There’s a reason I’ve posted this here rather than my diary. Unfortunately, for you, I feel compelled to leave it at that.
I came across a comment on The Wild Hunt1 yesterday, and I just had to comment on a sentiment that I often see that I find problematic:
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!)
Do you see the problem I see?
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I have no personal issue with pagans who celebrate what they consider to undeniably be Christmas2; this may be due to family obligations or simply honouring one’s family traditions for personal reasons. I may have issues for the mainstream pressure of buying for the sake of buying and attempting to one-up each-other and one’s own efforts from previous years to see who can accumulate the most debt — but I also grew up dirt poor, and I understand that it’s completely possible for Christmas to happen on a shoestring and without family members guilt-tripping each-other for failing to meet bourgeois standards of
rampant waste “expression of love”.
No, the problem I see is the implication that one’s own holidays are religious and thus an obligation and thus drudgery — but somebody else’s holiday? That’s FUN!
My Dionysia celebration is hell of fun. My friends who do Yule used to do a party every year — seemed pretty fun, to me.
There’s something to be said for the idea that if you don’t enjoy something, then don’t do it. Yes, sometimes you have other things hanging on it, so you hate it, but you do it anyway. But if you’re parents and siblings don’t do Yule or Saturnalia, then you don’t have any family obligations to a pagan holiday that may be necessary…. I highly doubt anybody has an employer who mandates it…. You’re presumably part of a pagan/polytheist religion because you got on with it (and enjoyed it) more than Christianity…. So why the implied bore? What’s so wrong with your pagan holidays that THEY can’t be “fun”, too?
If you’re part of a polytheistic religion and it’s not enjoyable for you, then YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. If you don’t get any real enjoyment out of your pagan/polytheist religion, then I’m sure it can get along just fine without you — find a more liberal sect of an Abrahamic religion, or be a secular humanist with a secular Christmas, and leave the rest of us alone to enjoy our non-mainstream holidays. We don’t need people who are only a part of this for the sake of being all different and spooky — believe me, we’re far better off with people who love these gods and love these traditions and consider these holidays to be something more than just “religious” while something else is what’s “fun”. And if you’re a pagan and you really *do* find your pagan celebrations enjoyable, then why not THINK about how you’re describing what you do to others? THINK about the words you use, what they mean, and what you’re implying when you say that some-one else’s holiday is what’s “fun”.
Why don’t more modern pagans actually READ about the holidays (holy-days) they honour, and learn that the ancient festivities involved far more than a candle and a prayer, and that there is absolutely NO connection whatsoever between Jesus and chocolate bunnies. Seriously, these are fertility symbols, co-opted by Christianity. Call them what they REALLY are.
1: Yes, I know, the comments there are only slightly above mainstream news blogs, lately, but I just couldn’t help myself.
2: No, I’m not talking about the latest trend among some prominent polytheists & pagans who should know better, trying to liken many modern Yule, Saturnalia, etc…, celebrations to being “Christmas-ised” — the plain truth is that, for the last two or three centuries (possibly longer, depending on where you’re from), Christmas is the holiday that’s been pagan-ised. The majority of “Christmas traditions” and “Christmas symbols” come from pagan sources, so guilt-tripping pagans for decorative evergreens, holiday cakes and cookies, gift-giving, and other festivities the mainstream tends to associate with “Christmas” — and forthermore, for having a whinge cos some choose to have the big festivities on the 24th/25th of December really comes off as failing to do one’s homework. Remember, not only were these polytheist traditions first, most solstice-time celebrations lasted for several days or more.
Now, I’m not here to judge those friends of mine in the pagan and polytheist communities who do Christmas; I’m actually ratherambivalent about the whole subject, and I figure that just so long as some-one isn’t trying to tell me which holidays I “should” or “shouldn’t” celebrate, I’m just fine.
So, then, why do I celebrate Dionysia, if not for the smug sense of superiority?
