O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

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ShadowCat
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O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby ShadowCat » 14 Dec 2014, 17:10

Today I've done one of those yearly things one does, just because...

I always loved decorating the christmastree. Being raised as culturally catholic, even if not overly religiously catholic, christmas is the time of the year I'll remember forever. I still own some of the same decorations that grazed the small, live, fir my dad put in my bedroom every year as well as the small nativity set my parents bought for me when I was two. Today, I decorated the fugly fake tree that I inherited from my gran, with some of those ancient decorations.

While I was decorating today, a strange reflective feeling dawned on me. Why do I still do this, like this? Calling the bloody tree "yuletree" just doesn't feel the same. I didn't grow up with yule, alban arthan or midwinter, I grew up with christmas. Christmas for me are warm memories, safety, calm, a magical time in winter. In my mind, christmas what this time of year is called. Even while I unsubscribed from the catholic club several years ago, I still stick to "christmas". Even so, after some inner debate, the nativityset stays in the box this year...

My family is still catholic and I honestly enjoy the standard activities: day one at my folks, day two at hubbies folk. Turkey, gifts, crappy music, the whole kitsch, I love it. Still, it saddens me that midwinter often passes in the frenzy of getting ready for a few days later. That on that day when I feel the light turning, I alone stand still among a mass of christmas shoppers and stressed out cooks. I feel lonely, for the first time, approaching this time of year. I crave quit and sincere connection. I'm tired of always having to celebrate alone or having my hub play along for my sake while it isn't his thing really.

I'd like to hear how you folks fill in this time o' year, especially how you weave the cultural, personal spiritual and maybe conflicting family-spirituality into a whole...
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby Fire oak » 14 Dec 2014, 18:46

I do both Solstice for me and Christmas for friends and family. I quite like having the time that is my own if I'm honest, time to slip away and be with myself, I'm glad I don't have to share it unless I choose to.

My husband has no religious beliefs which in many ways makes it easier to wander off on my own when I need to.

I do though have the tree up and decorated. Ours is covered with mementoes of holidays past as we always bring back a decoration of some kind for the tree, camels, fish, elephants, lizards, orangutang, koalas, bears, and the odd Santa to name but a few. None of them is connected to any religion just to us and the tree.

Solstice this year may well be shared as I'm planning to go along to a ceremony in a stone circle. What this will be like I have no idea. Christmas Day will be in our own or with friends. I skip the Carol service, midnight mass etc which is not easy in a Catholic country but in fairness no one comments any more.

I grew up in the United Reformed Church (formerly Congregational) whose ethos was take what you want and leave the rest, a philosophy that has stood me well. Gradually over time I left more and more until all that is left is the tree and the sense of festivity it always generates. It is as much a reminder for me that Solistice is just around the corner as that Christmas is too.
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby MountainGnome » 15 Dec 2014, 07:07

Fire Oak took my response. I was going to say why not celebrate Christmas and the solstice both.

Christmas itself really is just a pagan holiday painted in Christian colors. If people want to keep celebrating Christmas it doesn't bother me anyway, but they really are just carrying forward very ancient pagan practices. Any good Christian scholar knows that there's nothing in the Bible to suggest Jesus was even born in the winter, let alone near the solstice when pagans were already having important celebrations. In the future peoples' knowledge of this fact will only increase as religion's grip on the collective mind lessens. Catholicism alone is really almost completely dead compared to what it was in the Medieval Period, when the Pope could command kings and armies of foreign nations on a whim.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby DaRC » 15 Dec 2014, 13:05

Ahh the old Xmas tree issue :wink: so here are just a few of my thoughts or views on the subject...

1 - I still recognise that, although spiritually and philosophically I'm a pagan druid, I am a cultural Christian. If my ancestors, back in the 17th century, recognised that they'd rather keep Xmas and the Monarchy than a puritan republic then Xmas must have been important. I also like the communal feel of carol singing.

2 - there is something pagan about bringing the tree (as well as Holly, Mistletoe and Ivy) into the house if it can be done ecologically. I am lucky in that there is an Xmas tree farm a 5 minute drive away from me. If I couldn't do that I think I would use a pot bound/bonsai Pine tree.

3 - For me the Solstice and Xmas are part of an ancient spiritual cycle.
At Yule 21st Dec, the shortest day of the year, the old Sun dies and symbolically a wreath is hung from the door. Which I treat as a symbolically quiet day, for my personal pagan ritual and meditation. A time to prepare myself for the onslaught of socialising...
On December the 24th it is Modranicht, Mother's Night, the time to celebrate the earth mother (represented by the tree) and recognise her importance in giving birth to the new Sun. Amidst all the preparations for the next day I take some time to honour the Goddess of the household (which for me is Frij/Frigga) and if we get a chance to find a carol concert to sing along to (because my wife loves singing)
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/rac13.htm - Bede's reference to Modranicht -
Then on December the 25th it is the birth of the new sun because it is the first day that is recognisably longer than the short day's since the Winter Solstice. A time to celebrate being with family - with all the effort & exhaustion that entails!

