My name is Walter N–, I am a heathen and I love Christmas because it is the time of year when we connect, to a degree unknown at any other time, to tradition.
One may assert that the Christmas tree is symbolic of the cross upon which our savior suffered and died to redeem us all—or one could assert that it is a remembrance of the tree of life, upon which Odin sacrificed himself to gain wisdom and second sight. Perhaps those things we hang on the tree are offerings to our ancient gods, or maybe they have a different meaning. Perhaps each ornament causes us to fondly recall the people and times associated with it.
Our traditional rituals, songs and stories used to be what bound us together. Tradition connects us to the uncounted generations of women and men who created us. This is something we have almost lost, and only this season remains to bind us to our tangled roots.
Some say “Christ is the reason for the season”. I would suggest that the season was around long before Christ. Our ancestors celebrated the solstice and the promise it brought that the world would once again flower. This coincided with the enforced idleness of deep winter, the need to cull a few domestic animals and the fact that the beer wouldn’t keep much longer.
It was a time for people to start a roaring fire, eat and drink to excess, enjoy each other’s company, relax the usual rules of behavior, remember how good life is, and give thanks for it.
All traditions evolve. Over time, Christianity has intertwined with older practices, Victorian sensibilities have truncated the twelve days of partying to New Years Eve, and Capitalism has packaged and marketed it. It is the sum of all that has gone before. To those who would say it is too commercial, I would ask: are we not Americans? Is not turning a buck part of what has defined us as a people and therefore defined our Christmas as much as the warrior spirit defined Viking Yule.
I have called it Christmas, though I am not a Christian, because that has become the traditional name–a name we all recognize. In this country however, you can call your winter holiday what ever you think it ought to be called, and associate with what ever tradition is most congenial to you and your beliefs.
This is a time when we find time for our friends and each of our clans and tribes gather and practice our particular rituals and traditions: be it Christmas Eve Mass, lighting the menorah, eating lefse, or Uncle Charlie carving the turkey. Each is special because we have made it special and each defines us. And, unlike so many other times, we define ourselves more by what and whom we love than what and whom we hate.
That’s why I, a heathen, love the Christmas season.
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