Dismantling Frankenstein’s Monster (or Putting the Christ Back in Christmas)

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picture by T. S. Rogers

My compatriot Jason Pitzl-Waters has written an excellent essay on the Winter Holidays, Paganism, and Christmas over at the Washington Post. On one hand, I agree with him: during the dark part of the year, it is natural to wish to bring a little light in, to gather in warmth with friends and family, to celebrate what we have, together.

On the other hand… I really wish that Christians would take back Christmas.

Christmas, at least how it is celebrated in the U.S. overculture, has become a sort of Frankenstein’s monster. The sewing together of old Pagan customs, Christian theology, and rampant consumerism has wrought a beast that is ugly, fearsome, noisy, and out of control. Christmas has so overtaken us, that even many Jews have upgraded what used to be a fairly minor holiday into a gift exchanging extravaganza. It is hard not to at least try to compete with the juggernaut that is Santa’s sleigh.

Years ago, I opted out of the frenzy. I am not a Christian. Being a Pagan from the Northern Hemisphere, I celebrate Winter Solstice, honoring the darkest, longest night in celebration with my friends. I give a few small gifts to my partners, but everyone else, for the last 17 years or so, gets a Solstice poem, which I started writing that first year that I decided compulsory gift giving was both a crock and a consumer nightmare. Like all gifts, the poem varies from year to year, in both content and success level, but at least it doesn’t feel like an obligation. The year I changed over – I recall it vividly – the carols everywhere were a cacophony in my ears, it was a rare freezing year in San Francisco – so cold my motorcycle started with great difficulty – and I was shopping. The least expensive thing on the list I’d gotten for the sister I was to be “Santa” for cost a $75 I could not afford, so I chose instead a lovely shawl and a favorite CD. For my nieces and nephews, I bought hand crafted yo-yos from Guatemala or fair trade dolls from Sri Lanka. Sister was puzzled and likely disappointed. Nephews and nieces were polite, but uninterested, preferring things composed of plastic and batteries and made in China. I gave up and said never again. After that year, I ceased even going to gather at Christmas with my family, because to do so felt like a lie. As problematic a holiday as Thanksgiving is, that is when I make my familial visit.

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.

The carols will stop blasting from the loudspeakers of every downtown shopping area. Decorations and entreaties to Buy! Buy! Buy! will not fill our towns from Halloween to January. Stampedes for the latest electronics and toys will become a memory of the distant past. People will gather to celebrate Festivus, or Mithras, or Frau Holle, or La Befana, or Jesus, or the rededication of the temple, or the simple warmth of each other’s company.

Let us put the Christ back into Christmas, and then leave it well alone. Let us lay the monster of rampant consumerism to bed and light some candles to ward off the darkness and herald the promise of the returning sun.

I leave you with some further inspiration for the thoughts held in this essay:
Our Righteous Brother Stephen Colbert
The Very Reverend Billy Talen
And Teller of Harsh and Dreadful Truths Banksy.

Blessed Be.

48 Responses to “Dismantling Frankenstein’s Monster (or Putting the Christ Back in Christmas)”

  1. Lunamoth

    You ask, and I respond: I celebrate because it’s fun, family-oriented and it doesn’t *have to be* the commercial gluttony you describe. In my religion, pagan as it is, it acknowledges the exchange of gifts at this time of year. That’s all. Has nothing to do with the Christ Child. We (my spouse and I) do this exchange on 12/25 because it’s traditionally ingrained in us, and also he’s not a Pagan like me. It hurts me not to do it on the day he’s used to. My religion’s actually very much writing/inventing itself, so I see no reason to discard traditions that I enjoy. Add to that, I hold intensely fond memories of childhood holidays that I cherish, and would not toss them aside for the world, just because I don’t believe that the Birth of the Sun equals the Birth of the “Son.”

    That SAID… I also have understandings going YEARS back with my family: I don’t buy gifts for their kids, grandkids, etc. I don’t have that kind of money and they get that. My brothers and I don’t even exchange birthday cards/gifts, not because of any animosity, but because it gets costly and it never ends. So perhaps that is why I am able to view the season the way I do? Because I opted out of the bulk of the insanity long ago, but kept the better parts of the traditions in my heart.