4 - Finally, if you take the traditional 12 days of Xmas and start at the end of daylight (the Celtic day end) on Yule's Eve (rather than Xmas day) then this takes you through to New Years Day (rather than the arbitrary 5th Jan imposed by the Christian's over focussing on Xmas day). Which is an appropriate end to the seasonal festivities and put everything away.
:old:
So for me, this pagan cycle, fits much more naturally into my life than the Christian one.
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby ShadowCat » 15 Dec 2014, 13:16

Thank you all for your valuable input. Fire-Oak, your tree sounds wonderful and really "yours". Got a pic? I do love my trees too, even if they are fakes. I bought one of them 15 years ago, when I was living in a small house with a small yard. I found the most wonderful, vibrantly alive, potted blue fir and couldn't stand having to put him on the curb after a few weeks. I was moved to tears almost and decided on the spot to buy a good fake that would last manymanymany years. This year, the still pretty fake stayed boxed in favour of the aforementioned kitschtree that has family value...

DaRC, the music is another one. I still love to get all the sheetmusic out to many christmas songs, both secular as well as religious. Playing and singing seems to belong to this time of year. Except for a few Dickens-festivals, we don't have any caroling here though...

For a part it hinges on the fact that knowledge and feeling are two different things: I have known for many years that the whole story about this lilywhite, blond haired, blue eyed "jesus was born on christmas day" is just another form of christian usurpation of older, germanic, celtic and roman (among other) holidays. I know that one can celebrate both without shifting their own truth. I've done so, some years more elaborate than others. Still, this year I was truly surprised how it felt different.

In reading your responses I've found a thread with which to unravel this feeling of mine: it's about authenticity and the gradual shifting of mine own views, that makes it seem as if the whole world is a bit off kilter atm. So, thank you again for reflecting with me!
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the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby illion » 15 Dec 2014, 15:45

Being a Norwegian, I think Christmas is the easiest holiday to transform into my pagan beliefs. The Norwegian word for Christmas is "Jul" and derives from old Norse "Jol". Same goes with Christmas tree (Juletre). Julaften (Christmas Eve) on the 24th December is the main day for celebration. Most of our traditions are pagan, except from the church going on Christmas eve, and my family never went to church at Jul anyway, so it was not hard for me to skip that, it never was a tradition in my family.

It all starts with the 13th of December, the heathens celebrated this and called it Lussi Longnight. Lussi was a Christmas spirit that got mad if you hadn't finished your Christmas chores until that day, then she would come and wreak havoc on your family and your yuletide.You should not do anything that provided circular movements, like spinning, weaving or baking. She was also said to fly at the lead in the "Oskoreia" a flying parade of evil spirits that came hunting people at night, and you better stay indoors at the longest night unless you could be picked up and have to join them and never come back. Lussi probably took over Odin, Freya and valkyries role as the lead of the same parade, it seemed like the main characters shifted over time. Scholars have it that the reason for Lussi Longnight being the 13th of December was that the heathens used another calendar where the solstice happened to occur at the 13th. December and not the 21st as today. Today we celebrate the Italian St. Lucy at this same time, and I don't know much background for that tradition but I notice that Lucy means "light" and is very close up to the Norse Lussi. Every year I mark the Lussi Longnight by making a plan for how I shall finish the rest of my chores until the 21. December, I don't want any stress from that day, because my Jul starts then. Then I follow my plan strictly.

From the 21. December I light torches every night through to the 25th. We honour our ancestors by going with porridge to the "nisse" (elf) in the barn that is the personification of the first farrmer that started farming on the family farm. If you forget the "nisse" or don't give him butter on his porridge he will bring bad luck to the people at the farm and the animals. He will turn the dairy sour and come up with other inconveniencies. Then I meet my closest friends for some glasses of wine and joyful laughing. We also go up in the hills to watch the Sun rise. I cant' always do these things at the proper time because solstice is not a holiday in Norway, but I just try to plan my acitivities as close up to the solstice as possible.

23th is decorating our Christmas tree with cake hearts

24th is dinner with family and giftgiving.

25th is dinner with the rest of the family we couldn't be with the day before

The rest of the Christmas is staying home reading, lighting candles, going for walks in Nature (which is always a relief, blissful and so longed for because all the Christmas preparations, darkness and extra workload always keeps us from doing just that.) We are all enjoying our gifts and being peaceful.

This is my Christmas or Jul.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby ShadowCat » 16 Dec 2014, 09:31

Illion,

I knew about the Lucia-celebrations, but neder knew the story behind the saintfigure. Thank you for sharing your wonderful and inspiring planning for the days of midwinter. I do agree strongly that midwinter, like midssummer, is a period, not a singular moment in time. It's the resting moment when the pendulum it at it's most extreme.
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the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby Whitemane » 16 Dec 2014, 12:53

When my parents lived in Germany we followed the local tradition, which was to decorate on Christmas Eve, followed by the gift giving, and decorations were taken down on 12th night.

