Remember Winterval? PHS Assitant Editor, Holly March, discusses diverse Christmas celebrations, understanding others, and about how her family celebrates Midwinter, Yuletide, or good ol' Xmas.
My best friend in the whole world is a Catholic. I don't mean she was brought up Catholic, I mean she goes to church and confession every week, spends an hour in a little prayer chapel with a statue of Jesus once a week because the statue is not allowed to be on its own, has a priest for a brother, teaches kids for confirmation... Let's just say she's pretty darn Catholic. She also lives in the US, which is a Protestant republic. Her Christmas is my idea of a waste of time or absolute torture.
Family get togethers with all the cousins. Hours spent at church. A pristine house in case anyone drops by. People dropping by!
Because, you see, all the good stuff? All the bits about Christmas that are fun and favourite come from the pagan festivals it supplanted.
Hi, I'm Holly. I'm a pagan.
Specifically, I follow a shamanic path based in pre-druidic British/Brythonic/Celtic traditions. I have spirit guides, my Spirit Animal is Fox, but I've worked with Buzzard before. On the winter solstice (the night of the 21st) I am at my strongest, because winter is my time of year. Summer is all peeling skin and constantly being too hot. In winter, snuggling into fleeces and eating hot food, I am in my element. The family usually goes somewhere special—mud allowing—like Mitchell's Fold, a stone circle a few miles from Welshpool.
I meditate, thankful to the Sun for not giving up the goat just yet. Thankful to the Earth for spinning around it for another year. Thankful to and for the insects and birds and animals for keeping the eco-system going. Thankful to wind and rain and dirt and fire. Thankful to these things for their own sake, the sheer marvel of their existence and scientific fact. The world is an amazing place. It doesn't have to be someone's creation for that to be true.
But after the sun goes down on the 21st, the other part of the celebration starts. Feasts. Visiting those kin closest to us who have earned our love and respect and with whom we share interests and love and not just awkward conversation about how well their life is going and how badly ours is failing to go. We have decorated our house to show that however dark it is outside, we continue and thrive. Evergreens abound, albeit usually plastic and paper ones!
We exchange gifts. A part of ourselves and our year's labour given to those we love to show them we appreciate them and their contribution to the family.
And then more feasting.
The house is a haven. Just us for that one day. Christmas Eve is for family. Boxing Day is for family. But the 25th is just me, mum, and dad. And the Doberman. And four cats tangled up in masses of wrapping paper and ribbon.
If asked, I usually say that I celebrate Xmas, rather than Christmas. The capitalist side of things! Hallmark movies (Snow Bride) mixed with the classics (Lethal Weapon and Muppet Christmas Carol). Reading a hard copy of Hogfather on Christmas Eve after parents have gone to bed after a month of the Christmas folder on my kindle. Michael Buble, Annie Lennox, and The Darkness vying for space in the playlist with Mediaeval Baeves and the Puppini Sisters.
Just because I'm not in love doesn't mean I can't sing love songs. Just because I'm not Christian doesn't mean I don't dance along to God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, or Santa Baby. And I may take every chance to remind people that Christmas would have been in October if it weren't for the whole stealing a pagan festival thing, but I don't judge my best friend for how she spends Christmas even though it sounds awful, and she doesn't warn me about her religion's hellfire for being a witch.
I'm not so arrogant that I think we're some sort of sign for womankind, but we are truly best friends despite our diverse beliefs. Her cards are always nativity based; mine are always animals and snow. She wishes me a nice Solstice, and I wish her Merry Christmas.
The important thing is we all make it through the winter. And get presents.
Holly March is a romance and self-discovery writer specialising in the 12th Century and fantasy. You can find out more about her at her website, or follow her on twitter.
What are your Christmas traditions? How do you celebrate the few days off? And what are your Christmas films and books that you always need to make it feel real? Comment below and as ever, reach out to us on social media.