While the Christmas season started for retailers a while ago, it’s only really started for our family in the last couple weeks. We spent American Thanksgiving with my family and did an early Christmas gift exchange with them. I put up our tiny tree with Eowyn and decorated it on the second of December. The tree’s a mishmash of family ornaments and odds and ends. We have a blown glass frog, a Mrs. Santa who looks like she has a beard, a couple Baby Jesus ornaments, a tiny trombone, a set of tomte, and an elephant, among others. The raku Nativity scene I made during my stint in ceramics classes my last year of high school is sitting next to the tree on our windowsill.
And on the other side of the room, there’s my altar. I’ve only just set it up for Yule. I’ve made a few changes since Samhain. The glass skull that I filled with candy corn on a whim is now filled with an assortment of spices. I finally bought a set of candle holders the right size for chime candles, so I have those up there now; I selected a couple runes and drew those on the candle holders with a pen that I can wipe off with alcohol so I can change them later as desired. The pomegranate and the pumpkins are in the kitchen, for eating. I have plans to make a holly wreath, but for now, there’s a sprig of holly sitting there. I rearranged things a bit, and it looks tidier.
This is our first December as an interfaith family. A year ago, when our priest mentioned doing a service on the Winter Solstice, I said, “Oh, I’d love to do a solstice service!” We were out of town that week, but her service was more a contemplative Christmas thing than a solstice thing. I was the weird parent asking about Winter Solstice children’s books at the kid’s toy store and settling for a fantastic Hanukkah story instead (go read Hanukkah Bear, it’s amazing). But those were the first real inklings I had that I would be exchanging one faith for another, rather than simply discarding religion. I hadn’t even started reading about paganism at that point, but less than six months later, I would be celebrating my first sabbat.
December this year has been a flurry of seemingly grown-up things: Preschool events, dealing with a sick child (just a nasty cold), replacing headlight bulbs in the car in the parking lot of Canadian Tire, inviting our priest over for dinner to tell her that we’re leaving the church in the New Year and her telling us that their finances person is pretty sure the church only has 6-12 months left before it’s time to pull the plug anyway. Not making many plates of fudge or Christmas cookies because too much sugar and fat together makes me nauseous these days. Trying Glenlivet for the first time at the company Christmas party and then checking the price at the liquor store the next day and wincing (holiday gift suggestion for me, a bottle of that stuff would be lovely).
In the spaces in between the busy, the colds, the depression, I’ve been thinking about the turn of the year. I’m celebrating Yule with candles, with infused brandy, with cardamom Yulekake, with children’s books about trolls and a fantasy novel entitled Krampus: Lord of Yule (because it’s worth reading, solely based on the title). I think about the Doctor and the Christmas episode of Doctor Who where he describes winter solstice celebrations as reminding us that we are “halfway out of the dark.” I’m celebrating the darkness and the light, because we have both in us.
And some days, when the focus is more on the upcoming Christmas, I think about how that day is about remembering that new life brings hope.
Blessed Yule, and Merry Christmas.