    Reply
  2. Rosalind Lord

    I definitely agree about the rampant consumerism. But I like everything else about Christmas; the carols (including cheesy ones), the Christmas tree lights, the ornaments, the yule, the Dickens Fair…all the way to vintage TV shows like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’m not giving any of them up.

    Everything about Christmas except for the nativity comes from pagan traditions anyway, no?

    Reply
  3. Ali (Meadowsweet & Myrrh)

    In years past, I have enjoyed gathering greens tied up with red bows and bringing out old family decorations passed down from my mother, stringing a few strings of lights around the apartment and enjoying the warm cozy feeling of hot chocolate and mint tea and watching the snow fall. The winter solstice feels like a time of darkness and chill, when the reborn sun is just a tiny germinating seed too small and distant to give warmth – but “Christmas” was a time of warmth and shelter from that cold, the first earnest, stubborn push back towards the light again. I made the return trip to my family’s home and went to midnight Mass with them (though no longer participating in Communion), walking across the parking lot to the church listening to the deep night winds howl across the corn fields that spread out on all sides of the hunched, one-story building – and then listening to the radio on the drive home again, all the lame Christmas songs from thirty or forty years ago that they never dare to play during the day. It was lovely, and peaceful, and I didn’t mind celebrating it with my family because it was important to them.

    Now, I have four (soon to be) stepkids in my life, and extreme pressure to lie to them about Santa Claus and shower them with gifts. And frankly, this year I’ve found that I really really *dislike* Christmas. I hate having to worry about whether or not, come Solstice morning (since they celebrate with their biological mother and her parents on the 25th), they will like their presents or be disappointed. Honestly – I liked Christmas a lot better when I was mostly enjoying it alone. Now, I kinda wish I could step aside and let it all slip past. But I have three other adults in the lives of these kids who spend the two months leading up to this holiday with tons of hype. And the kids themselves, who even though they’re far from spoiled are too young to understand a cultural protest or political statement that looks a lot like not getting the presents they were expecting (though this year we did spend a lot more time making presents for each other, and birdseed ornaments for the animals in the woods that we hung in the park during sunrise of the shortest day, singing songs to welcome back the light).

    My point, I guess, is that it was never hard for me to disappoint or resist against adult family members getting too caught up in the holiday hype. But it is painful and stressful to try to fight against the fear of disappointing children. This is something I had not anticipated until I had children in my life.

    And yet, maybe that’s the real problem. That most of us, even those without children of our own, still live like children – who are sometimes selfish and shallow and overly impressed with junk and a bit too willing to barter our ethical integrity for the chance at a new-shiny instead of a piece of warmth-giving coal.

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  4. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I very much agree with all you’ve said, Thorn.

    I like Sigillaria (Dec. 23), because part of the giving of sigilla is that they’re small and token, not extravagant and debt-inducing gifts; and, they’re not for everyone possible in your life, just one’s closest friends or family (and even then, not compulsively so).

    One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

    My family doesn’t like that I don’t do Christmas gift-giving, it makes them uncomfortable. But, I’ve not done it for many years now, and I plan to continue doing so.

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  5. Pombagira

    I’m from the southern Hemisphere and for me Christmas is doubly weird, because it is the summer solstice, while not quite the hight of summer, the longest day celebration is a summer one, and all through out the land is winter themed Christmas decorations, songs and consumerism. this is something that does not sit comfortably with me and it is becoming more and more difficult each yeah to reconcile. somedays i want to figure out how to honour both, and other days i just want to shake my fist at the stupidity of the settlers who just copy pasted British celebratory calendar with no thought to season and why they had Christmas in teh middle of winter. here in NZ there are no deep winter holidays, no public holidays just the long hard dark times, and it is quite difficult.

    as yet i do not have any answers.. i enjoy making and purchasing gifts for my friends and chosen family, but when i feel forced to do so it becomes less enjoyable, and it all ends up meaning less…

    so as an experiment this winter solstice i am planning on having my chosen family around for a dinner of roast goose, and bunny (although it may well turn out to be lamb instead) with lashings of roast vegetables and sweet deserts, there will be a feast to welcome the light..

