritage as Christian Norwegians .This sounds like clashing more than stealing , their just many ways to look at things in my op ion.

    Anyways i just don t see Christians will stop celebrating the birth of Christ, perhaps they can due away of anything that is a pagan tradition and start from their .I say let them sort it out . how can any one say how they should practice their religion ,no one can really own a date .IF they focus on Christ , like they used to .sometimes Americanizing things turns things to shit.

  • Jonathan

    Way to go Thorn! Christmas is now largely a Corporate holiday. Let Christians reclaim it as spiritual! Let Pagans follow their own traditions without having to water them down and and distill them into the hallmark "holidays" nebulae.