I’ve been a pagan all my life. Sure, when I was a kid, my parents and Sunday school had me convinced otherwise. But as I got old enough to join the grownups at church services after Sunday school, and noted the widely different god the preachers were describing (Hell and damnation waiting for most of us) to the one the Sunday school teacher had taught me about (Jesus loves the little children), their storyline started to fall apart. When, as a young teen, I asked my minister to explain why we worshipped on Sunday, while the 10 commandments – supposedly given directly to Moses by God – tells us to do so on the Sabbath (widely accepted as being on Saturday, where I grew up), he told me that the disciples changed it to honor Christ’s rising. I asked him if man’s laws, therefore, trumped God’s laws. I further asked him why I was born with original sin for Eve’s transgression, and why would God put an apple tree in Eden, if he didn’t want them to eat apples? Whereupon he told me that I was probably in the wrong church. So I began looking around for the right one.
From that time through to my early 20’s I listened to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Holy Rollers, Jewish folk both reformed and strict, and more… all them shared their truth with me, and all of their truths were different.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that in my early 20’s, I discovered paganism, in which there is room for everyone and their gods. There’s even room for those who refuse to engage in the discussion at all, and think it all a bunch of medieval bull pucky.
By 30, I was out of the closet as a witch of the Wiccan persuasion. I’d wear my pentagram outside of my shirt collar, and get asked by shopkeepers if I worshipped the devil. I’d respond with ‘no, do you?’ Sometimes, if someone was interested in a real conversation, I’d point out that the devil is a Christian construct. That Wiccans don’t believe in the devil, or hell, and that we see earth as the only heaven. I once spent a summer working with a man who hunted witches, and we were both shocked when he told me, and when I, in return, told him I really was a witch, that I wasn’t just playing one for the acting gig. And I could find common ground, too, if folks were interested: Christians believe you have a chance of going to heaven after death. I believe I’ll come back to earth again (until such time as I finish my cyclical journey, and join the cosmos). So we both believe we’ll go to heaven. It’s always good to find common ground when discussing religious beliefs,lol. I’m not as out as I used to be, and don’t wear my pentagram so much anymore. Some would say I’ve lapsed even this easy-going belief system. Of course, that’s because they haven’t seen the tattoo on my bum – I guess you could say I’ve just gone private and underground/underpants about it.
But then there’s Christmas. I’ll skip all the usual arguments about it being a stolen holiday, along with so many other Christian holy days, and get right to the part about having to celebrate it every single year, Christian or not.
For my entire adult life, I’ve honoured another religion’s big day as much as I could. Okay, I’ve been crap about writing Christmas cards. But I’ve said “thank you and Merry Christmas to you, too” – and meant it – when given a jolly “Merry Christmas”. I’ve tried to say Happy Holidays, to honour all those I know who celebrate other holidays during the winter months – and I’ve defended my right to do so without being accused of waging a ‘war’ on Christmas. I’ve volunteered to work on Christmas, so others could go home for it. I’ve given and received presents – why not, after all? We all like presents. And there were years when I wished I could believe that Christ was born at Christmas, so I could get on that train. But Christmas comes close enough to the winter Solstice, that I have more often simply blended my holiday spirit with theirs, to spread cheer throughout the month, right into January.
But I’m done now. And the breaking point wasn’t that Facebook argument about how saying Happy Holidays disrespects local traditions like guising. I deleted that, because: why bother? Anyone who believes Happy Holidays is meant as disrespect, will never see how disrespectful their own attitude is to much of the world. Nope, my breaking point came after reading a Manchester News article about the thousands of people running around London, doing some last minute panic buying, and crowding the trains in an effort to get to their holiday destinations before the suddenly announced lockdown began at midnight. I read that article, and started raging. And not at the shoppers and travellers anymore, either.
I raged at the years and years of brainwashing that has successfully positioned Christmas as the most important day of the year in so many minds. That has convinced them they have to get ‘home’ for the day, no matter what. The commercialisation of the holiday which convinces people that it’s worth risking their lives to buy presents, half of which won’t be looked at again after they’ve been unwrapped and cooed over. The inadequate and unreliable support given to businesses forced to stay open, or possibly close forever…while a pandemic rages outside, and walks smiling into their shops.
I raged at a system that perpetuates the myth that how we act at Christmas is how we should act all year long…and then twists that behaviour into guilt and selfishness and excessiveness and recklessness. I raged about all the people likely to die, because our so-called leaders have fucked this up so spectacularly.
I’m lucky. After a long and windy journey, with many bumps along the way, I now live in a place and time, and with another human being, where I can rage about this, and be heard. Where I can receive a warm and enveloping hug when I’ve run out of rage…and energy. When all that’s left is sadness. And gratitude. And love. Love which finally damped down the fires of my rage.
Not everyone is so lucky. There are many, many people who will be alone this holiday season. But I’m telling you: you are only alone in a physical space. You are not alone in in spirit. All of us Happy Holidayers stand with you. If you know me, and want a hug, call me. I’ve been alone many, many Christmases. I know how it feels. It is survivable. Call or message me, and I’ll throw you a large, virtual, and very real hug, to help you get through.
Tomorrow is my holiday. The Winter Solstice. In honour of Saturn, the old Roman god of agriculture, whose day it was, it’s quite likely my hubs and I will spend the day sorting sheep and cleaning feet, far into the short afternoon. But I, too, believe we should spend our big days the way we want to spend the upcoming year. And working the farm, with my sheep and my hubs, is how I love to spend my days. This farm, my hubs, and our animals are the best prezzies ever.
So look around you. Whatever your concept of the eternal divine is: count your blessings. If you have a roof over your head, food on the table, loved ones you can call, then you are rich beyond the imaginings of far too many people in the world. And for all the gods’ sakes, and the sake of all of us…stay home! It’s the truest way you can show your Christmas spirit, and the best present you can give all of us – no matter our beliefs – this year.
Happy Holidays, y’all! See you in brighter days, and in a better – I hope – 2021.