    this summer solstice.. i am pondering the welcoming of the dark and shoring up things so as to survive the coming winter.

    hmmm.. *ponders seasons around the world*
    Polly

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  6. Jesi

    I have been a Pagan for well over a decade, and I get ridiculously excited over Christmas. My childhood Christmases were amazing, because my family was together. The WHOLE family, and we’re Sicilian, so that’s a lot of family… I remember Christmas dinners that lasted for hours, helping my Grandma and my aunts in the kitchen, learning all the secrets of their amazing dishes. I remember hearing the stories of the old country, about relatives long passed, about folk traditions my family clung to fiercely. I learned some of my earliest magic from these very Catholic people!

    I have trimmed down the gift giving this year, out of necessity, but I enjoy having my nieces, all under the age of 10, opening a gift that they had been asking for for a while and seeing the look of joy on their faces. Kids need toys – that’s why I donate to Toys for Tots yearly. I’ve taught children who were homeless, and a favorite doll or teddy is usually their only possession. My immediate family and friends are always asking for handmade items from me, so I tend to spend most of my budget on materials to create with, and lots of time to make clothes, accessories or food gifts that I know will be appreciated. I am lucky that most in my family appreciate a handmade gift even more than a store bought one.

    That being said, there is the consumerism that on some years has drove me to tears – not enough money to get what I want to get my family. There is the deadline of getting those handmade gifts done, the petty fights among family that prevent people from getting together, the hustle and the bustle. But while my Solstice celebration is usually small and intimate, just my working group, Christmas is a time where we can have those huge family gatherings, to make those special dishes, and to speak fondly to my nieces about the relatives, now long passed, and the traditions I learned from them.

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  7. Pombagira

    oh and as another thought, i was wondering about making the 1st of every month a non commercial day where nothing was purchased, food was brought from home for lunch, dinner was cooked at home and the like, no coffee was purchased first thing in the morning, instead coffee was made at home and brought to work with a thermos. .. could be quite an interesting adventure…

    *ponders more things*

    Reply
  8. Rosalind Lord

    I would also like to say I am happy to give gifts, though I cannot afford to give big, expensive ones. Every Christmas I also make donations to shelters and Toys for Tots and causes, though I also sometimes do those things during the rest of the year too. At Christmastime, I care more about giving presents rather than receiving them.

    Reply
  9. Sarenth

    I find that this year a lot of the joy of Christmas has been slowly sucked out of it. I haven’t been employed for 2 years, and despite my family’s continuous “we understand you don’t have money, don’t worry about it” there still is this feeling of “I need to get x for y” and it doesn’t even come from them. My family is just opting for a scaled-down Christmas; none of us can take the hyper-hyped consumerism crap any longer. $20 or less gifts, and passing them around and exchanging for whomever wants what is what we’re doing now. We can’t afford anything else.

    Consumerism doesn’t need to kill Christmas. For my family, it’s always meant getting together, loving one another, celebrating the season. Prior to the festivities, my folks take off for the local Catholic church, or not, as the mood suits them. Then we get together and celebrate. A lot of the religious push of the holiday is gone from the family celebration, which is nice. Hopefully in doing this, my family retains the soul of Christmas, retaining the connection, love, and celebration. It’s been nice not to have Christ shoved in my face, and for them, equally nice not for me to shove Odin/Oski, Baldur, etc. into theirs.

    So yes, while I’ve let the season’s idioticy consumerism ‘get to me’ a bit, it will mercifully have little impact on the fun we’ll have this year. I’ll probably still celebrate the holiday season as I have for years: Yule with my spiritual family, Christmas with my blood, and look at the latter as a time for togetherness, celebration, love, and hope. It’s funny…by the end of writing this, the joy of the holidays has come back a bit. I’m looking forward to being with my family, despite our differences. Thanks.

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  10. Erik

    At home, we celebrate Solstice. We do exchange gifts, but they are not many and not expensive; this year our celebration consisted mainly of staying home all day and being together, and then wandering out to look at the lights people put up to ward off the dark.

