More Winter Holiday Ranting

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.


8 thoughts on “More Winter Holiday Ranting

  1. I'm sure those same people would consider going to mass on Christmas and Easter to be boring, too. Its the presents and candy and childhood mythology that they think is fun, not the religious aspects just the secular ones.

    But yes, I agree with your point, there is no reason on earth why your religious celebrations should not be enjoyable to you. It doesn't all have to be solemn prayers and candle holding, you are allowed to have fun.


    • See, when I was still going to mass on Christmas, I thought it was loads of fun — though mainly cos I was in the choir. My step-mother's Meeting House went carolling and hosted a soup kitchen I really enjoyed. Granted, I never took confirmation as a Catholic, and I only went to Meeting House cos my father insisted I go to some Christian service while I lived at home, so I went to the one that had ideals which offended me the least. There's enjoyment to be had in religious practises, if you know what you're doing. 🙂

      Since formally identifying myself as a Hellenic polytheist, I can honestly say that I enjoy the structure of the basic rit. The festival calendar may be a minor pain to update every year, but I find the pay-off totally worth it. And even outside the normal structured rit, I talk to the nymphai of my houseplants, I dance not only for secular enjoyment but, when the feeling strikes me, as an act of praise, I sing, I read stories and poems aloud very impromptu to the Theoi at my shrines…. It's an ecstatic, enjoyable path. And if some-one else's pagan path is less enjoyable to them than secular activities, then maybe they're on the wrong path? Of course, Gavin, you personally know that I don't mean that one's religious activities should always 100% of the time be more enjoyably than secular ones (I do believe that some balance is necessary); but I think that if one finds their religious activities consistently less-enjoyable, then maybe it's time for some introspection, to determine what one is doing wrong?


  2. THANK YOU x 1,000,000.

    I've mentioned this elsewhere but I've gotten plenty tired of the guilt-tripping of Pagans for (gasp, shock, horror) actually doing something on the 24th/25th if they feel like it. I also don't see why the holidays have to be SUCH a solemn event and can't be fun and pretty and whatnot. Maybe some people think exchanging gifts and decorating one's house is frivolous, but I like it; indeed, I think someone's personal path should bring them joy. What's that saying: "all work and no play…" and it really does make things dull…

    Anyway, most excellent post… 😀


    • It just puzzles me that some-one would basically say "I'm a pagan, but other people's holidays are what's "fun", to me. I mean, seriously now, if you're religious isn't as much fun as it is other stuff, then I'd wager that you're doing it wrong.


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