Well, as a sort of Unverified Personal Gnosis, I’ve come to merge a lot of Saturnalia traditions into a Dionysia, and I tend to justify this based on the fact that much of the Christmas traditions originated with Saturnalia, and then you get a lot of the older Christmas symbolism, including ivy, pomegranate, and grapevines1 have ancient ties to Dionysos.
Now, historically, the Rural and Urban Dionysia were theatre festivals, and I do tend to keep this in my own way. Lacking the money to go to the opera or ballet (and really, the only ballet you’re going to see around this time is The Nutcracker, and I have a Russian production on DVD, thank-you), this tends to become a self-imposed film-fest, and my tastes run all over the place.
The reason I tend to include the traditions typically associated with Saturnalia and/or Christmas is very simple, UPG-based: As a teenager, at home by myself one evening during the Christmas school holiday, I’d had a brief vision of an infant crowned in vines and laying atop a basket filled with the winter fruits. I’d thought little of it at the time, but in recent years, I’ve come to associate that vision with this holiday season, and so I’ve come to pick up the habit of inserting a lot of those traditions into Dionysia.
- decorating my evergreens (rosemary, laurel, faux pine wreath) with glittering objects, including lights, tinsel, ornaments…
- FRUITCAKE! No, serious, holiday cakes are a very ancient polytheist tradition, and a well-made fruitcake is something to choke a baby for.
- feasting with my (surrogate) family, when possible — that last part added because, seriously, the only time I had available this year to get my wisdom teeth pulled was the morning of 16 Boukatios (22 December, Gregorian calendar), and only just today have I been able to start eating foods slightly more-solid than cottage cheese and applesauce.
Gift-giving, I can take or leave, cos the important part is the decorating, the food, and the thirteen days of watching some of the best (or the best of the worst) films I can find. I can’t afford to buy stuff for everybody I know, but cos my flat-mate offers to get me stuff I honestly need (like a pair of winter boots or new jeans), I do try to get him something small and fun. I also try to get special “cat spoiling food” and maybe new little toys for the cats, but mainly cos I have few bad memories surrounding Christmas itself, and see no harm in it, since the toys these cats like best tend to be stuff made from scrap.
That’s it, really. No guilt tripping about how you just may be a “bad pagan” if you buy gifts for your family; if only cos I tend to assume that those who actually read this blog are intelligent enough to know not to just buy tonnes of useless crap for the sake of buying it.
So whether you’re celebrating Saturnalia, or Dionysia, or (oh noes!) are doing a secular Christmas with friends or family, I hope you and yours have a happy one this year. I myself an dealing with the teeth just fine and am already several days into the nightly films and fruit smoothies.
1: My source on the latter two would mostly be the little info cards at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Hell, a year-round Christmas store in Frankenmuth, Michigan — which has billboards advertising for it as far south as Florida.
A happy new year to everybody honouring the Boeotian calendar!
In a nutshell, life is insane around here lately, and my humanoid meat-based flat-mate1 and I will be moving to Lansing, Michigan, in January. (I know it’s terribly un-trendy, but as my friends will tell you, in my much-older-than-I-look age, I’ve adopted an admiration of the “golden age” celebrities who kept their personal lives either as private or as discrete as possible and it was gauche to talk more about the life than the calling.) As a result, I’ve let my blogs lag, but my latest public Eros project is How I See Eros, on Tumblr. It’s mostly an image project, as you can see, but I do mix it up with links, quotes, and video. The reason I’ve been updating this, aside from it’s low-thinking focus2, is mostly that Tumblr has a highly addicting posting queue, which I’ve set to automatically update four times a day, between 4am and 4pm, and I add to the queue twice a week, and I started the queue with the first week’s worth of posts already loaded.
That said, once things calm down a bit more, I’ll be back to updating everything I do more regularly.
1: No, really, not my lover. We sleep in separate rooms, for starters….
2: Please note that my own thinkings of Eros are actually the opposite of “low”, lately.