    We celebrate Christmas with our friends and family whose holiday it still is, because we like to share in their joy (and, for me at least, because it is tied up with so many happy childhood memories). With most of them, we do not exchange gifts – for the last few years, we have “given” each other charity donations. This year things are a little tighter, so we’re baking.

    It doesn’t have to be this monstrous thing.

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  11. Naya Aerodiode

    I make hand-made things for family and friends every year. This cold month is depressing and dark, and I can make myself stay motivated through it by making lovely and unique things, enjoying quiet time with me and my arts and crafts bins. I celebrate with my Catholic family, I drink egg nog with them and we eat mom’s awesome homemade cookies (an old family recipe), play silly board games and we laugh a lot. I can, do, and always will celebrate Christmas with my family, despite the fact that I no longer identify with the religious aspects of it. And in my family, the point is to come together, family and friends, and share in joy and love.

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  12. Rowan Badger

    I celebrate Christmas because I am a child of dual history, as are many pagans.

    At 19, when I left the Christian church, we parted amicably. Since I was raised to non-judgmental practice by loving parents in a tolerant faith, I left the church not out of any resentment or anger, but simply because it failed to answer my questions adequately, and did not provide my soul the food it needed. My parents and sister don’t entirely understand my choice, but they see that I’m happy so they accept it.

    My entire family is still very Christian, devoutly so, and they wish for me to be included in the joy of their season, so I embrace it. We exchange gifts, but our ‘competition’ is based on who found the present that really delighted someone else, instead of who spent the most or got the favored new toy. My mother attends Christmas Eve service, at which I am welcome, but she does not press me to attend or ask me to participate in the religious elements.

    I understand where you’re coming from when you say not to feed the Christmas monster, the crazed consumerism, the stress of perfection, the guilt-based interaction with relatives you don’t really care but can’t ignore, and all the other nasty trappings. But to those of us who still embrace our dual origins, that seems angry and reactionary, to repudiate a beloved childhood and family holiday because it’s taken on elements we don’t like.

    My family, if I told them I was no longer celebrating Christmas with them, would be deeply hurt. They would feel I was rejecting not Christ, but the traditions we’ve all known and shared my whole life. And it would be a hollow rejection, since I love those traditions regardless of their religious meaning and would miss them in my own experience.

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  13. Meliny

    Thank you Thorn, for making us think. Rowen got to some of my words before I did. :) I have Christian roots and, apparently unlike many Pagans, I have not felt the need to sever them. My children were raised with yule logs, candles and a Solstice night free (ahem, they might argue that choice of words) of electronics and electricity. They were also raised to respect their extended family’s faith. Thankfully, I was raised on a diet of Jesus’s love rather than God’s judgement, so it’s not difficult for me to remain associated with that (component of a larger?) belief system. On the rare occasions that I attend Christian services, I may take communion depending on the wording of the invitation. Jesus is part of the fabric of my being and remains part of my pantheon. I am definitely in favor of returning Christmas to a spiritual occasion and removing it from the shopping frenzy of politically correct, non-religiousness. If that happens and the occasion still rings true to my beliefs, I will continue to take part in the celebration. If not, then I have the luxury of knowing that my family supports me in my honoring of the solstice. And, while I’m being inclusive on the religious front (I made sufganiot this year for the first time), I have also recently been learning to juggle a solstice birthday into the mix.

    I think you know, Thorn, what a fondness I have for keeping the baby. Let’s do throw out the bathwater, though, indeed.

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  14. Sarah

    My family celebrates both, and have since I can remember, as part of the whole festive Yuletide season. Solstice with our Pagan family, and Christmas with our agnostic (maternal) and Christian (paternal) family. There are some lovely family traditions that we have that I like to keep. Christmas isn’t so much a religious holiday as a cultural one. In any case, we don’t buy into the rampant consumerism that seems to be your *real* beef. The best gifts we give are books and handmade items.

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  15. MJS

    Today’s cost of 1 oz Gold, 1 lb. Frankencense & 1 lb. Myhhr: $1,421.75.
    I’m just sayin’.

