Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holiday Season

The winter season, its holidays and I have had a long, sometimes sordid, relationship throughout my life.

As a child, I loved everything about winter and Christmas. I wasn't raised in a religious household, so there was only one fellow that mattered to me during winter. He has a beard, is a kind spirited soul but couldn't possibly pull off sandals with his preference to living in a frigid place:


I believed this rosy cheeked man brought his reindeer drawn sleigh to my house to deliver presents right up until the fine old age of 6, when I woke up feeling sick and discovered my mom putting gifts under the tree and my dad eating Santa's cookies! No amount of well thought out excuses could convince me that Santa was in fact real and the season lost a bit of magic for me for a little while.

In the following Christmases however, I took pleasure in finding the perfect tree, decorating the house, getting my whole family together on Christmas eve and helping my parents play Santa after everyone had gone home and my younger siblings went off to bed with visions of presents dancing in their heads. I loved the family aspect of the holidays as well as the gifts and glamor of the season.

Everything was wonderful between Christmas and I until one fateful Christmas when I was a hair shy of 17. On this particular Christmas morning, I had a feeling of dread in my stomach as my sister, who was then 6, pounded on my door at 6am demanding I get out of bed so we could open presents. You see, in my family no one can open a single present until everyone is out of bed and gathered around the tree. I rolled out of bed and went out to the living room where the siblings eagerly awaited my arrival. We all opened our gifts, followed by my parents and at the end of it all, like he always did my dad asked if everyone had gotten what they wanted. I remember everyone saying yes except for my mother, who proceeded to proclaim that all she wanted for Christmas was a divorce. That's right. The big old D-word, right in front of my 6 year old sister and 14 year old brother, who both proceeded to freak out and cry as my parents fought. I dragged the siblings away to try to comfort them and Christmas was ruined. Completely, utterly, destroyed.

By the following year my mother had her wish and we began the unpleasant tradition of splitting our family up for the holidays. The weekend before Christmas we went to my aunt's where we saw my mother and her side of the family. Christmas eve my older brother and his wife would come over to my dad's. The rest of my dad's family lived in Florida and Montana, so we never really saw them. Christmas day, we'd open our gifts from our dad (and Santa, who still visted!) before I'd go off to spend the afternoon with my boyfriend at the time's family. Christmas was a royal pain in the ass for me and a reminder of all the misery within my family. I couldn't give my left foot about picking out a tree, much less decorating it, I stopped caring about all of my favorite Christmas movies, including 'A Christmas Story' and I really didn't enjoy getting together with my family anymore. If 'A Christmas Carol' had been about a female Scrooge, I would have been her.

It was only about a year before that awful Christmas that I had put the name 'Pagan' to the feelings I had carried throughout my life. Doing research at the time without ready access to other pagans, the internet or books had been tough and I had wandered for a while just feeling a connection to particular gods and goddesses and all of nature, but without any knowledge of the sabbats or mythos of the year. About 4 years ago, I began to celebrate Yule and in doing so, began to rekindle my joy in the traditions of the Christmases of my youth. As the only pagan among my family and friends, Yule has always been my own special day; a holiday untainted by previous disasters and expectations. I took pleasure in learning about the origins of holiday symbols like the Yule log, the tree and Santa himself. I rediscovered the magic of the season and in so doing, reclaimed a part of my inner child who I had pushed aside to do what needed to be done for the sake of my siblings and forgotten about so many years before.

This year, I feel I've finally made my peace with the past and with Christmas which has always been a secular holiday that's more about fun, family and food than religion for me. I celebrate the longest night and the rebirth of the Sun as well as the triumph of the Oak king at Yule and celebrate Christmas with my family a few days later. I take pleasure in the sights, smells and sounds of the season; the silence of falling snow, the sounding of bells, the twinkling of lights, the smell of home made cookies. I've reclaimed the joyful magic of the season, hopefully this time, for good.

***
P.S... Would anyone like to exchange cards with me this season? If you've read this whole thing, you clearly deserve something! :) Email me your snail mail address at artful.danni(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll send you a card! If you'd like to send me one in return, let me know in your email.

