Winter Solstice 2016
The Solstice Season is upon us, and all I can think about is planning my ritual and gathering. Then, I can’t wait until the hubbub dies down from shopping, and parties that last until January.
I have done my annual bowing out of all Christmas themed celebrations, and reminded people I do not send cards, or do gift exchanges.
I have had the gripe fests with others who want to avoid the mainstream holiday, but can’t get away from it. A friend hit the nail on the head yesterday, and said, “I am just NOT in the Xmas Spirit this year.” I told him that I am NEVER in the Xmas spirit. A lot of us aren’t.
Then, I started wondering, where does the Xmas Spirit come from? How did it go from the celebration of Pagan things, to the observance of the birth of the Xtian god, and then to become so commercialized?
My theory is all about greed, and herd mentality, and keeping up with the Jonses with who can buy the best presents, and whatnot. Truthfully, that is not well-researched, and it shows my bitter personal bias.
So instead of fussing, like I prefer to do, I’ll be an adult and share some history of the Ancient Roman celebration we draw many of our modern traditions from, and investigate WHY, in winter specifically, gift giving and charity are done so prolifically.
Ancient Roman Saturnalia
Major partying was done from December 17 through the 23 in ancient Rome in honor of the god Saturn.
Saturn is a god of agriculture, and it is believed when he reined, an Eden-like land of bounty and innocence was where people lived. He was also believed to be a god of liberation, and of the Capital. As he was the Roman aspect of the Greek god, Cronus, he was seen as a god of time as well, and they deemed it fit to have Saturnalia right at Solstice time, just before New Years. Both of which are markers of time.
Many things from our modern day “Xmas Spirit” come from Saturnalia.
Gift Giving and Liberation
As Saturn was a god of agriculture as well as liberation, he was unbound for the celebrations. For some reason, wool bound his feet year round, except during Saturnalia, when it was removed. In further observance of liberation, servants were allowed a short period of being allowed to say whatever they wanted to their employers, without risk of punishment. Blending the liberation and gift giving practice, masters served and fed splendid feasts to their servants. In some banquets, servants dined before masters, in others, they all ate together.
Gift giving day was December 19, and typically, gifts were kept fairly inexpensive. Children got toys, of course, and some favored gag gifts. Some employers would give extra money to their employees to use for them to buy their families gifts. We see this still done to this day in the form of holiday bonuses and the nice dinners some businesses host for staff.
Light of the World
After the Fourth Century in Ancient Rome, a festival for a sun god called Sol Invictus took place on December 25. Lights were kindled, and the birth of this god was celebrated. To me, this is another Solstice Celebration, and it was written that Xtians also took part in the festivities. The Church saw this and decided to observe the birth of Christ on December 25 as a result. Jesus became “The Light of the World” for Xtians, and the Church moved towards more separation from Pagan celebrations.
Feasting seems to be a major part of every major holiday. This in particular was including not just the feats for the servants, like the holiday meals our employers give to us, but as veneration of a god of plenty.
As with most all Pagan celebrations, there was sacrifice. Suckling pigs were offered- and are still eaten at Xmas to this day. But what many don’t know, is it is written there were some periods Saturn demanded human sacrifice. Gladiators were given to Saturn, and it was later said he specifically preferred just human heads. It is supposedly the demigod Hercules who said masks would be offered rather than real human heads. Today, people continue the tradition of sacrifice by donating to charity, or doing charitable works.
What’s all this got to do with today?
Aspects of the pre-Xtian Solstice time festivities were taken by the Church and used for Xmastime. The things that had originally been sacred to a Pagan god like gift giving, having time off work, and sacrifice, became secular, and done just for fun.
As the Ancient Romans were a people of commerce, I can’t say our modern society is the first to have commercialized the holidays. All I know is it all feels cheap to me today.
If each thing had a meaning besides lining some businesses pockets with money, maybe some of us would feel better about it.
Solstice time had been about giving thanks to gods like Saturn, and welcoming the sun, in anticipation of the growing season.
Jesus became the blanket “lord of everything”, and the “one true god” to Xtians. Observance of the seasons gradually fell out of favor in our world of grocery stores and hydroponic indoor gardens which give us fresh produce year round. They still observe the pre-Xtian festivities, and they don’t even know they are doing so.
So, for those of us who do not worship Sol Invictus, or Saturn, whose veneration a lot of Xtian modern Christmas things come from, getting “in the Christmas Spirit” might not happen. As far as I am concerned, that is completely okay.
Some of us stay away from shopping malls to avoid the pandemonium, avoid restaurants in busy areas, do not do the gift exchanges or parties, and do not send cards. We likewise travel after, or before the holidays rather than during them. Some do their charity work year round rather than just at the holidays, as well.
Some are sick to death of the demands of friends and family , and downright refuse to be guilted into attending something, or doing some holiday themed thing we do not feel in our hearts is right for us.
Instead of a ritual or spellwork, I am going to provide some affirmations for those who are not in the Xmas spirit, and who likewise do not want to be.
Ten Reasons Why it’s okay to not have “The Xmas Spirit”
It is a personal choice to have certain feelings or not. Nobody can force “cheer” or “jolliness” on you if you genuinely are not feeling it. It is what is, and other people who cannot deal with your choice will just have to suffer.
It is supposed to be for sacred purposes. Something is either sacred to you, or it’s not.
You don’t owe it to friends or family to do things with them just because they think you should. This is a huge reason some people eventually burn out from Xmas. Many refuse to be pressured by other people who feel it will be more fun for them if we are having fun along with them. It’s not fun for some of us, and that is okay.
Maybe the holiday brings bad memories, and you feel better off emotionally if you don’t put yourself in certain settings which force you to relive them. In this situation, you have to do what is best for you, and people who really care about you will understand.
Maybe your finances do not allow for gifts and cards for everybody. Maybe you also have limited space in your home, and just don’t have room for gifts from people. The shopping, and party crowds might make you crazy, and the traffic might make you feel worse. Staying out of it all might be necessary for you.
Maybe you don’t want to put the time and expense into decorating. You may have kids or pets that tear up things and you don’t have to deal with that if you don’t want to.
Maybe you just don’t have the time to do everything people invite you to do, and you don’t feel right choosing to turn down select invitations, so you respectfully decline them all indiscriminately.
Your job may prevent you from doing things, and it might not bother you. This is also something you cannot control.
You might have an extenuating circumstance and have to be absent this year, but plan to join in next year. That is okay too.
The last and most important reason why it is okay to not have “The Xmas Spirit” is if you just don’t want to, you just don’t have to.
Many of us dread the weeks following the day after Halloween, clear up to mid January when all has dies down from “holiday mania”, as I like to call it. Every year, it gets more stressful and difficult for me, and the only thing that saves me, and many like me during this time, is the fact that we exclude ourselves. I also understand many of my loved ones LIVE for Christmas, and they look forward to it year round.
May the holidays be joyous and blessed for those who celebrate them, and may they be over with quickly for those who don’t!