    Reply
  16. SilentFlame

    I have already commented on your piece on the Wild Hunt blog, but I felt moved to also comment here on the actual posting.

    Although I know I am one of few people who may feel otherwise, I just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to go against the stream, and to speak up and say just what, and how you feel on the issue. I found it both passionate, and true spirited as well as thought provoking, and a challenging piece. Being one who is both a Pagan, and one who is an active Punk Rocker, I have learned over the years in both of these communities that a little tug and pull on issues is healthy and necessary within the “ranks”every once in a while to figure out ones own truth in the matter, or as Anti-flag says “A gut check” and to stay aware of ones surroundings physically, as well as intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. After all, one cannot take any action without sure footing on where one stands on an issue.

    I am sure many will bemoan the article as some sort of “anti-pagan/Christian mingling” separatist piece, and look no further, But I hope that while we debate on the issue we’ll have our own courage to be honest to ourselves as well as others, and to listen to another’s truth and learn from it, if for nothing else than the fact we are beautiful for being so diverse in act, deed and thought.

    Much thanks,
    SilentFlame

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  17. Jo

    Christmas makes me intensely uncomfortable. Not because of the omni-presentness of it or the overt Christianity that I find my self unable to ignore (though this does play a part), but because it seems I’m not really allowed to give it up. I wish that when I say to people “no thankyou I do not celebrate Christmas” It would be met with “that’s cool, have a nice day” but it is not. Instead I get a chorus of whiny “but whyyyyy?? don’t you love us? its sooo fun, the children will feel left out, but its the only time the family can get together, its really Pagan dont you know, you should be ok with it, oh but its not REALLY Christian anymore, just do the secular bits” etc. It’s like we as a culture are addicted to Christmas and by opting out people feel they have to pressure me back into the fold or else examine their own irrational attachement to it. It’s not my holiday, I decided with full conscience not to celebrate it and I cannot honestly separate the religious from the secular enough to feel comfortable celebrating it. I wish other people would just respect that, rather than treat me like a freak. Thanks for writing this. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one who wishes Christmas would diminish back to it’s proper place.

    Reply
  18. The Return to Love - Know Thyself: Musings on Spirit, Body, Mind

    […] I wrote yesterday, questioning a cleaving to what looks to me like an addiction to mindless consumerism and the overshadowing of the returning of the light with obligatory spending. In some fora, certain people felt angry, disgusted, or annoyed by this. One person said I should be bashed in the head. Others called me ignorant. Some agreed with my words, or found some fodder for contemplation. Many others people wrote back, saying that what they really love is time with friends and family. […]

    Reply
  19. Robert Keefer

    Your posts here and elsewhere always prompt a lot of thought and discussion between my partner and me. Thank you for that! It’s important to examine your life from time to time, and I appreciate your efforts to do so for yourself as well as encourage others to do so.

    I think that any holiday has the potential of being overcommercialized, and that a great many already have. However, I’m a big fan of having my cake and eating it too, so I think that rejecting the idea of gift-giving, etc on the holiday is also unsustainable.

    Gift giving should be an opportunity to celebrate the person you’re giving to, a chance to express how much you care about them, ideally by giving a gift that you know they will enjoy, that will encourage a specific expression, or just give them joy by being a pure extravagance they would not otherwise obtain for themselves.

    Unfortunately, our society is not generally comforatable with the idea of random gift-giving. If you give someone a prettily-wrapped box and say “Happy Thursday”, they’re going to look at you oddly, and perhaps feel generally uncomfortable. Popular media is filled with the images of partners giving flowers to their mate, and said mate immediatly becoming suspicious. “What did you do”? Perhaps this is because we conciously or unconciously see gift-giving as a form of energy exchange, so when a gift is given, we’re wondering what the terms are for our end of the exchange…

    The holidays (including the Winter ones) free us from looking for obligations or otherwise seeking to balance that exchange. I think the problem comes when we change the celebration of a person’s birth, celebration of Love, of the Return of the Sun, or other occasion, from being a time where gift-giving is acceptable to a time when it is expected. When that happens the gift itself takes on a greater meaning than the act of giving, and that is where commericalization steps in, I think.