P.P.S... You'll forgive me if I annoy you all with far too many photos of Holiday crafts and goings on this year, won't you? I feel the need to share all the whimsy and wonder that I might create or stumble upon. :)

15 comments:

  1. Ha ha, for once I got the drop on you girlie girl.....your card is in the mail. And I just received my sweetest tiniest most wonderful miniature gnome in a bottle, standing very still and disguised as a mushroom. So I'm all set for the holidays.
    Wow, I thought I had sucky Christmas memories. Nope you win, I loose. I can't imagine even living through the heinous ugly thing you had to live through. Your poor family. Nice holiday moves.
    And I am even more glad that you have claimed Yule and have a sense of joy which is the biggest part of mid winter. Blessings, dear one, The Olde Bagg, Linda

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  2. I am sad about your Christmas memories, but am pleased and happy to know that all is well in your world now when it comes to Yule and the jolly December feelings! Well done, and good for you. Please have the very happiest of Yules, you deserve it!!!! Glad to have you in my blog world! Robin.

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  3. I am happy to hear that although you have been through some very tough Christmas memories that you are still celebrating and finding joy in the season! Your traditions are similar to mine, Yule as spiritual Christmas as family, food, fun. I would love to swap Christmas cards with you I'll email you shortly!

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  4. Wow, what a terrible way to ruin the holidays for you and your brother and sister. It's so great that you've found that holiday magic again in Yule

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  5. I had a really similar history, and for several years had panic attacks for Christmas every year. It took me some time but I have also reclaimed the holidays for myself. I'm sorry for both of us that we had that history, but glad that we both could get past it. I would exchange cards with you, but I already am...lol.

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  6. What a horrible thing to go through! Divorce is always hard, but wow.

    A card exchange sounds perfect, I'll send you my info!

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  7. Just sent you an email...

    Christmas can be so difficult when you are splitting time between families and trying to make everyone happy. I'm so glad you've found a practice that feeds your soul - and then you are better able to enjoy the rest of the festivities.

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  8. I'm saddened by your story, but happy you've overcome it to make it a happy time of the year again.

    I'm actually happy I didn't get to go to my father on xmas. I only remember spending once xmas with him and I was 3 maybe.

    you're story reminded me my uncle's divorce on father's day. I (14yo) was the one that took care of the kids(6 & 10) that day. Father's day already sucked for me but that was some final!

    I can't understand why a mom would do that, even as unhappy she was...on xmas day? I don't know her so maybe she had her reasons...

    Wish you a very blessed Yule, and you'll get something from me soon enough in your mailbox (the real one!)

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  9. I'm so sorry you had to go through that as a child, but I am thrilled that you found a way to heal and to regain your love for the season. Hugs and Yuletide blessings!

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  10. What a painful, painful way on Christmas day such devastating news. My mother told me she and my father had separated the day I got back from Summer camp. And every summer, even though I have moved past it emotionally, I still get that horrible twinge inside my heart and stomach. I'm so glad you're reclaiming Yule for yourself. And I would love to exchange Yule cards with you :) let's email each other and get the info. Blessings and hugs to you, Danni.

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  11. I understand how ya feel, I always had to go two different family gatherings. It was always so hard. ! Well I hope you have a great Christmas!

    ps I would like to do Christmas card. I have always loved your blog!

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  12. So often it seems as if people hate the holidays due to family troubles... I'm glad you've been able to reclaim the winter holiday for you! =D

    I hope you & all your family have a most wonderful holiday season this year, and that your siblings have been able to reclaim they joy they deserve for the holidays. ^-^

    I would love to exchange cards! I'll email you my address & such. ^-^

    Btw... You were a wonderful big sister to try & comfort your siblings. That takes strength to do after something like that. I hope they see you for the awesome sister & woman that you are!

    XOXO

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  13. ~my heart aches for your little child spirit who had to go through such...but the mere fact that you have rekindled with your holiday spirit and found solice in this time of year...what a blessings...to release the past and move forward is the greatest gift you can give yourself...sometimes so hard to let go of the bad and replace it with good but you have done it and many a blessed yules shall be...to rediscovering the magic of this time...may it forever be in your heart and spirit...

    yule card...oh how i would love to exchange a greeting with you!!! i shall be off to email you my dear sweet friend...

    ps...sorry for flooding your inbox...playing catch up from being sick!

    much l♥ve light and blessings shining brightly upon you this day and always~

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  14. I have a similar story, in that it involves a traumatic incident which tainted (and to some degree continues to ruin) all future holidays, except it surrounds Easter... I'm so glad you've been able to start making your peace with this season. :)

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  15. Really touching story.

    I'm currently helping my roommate get his three year old daughter through her first holiday season without both parents together. Your story is a great inspiration. Thanks and happy Yule!

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