Of all my favorite holidays, Christmas isn’t. All the other December holidays come and go peacefully. Unfortunately, there is something about Christmas that just brings out the worst in Christians. The simple action of wishing someone “Happy holidays” has them frothing at the mouth, insisting everyone has declared war on Christmas.
This simply isn’t true. No one has declared war on Christmas. Christmas has declared war everyone else.
A short list of December holidays includes:
- Bodhi Day
- Jamhuri Day
- Dongzhi Festival
- Human Light
- Incwala Day
- New Year’s Eve
Many of these holidays, like Bodhi Day (originating in 596 BCE) predate Christianity by hundreds of years. December also includes several national and international holidays, like Pearl Harbor Day (December 7th). And, the month is home to several weird holidays, such as the Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (December 30th) and Weary Willie Day (December 9th). My best guess is that one celebrates men with perpetually limp dicks.
All this makes me wonder why everyone can’t just drink and be merry, regardless of which holiday they celebrate. Phrases like Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, and Merry Xmas, have been in circulation well over 100 years. Many songs, now co-opted as Christmas songs, make no mention of Christmas: Walking in the Winter Wonderland (1978), Suzy Snowflake (1951), Let it Snow (1945), etc. Heck, Jingle Bells (1857) was originally a drinking song!
Christmas, as it is celebrated today, is little more than Pagan-lite. Probably because the first Christmas was a Pagan celebration.
Pope Julius I (337-352 CE) recast Saturnalia as a Christian festival. (Saturnalia had been celebrated for 800 years before Pope Julius I got involved. Cato the Elder (234-149 BCE) bemoaned the addition of Greek customs to the Roman Holy Day. Doubtless, he would have been mortified to see Christianity overlaid.) Knowing he could win more converts if he allowed them to maintain their celebrations and traditions, he held the first Christ Mass on December 25th because that is the birthdate of Sol Invictus, the Sun God. Ever since then, Christianity has eagerly adopted Pagan traditions, claiming them as their own.
Santa is an amalgamation of thee Pagan characters. Julnik (Yule-Nick) is one of the names Odin travels under when in disguise. Like Santa, Odin has a long white beard and is dressed in fur as is befitting the northern climate. In the month of Jule (Yule/December) he visits his followers in secret, listening around their fires to see if they are content. In Lapland, bell-wearing shamen, dressed in red and blue, travel via reindeer and sleigh. Holland gives us Sinterklass, who has a long white beard, a magical red cloak, and rides across the wind-whipped, winter skies on a white horse, filling the shoes of good children with gifts.
When it comes to evergreens, Yule logs, and greenery, those weren’t even permitted inside most churches until the 1850s owing to their strong Pagan associations.
Jeremiah 10 essentially reads:
Do not go into the forest, cut down a tree, lug it home, set it up in the living room, and decorate it. The heathens do that at the time of the winter solstice and it’s bad.
The religious pilgrims who arrived in the Americas sought purge themselves of all things Pagan. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law prohibiting Christmas celebrations. Anyone caught in the act of celebration, by feasting, closing their shops or not working, or by any other means, was fined five shillings.
The 1st United States Congress assembled in 1789 and Congress was in session on Christmas Day from the year of its inception until 1855. Christmas did not become a national holiday until 1870, thanks in large part to the Merchant’s Lobby who, bolstered by the lucrativeness of the recently created Thanksgiving holiday, wanted another reason to compel people to purchase their wares.
So who’s winning the war on Christmas? Corporations and the Merchant’s Lobby, that’s who. Any religion that advocates for spending time with family rather than amassing huge amounts of consumer debt is being systematically squeezed out. Fiscal responsibility has become unpatriotic. Domestic responsibility and contentedness have become sacrilegious. Rather than feed corporate greed, I advocate for the consumption of liquor and the spreading of merriment during December.
To this end, I have created my annual version of Laughter and Libations. Many traditional carols have pagan origins. Those songs whose sole purpose is celebrating Christmas are simply rewritten. After all, Christians have been co-opting pagan songs hundreds of years; turnabout is fair play. In addition to the history and frivolity surrounding the songs, Laughter and Libations includes liquor infused recipes because there is nothing like spirits to raise your spirits.
In addition to drinking and being merry, those wanting a Pagan connection to the holidays might try Yule-Logging. One birch or aspen cut to make yule logs can easily serve 8 to 10 families.
Gather a group of friends and head to the forest. Look for a tree with a 6” diameter at about chest height. There is no need for chainsaws, an ax and handsaw will do the trick. After the tree is felled, each family can saw of their own 16” segment to be decorated and displayed as the centerpiece for holiday gatherings. Also, take time to gather enough greenery to decorate your log and make wreaths or swags. When the holidays are over, be sure to burn your Yule Log to bring good luck in the coming year.
The associations for each type of plant used in creating Yule Logs is listed below:
Birch—rebirth and new beginnings. Often called the “Lady of the woods,” birch contains feminine energy and is thought to protect against infertility. At the time of the winter solstice it symbolizes the rebirth of the sun.
Aspen—Protection and healing. Having aspen on your property is thought to protect from thieves. Also, the buds, bark, and leaves contain a compound similar to aspirin. This healing tree offers a sense of perseverance and helps you through hard times.
Pine, spruce, and fir are considered the seat of the gods. These trees are guardians of the forest and by bringing them into your home, the protection magic associated with them is transferred to your family. Combined, they create a fresh and fragrant incense that conjures images of the forest.
Pine—immortality and rebirth. One of the earliest forms of Yule Logs, the Druids burned pine logs during Mid-Winter to lure the sun back to earth. Placing pine boughs over your door wards off negativity and illness while promoting prosperity for the household.
Fir—protection. Hanging fir branches over your bed is said to prevent nightmares, while hanging branches over the barn door keeps stock and grain stores safe from thieves.
Spruce—protection. The Scandinavians call it “the tree of life.” (I call it a “prickly pain-in-the-ass,” but if you have pets or toddlers, this is a good choice if you want a Christmas tree.)
Other plants commonly used in Yule Log decorations include:
Holly—protection, foresight, and goodwill. The Druids incorporated holly into their Mid-Winter rites because it stayed green all year, providing a promise of the spring to come. It carries masculine energy, often denoted as the Holly King.
Ivy—protection, fidelity, and fertility. It carries feminine energy, often denoted as the Ivy Queen. For centuries this plant was banned from Christian celebrations, fearing that if it was displayed, unrestrained feasting and drunkenness would ensue.
Mistletoe—fertility. The Celts thought the white berries resembled semen, an indication of the plant’s virile powers. In Scandinavian countries, the pant was so sacred that if enemies happened to meet where the plat was growing, they were required to lay down their weapons and declare a truce for the remainder of the day. This is where the custom of hanging mistletoe in a doorway is derived, requiring all who enter to pledge peace and friendship, sealed with a kiss. Mistletoe is toxic, so make sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.