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  20. carrie

    merry be and sing; take winter air into your warmth and make of it song and fart. Give off great sweating vapors and dance holes into your shoes. Put your hands up and shout! Viveum est! Alive! Blessing to you this day and each dawn.

    i walk the dead into the light; this is my gift, to teach them the dance of moving time. This is to celebrate. We come, we go. Happy yuletide, blessed kin.

    Reply
  21. Morphisto

    I enjoyed reading this post and every-ones “opinions” on it. Christmas in my family was watching my drunken father stumble in falling down on the tree,unwrapping the gifts and playing with the toys until he passed out,then watching my poor mother placing the gifts back in their boxes and rewrapping them.Family gatherings we drunken brawls that usually ended up with police being called and children terrified.
    Unlike most of the readers there was no religion in my upbringing,well except for budweiser and wiskey.The only god i knew of was usually followed with damn it! I watched the christmas feeding frenzy at the stores of “good christian” folks fighting brutally over the last latest greatest toy the store had.Or the trampeling of people who waited in line to be the first to get it.I think we need to get our humanity back and go on strike for the next christmas and put up no lighting and just stay home and share love and warm apple cider.
    Christmas is about love and sharing,being with family and comunity.Some call it Yule and many other names yet they all held the same message….Love of family and comunity!
    My solstice was warm besides the fire in my back yard as I watched the splendor of the awesome lunar eclipse that hasn’t happened in over 372 years.My christmas was a phone call to family and friends and time on line with those I’ve grown to know and love all over the world.
    May the Ancients walk with you,may your Journey bring you Peace and may Wisdom be your Guide.
    Peace: Morph

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  22. Peg Aloi

    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.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      I thank everyone for their very thoughtful comments and stories. We all have our perspectives.. Morph, alcoholism runs in my family, as well, and yet joy and love were present even amidst the anguish.

      Peg, I would not characterize my family members as greedy or ungrateful. The reason I gave up the gift giving was not only family, and the fact that I am not Christian, so celebrating “Christmas” doesn’t feel right, it *really* is about the consumer frenzy that overtakes the US in the months of November and December in the name of “Christmas” and “good will”. I have no interest in feeding that. Sounds like you don’t either.

      I write my Solstice poem as my gift to all, every year. Gift giving is a good thing, but not when it becomes compulsory, nor when it comes at the high cost of the labor of indentured servants around the world.

      Reply
  23. blogger from God's House

    I hear you when it comes to all this chaos. It bugs me, too, but I have found the spirit of Christmas in some of the least likely places this year (including my own heart at the least expected times). In a sense, we needed the boost to the economy so the crowds in the stores actually made me feel relieved (versus frustrated) this year. We needed this for the economy because ultimately that is what will help the record numbers of people out of work see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    I will admit I shocked myself by being much more polite myself this year while in the stores. And people responded differently this year. They actually noticed when they bumped in to me! Usually its like a free for all in the stores, but I found people more peaceful, more determined to make this a good Christmas (holy day vs. holiday). And the feeling was contagious.

    I found the true Christmas spirit in many other unlikely places. For instance, in a masjid that held a special Christmas Eve service during Friday services and a Yule celebration after the service! One of the beautiful things I’ve been noticing is a lot more interfaith celebrating during this season. Like these Muslims who celebrated both Yule and Christmas, I found myself giving a Yule gift of Goddess prayer beads for someone this year and feeling a different perspective on the joy of the season. I found myself truly loving the meaning of light in so many of these religious holidays which recently passed.

    There is Light everywhere in December. As the Hannukah candles are lit, as Yule celebrations take place and we begin to look forward to the return of the sun, in the Light that Jesus brought to earth, in the similar birth of Horus to virgin Isis who would restore Light to Set’s darkness. I am amazed that I felt blessed by all these holidays this year.

    Peace on earth! Good will to all!

