04 November 2008

Yule and Christmas

Well, Halloween is past.

Now we have Christmas carols and Christmas displays to look forward to.

I know I'LL be putting up our Yule Tree sometime in the next week or two. Call me crazy, but I am excited to do it. Funny, that...I used to make fun of my mother for putting up the Christmas Tree the weekend after Halloween, I thought she was crazy. My mom LOVES Christmas. Seriously. I guess it rubbed off.

I've always enjoyed the holiday season/cheer, even if I don't celebrate the whole Jesus Christ birthday thing. I mean, even when I was totally into Christianity, I didn't really get how a magic flying elf named Santa Claus, excessive spending, and drinking egg nog really had anything to do with a little baby born in a manger to a virgin Palestinian woman. But whatever.

The smells, the sounds, the giving, the happy help-your-fellow-man feeling of the holiday season is what I enjoy. I like the planning, the picking, the buying, the wrapping, and the hiding. I like the 24-hours-a-day Christmas carols on online radio stations, even if they do feature songs about Jesus. I like egg nog, hot chocolate with Baileys, snow flurries, and Christmas lights. I like the "magic" of it all.

We don't plan on doing the whole thing with Santa with Delilah. We won't be celebrating/recognizing Christmas with Delilah at home, but we WILL be celebrating Yule. Yule occurs on December 21 this year. It is the Winter Solstice, the first day of Winter, and the longest Night of the whole year.

From Wikipedia: "According to the medieval English writer the Venerable Bede, Christian missionaries sent to proselytize among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were instructed to superimpose Christian themes upon existing local pagan holidays, to ease the conversion of the people to Christianity by allowing them to retain their traditional celebrations. Thus, Christmas was created by associating stories of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of Christianity, with the existing pagan Yule celebrations, similar to the formation of Halloween and All Saint's Day via Christianization of existing pagan traditions....

Many symbols and motifs associated with the modern holiday of Christmas derive from traditional pagan northern European Yule celebrations. The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe and others are all historically practices associated with Yule. When the Christianization of the Germanic peoples began, missionaries found it convenient to provide a Christian reinterpretation of popular pagan holidays such as Yule and allow the celebrations themselves to go on largely unchanged, versus trying to confront and suppress them. The Scandinavian tradition of slaughtering a pig at Christmas (see Christmas ham) is probably salient evidence of this. The tradition is thought to be derived from the sacrifice of boars to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations. Halloween and aspects of Easter celebrations are likewise assimilated from northern European pagan festivals."

So Ben and Delilah and I will celebrate Yule with a Yule Dinner, followed by a stay-awake-over during which time we will keep a fire burning, play games, and watch movies. This year a few friends will join us in our vigil. After Yule, we will do the merry-go-round of Christmas celebrations with our parents/siblings etc. Everyone (read, Grandparents) will understand that Delilah will NOT be receiving gifts from Santa, and when she's old enough, she'll be told the story of what Christians believe, just as she'll be told the story of what other religions believe. I don't feel it is necessary, however, to lie to her about an imaginary character who sneaks into your house while you sleep (CREEPY) to leave you presents. I'd rather she saw the magic in everyday life than to believe in a magic elf with flying reindeer who can travel faster than light.

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