I really liked this way of doing things, with the focus on the key moment rather than month(s)-long frenzy where commercialism seems to swamp the truly magical event of a gift from the divine. However, I do enjoy the uplifting effects the season has on people in general.

I am trying to decorate the house to represent winter and the Solstice rather than Christmas, although the symbolisms overlap.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you,
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby AOnot » 16 Dec 2014, 18:18

We put up a tree and decorate it in my home, and always have. I was raised without any religion at all, but my family always considered Christmas traditions important as a way to celebrate the love and comfort of your family and friends. As children, we never needed any more excuse than that. I didn't know anything about Jesus, the Christian church or paganism until I was nearly an adult and by then I'd already formed my own views.

I'm married now, to a man who chooses no religion and who has raised his two children with a Christmas tree (even though those two children have never heard of Jesus, God or the Bible). I choose to keep the Christmas tree and Christmas music (even the religious ones) a part of our family tradition out of respect for the past and the values that my family taught me (without the aide of the Church). The spending of time with family, the spirit of kindness, sharing of food etc. is in my humble opinion all valid. Traditions are made over years and generations and anyone can bend them to suit their own family needs. I don't think that calling the tree one name or another makes a whit of difference. We do it because our parents did it, because the memory of it from childhood means something deep and comforting to us, and because we want our children to feel loved, cherished and to have those same strong memories.

I have no problem at all calling my tree a Christmas tree, because the words themselves are part of the memories not only for me, but for so many others and when I call it such to another adult, the words generate the same feelings of love and warmth--and THAT is what makes it important.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby illion » 21 Dec 2014, 08:53

Illion,

I knew about the Lucia-celebrations, but neder knew the story behind the saintfigure. Thank you for sharing your wonderful and inspiring planning for the days of midwinter. I do agree strongly that midwinter, like midssummer, is a period, not a singular moment in time. It's the resting moment when the pendulum it at it's most extreme.
Oh, I am very much lagging behind with my Yule chores this year, and now I wonder what Lussi will do to punish me. I did not finish on time this year.

Happy Solstice and God Jul :gulp:

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby ShadowCat » 21 Dec 2014, 09:37

Oh, I am very much lagging behind with my Yule chores this year, and now I wonder what Lussi will do to punish me. I did not finish on time this year.
Maybe it's an exercise in finding rest and peace among the unfinished chores. I know that's my challenge for sure :)
The sunrise was enchanting this morning. I'm lucky to see it rise above the forest from my livingroom window (I slept late this morning).

@AOnot, thank you for sharing the feelings of love and warmth from your familytraditions. They really radiate out of your words.

Cheers, :gulp:
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby DJ Droood » 21 Dec 2014, 14:37

I'm fine with Xmas...it is a nice few days off work and dinners and drinks with friends and family you don't see often enough. I even like church with Christmas carols. I know the reason for the season is the solstice and regard the tree as a sacrifice.
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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby illion » 24 Dec 2014, 09:26

Maybe it's an exercise in finding rest and peace among the unfinished chores. I know that's my challenge for sure :)
The sunrise was enchanting this morning. I'm lucky to see it rise above the forest from my livingroom window (I slept late this morning).
I think you are right, Kat.

I found peace and strength on the morning of this year's first sunrays. I climbed up to the old hillfort nearby, sat down above the mounds of those who have trodden this land before me, lit a torch to keep the dark forces away and waited patiently for the little child to be born. And when she shone her first rays on me, I opened my grail to be filled with her gold.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby Jasper » 27 Dec 2014, 02:19

Growing up in the southern hemisphere Christmas trees always bothered me as to kill a living exotic tree seems a strange way to celebrate as does the snow tinsel and reindeer. Its summer now in New Zealand, beautiful with pohutakawa and manuka trees in full flower.
Blue sky and the sun shining down.
For Christmas we camp at a beach and surf and swim and go for walks in the bush and explore caves and waterfalls.
For a tree my partner decorates a living pohutakawa next to our kai tent with tinsel and solar lights.
It just feels right.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby ShadowCat » 29 Dec 2014, 08:56

Jasper, I've never traveled to the southern hemisfere but yeah, I can imagine that both time of year and climate make "I'm dreaming of a white christmas" a bit odd where you live. Although midsummer might be closer to the true historic date of christmas (or so I have been told) it doesn't match all that well with the whole christmassy winter thing imho.

Best wishes from the snow!
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the callings of the universe

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby Davin Raincloud » 30 Dec 2014, 08:11

Calling the bloody tree "yuletree" just doesn't feel the same.

People call it a Yuletree.... in Australia.....

So many 'Gay Yuletime" songs sung growing up in the height of summer.

Too surreal.

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Re: O Christmastree, why do I still decorate thee?

Postby Whitemane » 30 Dec 2014, 12:55

I'm thinking about going for shiitake logs for the next Winter Solstice.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you,
Guide your way on.


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