    That is truly Light returning, isn’t it? And for me, it happened like this poem about the dark (materialism of Christmas) and the peaceful time to reflect after. I jotted down a poem this morning and it goes like this. It is my poem of hope. :)

    after Christmas,
    the peace of Christ opens me up.

    enough of the Christmas craziness,
    i stop.

    i turn off the hustle and bustle
    in my step

    and stand on the street as snow falls
    throwing crumbs

    and then the whole loaf of
    homemade bread

    to birds
    who criss-cross their footprints

    their xmas kisses
    bless them

    blessing the yard
    and finally i wake up to think of Jesus

    and the manger
    full of animals who welcomed him.

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  24. blogger from God's house

    How could I forget one of my favorite celebrations of the Light in December. St. Lucia Day and the Goddess Lucina. My eyes fill with tears remembering the way I would surprise my mother on December 13. I think Sweden has done beautiful things for a pagan-filled Christmas which finds the Light in the dark that invades northern Europe this time every year. Yet my Swedish relatives are some of the happiest. They are like candles themselves, glowing with laughter and truly festive in a room full of good conversation, Swedish meatballs and awesome cookies! So maybe next year, we should all meet in Sweden! :)

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  25. OnyxWolf

    I think that Christmas needs to have a name change. It has nothing to do with any sort of religious observance. It has snagged up Pagan and Christian pieces here and there and molded them into something fake and hollow.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like many aspects of the season. I love the lights. I love decorating and cooking special meals. Giving gifts is a lot of fun, and of course so it is getting them. Seeing the streets and the stores decorated is just a nice little change of pace.
    But the stress and the drive to spend your entire salary to fill up the area under the tree has gotten completely out of hand. And people are so rude! All that “Christmas spirit” stuff is great on tv, but try being in the parking lot at the mall the weekend before the 25th if you want to see the actual spirit that’s out there.

    My husband and I give one gift to each other, his sister, my mother, and my best friend. I admit that I do buy 2 gifts for her kids though ;-) Coworkers get baked goods and everyone else gets a card and maybe some small baked treat. We don’t call it Christmas, because it isn’t. It is our Solstice. We’ve tried to stick to the concept that Solstice gifts should be something special and not just some junk we bought because we “had” to. It works for us, though it is difficult to get people to understand that we don’t celebrate Christmas. Even around people that are not necessarily Christian. It seems to help when we offer to work that day and let those that do celebrate have the day off :-)

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  26. Aelwyn

    I celebrate Christmas. Why? Because it is a secular holiday I grew up with. I am a Pagan. I am also a Hard Polytheist. I honour Yahweh and Jesus Christ (and all the Saints and Angels, and especially Mary, Mother of God) as much as I honour all other pantheons that I do not personally work with (I practice Hellenic Hard Polytheism, but also Traditional Witchcraft from Britain and Cornwall, and Hoodoo).

    I also find it funny that Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, since Jesus was apparently born in March. Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate on Janurary 7th. Then other Orthodox Churches celebrate Christ’s birth on January 6th, or 19th (depending on the Church).

    So there really is NO specific day.

    I like to give gifts. I shop all year long, and put them in the linen closet (when there is no room left, it goes in the Yule/Christmas decor boxes in the basement). This year the group I Work with did a Yule ritual on the 18th (since this time of year is crazy) and exchanged gifts via a game of “Naughty Santa” (which our Southern Bard calls it), or “White Elephant exchange”. It was fun, and not pricey (I think our topper was $20, but we were encouraged to make gifts).

    My parents and my fiance were spoiled, and it was great (because I forgot about certain gifts), but then, they’re spoiled on their birthdays.

    I have no issues celebrating a secular holiday my ancestors (who are important to me) celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

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  27. Kate Kalbfleisch

    I am a christian and I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve heard on this very topic for the past twenty years. Most of the christians I know thumb their noses at materialism. They do white elephant gift exchanges, make homemade gifts or give gifts of service.

    The real problem with Christmas, for me, is the expectation. The expectation that you will give or receive the perfect gift. The expectation that you WILL be joyful. The expectation that you must be surrounded by your family or there is something wrong with you. Every year the expectations fall short, although no one will admit it.

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  28. Take this cup | cigfran

    […] this holiday was just not possible… attitudes which are well expressed, at least in part, by T. Thorn Coyle: …I say to anyone who is not a Christian and who celebrates Christmas: what exactly do you […]

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