by Lady SisterWolf
Let me start with the disclaimer: There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pagan parenting (well except for that whole Wiccan Rede thing, if you happen to be Wiccan…. which I am). The words that follow are from my experiences, and are how I handle things. I am in no way saying that you should do it like I do.
Far too often I meet pagan parents who are militantly against Christmas and anything to do with it. I get that it is supposed to be a major Christian holiday but, what I think most pagans fail to remember is that it started out as a pagan holiday (1). One of the holidays celebrated in many, many pagan areas (2). So, I have never been anti-Christmas. Instead I embrace it and have made it part of our family tradition.
Let me take a step back. I am not a “corrector”. I do not remind the Christians in my life that their holidays were once celebrated by heathens. If someone says “Merry Christmas” to me I return in kind, I wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukah, and I certainly don’t waggle my pagan faith in their faces. I am a Wiccan and one of the teachings of my coven is that we do not proselytize in any way.
In my house, we celebrate the Yule-tide, the time of year that celebrates the renewal of the sun and the shortening of the days. If you talk to five different pagans (heck, five different Wiccans) then you will get five different answers on when Yule-Tide is. We may all agree that the Winter Solstice is on or near December 22nd, but we will all differ in how and when we celebrate that. In my house, we celebrate the season from December 2nd to January 3rd. Those are not arbitrary dates; they are the birthdays of two very important people in my family and have always marked when we put up our tree and when we take it down. So, when I became a parent I kept the tradition.
I was Wiccan long before I was ever a parent. I joined my coven in 1999 and my son was born in 2005. My pagan roots were firmly planted when he came along. One of the other teachings of my coven is that children should not be indoctrinated. My partner and I decided that our child would not be raised in any one particular faith but that we would still observe our familial traditions. FYI my son’s father is an atheist. Thus, my son has only recently learned that the things we do during Yule-tide are pagan.
After he was born I took some time away from my coven to raise my very young son. It’s very hard to be an Elder and a parent when your children are small. A couple of years ago I returned to my coven (welcomed with open arms) and returned to teaching.
My son is now 11 and last year began expressing an interest in attending my rituals and learning more about Wicca. With his father’s permission, he began joining me at out-meets. My son’s first sabbat was a Yule. We celebrated the sun and we exchanged gifts. On the way home my son remarked at how similar it was to what we have been doing his whole life. Yeah little man…. Secretly Mommy has been doing pagan stuff this whole time!!!
Here are some of our family traditions for the Yule-Tide:
Yule logs are a tradition in my coven. At the beginning of Yule-Tide (early December for us) we get together and decorate Yule logs. Then we take those yule logs home and they decorate our homes. We burn our candles on the solstice and use the logs for our Imbolg fire. While my son was little (and before the return to my coven) we would decorate a Yule log sometime after we had put up our tree. Then on December 22nd we would burn the candles and the log would be burned for a marshmallow toast. I rarely waited until Imbolg to burn the log, but I doubt the gods are going to punish me for that.
I kept the word Christmas attached to our tree for one very simple reason: Secrecy. One side of the Witches Pyramid3 is to keep silent. Not all the world needs to know that I am a Wiccan and I certainly did not want my son’s social interactions to be impeded by his weird-o mom (that can wait until he is a teenager!). So as far as all his friends (and some of my family know) we put up a Christmas Tree. It’s not a holiday tree, or a winter bush, or a Solstice Pine or whatever. However, we have NEVER topped it with an angel. Mostly we have used a star, sometimes a Teddy Bear and most recently a Santa Hat. Every year my son picks a new ornament to add to our tree. If you ever came to my home, you would find everything from ice cream cones and wiener dogs to Santas and airplanes decorating our tree.
The Christmas Pickle
About 3 or 4 years ago I was cruising the dollar store for some cheap décor for our yule log when I came across this crazy Christmas ornament. It was called a Christmas Pickle and claimed to be an old German tradition. I looked it up and was so damned tickled by all the different stories that I bought the pickle and it has been a tradition in our home ever since (click Here to read more about it). In our home the Christmas pickle is left off the tree and placed on Santa’s Tray (more on that later). After eating the delish repast we leave for him, Santa places our pickle on the tree and whoever finds it first on Christmas morning gets to open the first present (3 guesses as to who has found it EVERY year).
The Advent Calendar
The first Decoration to go up in our home is the advent calendar (though we call it the count-down calendar). And beginning on December 1 every morning my son gets to open the appropriately numbered door or flap (the last two years we have purchased a Lego advent calendar…you know, because LEGOS!). He gets some sort of little treat or present and either eats it or plays with it that morning. Why? To remind him that every morning that the sun rises is a gift. For 24 days he is greeted every morning with a gift and on day 25 he is gifted the ultimate gifts.
Yes, my 11-year-old still believes in Santa and magic and flying reindeer, and good for him. There are SOOOOO many different traditions about Santa Claus (4, 5, 6) take your pick and follow it. Personally, I like the American Santa Claus and as such we follow that tradition. In the twilight hours of December 25th, a jolly fat man shows up and magics himself down our chimney (or in the days of no fireplace he jimmied our locks open, Santa has street cred); he then proceeds to leave a veritable magic sack full of presents under our tree. But only for the children. At the age of enlightenment (age 13) Santa figures you have had enough of the free stuff. My son is not looking forward to that, but he understands that at some point we grow up and Santa should be focused on the CHILDREN of the world, especially those who have nothing throughout the year. He still fills stockings for the adults so my son knows he will still be visited by Santa and rewarded for his generosity.
Our Santa story has always been this: Santa is the spirit and magic of Yule-tide. He shows us how generous we should be throughout the year and rewards us for our generosity.
We should also sacrifice our time and energy to give to those who do not have. Even when we were at our poorest we gave. We donate food to food pantries, we volunteer at park clean-ups, we give money to worthy charities. As Santa gives so do we give. In return we also give thanks to Santa for his generosity. We have a Santa Tray, and on it we place a small meal for Santa and his reindeer. It usually consists of hot cocoa or cider (with a snort of whiskey in it) and cookies, sometimes a sandwich. And the reindeer get carrots or apples and we leave a bowl of water for them too. On that tray we always put the Christmas Pickle for Santa to hide. He left us a note the first year we did it and said that he always had fun at the houses who had Christmas Pickles. My son looks forward to playing his game with Santa every year.
We have a few other traditions, the youngest person always hands out the presents, our wiener dog has a Santa suit that he wears as we open gifts, and our new pibble puppy has a set of reindeer antlers to wear. Moms and dads always get at least one cup of coffee before present opening an on Christmas Eve we always read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as a bed time story. All month long, we binge on Christmas movies and music.
You see Yule-tide and Christmas are all about magic and family and giving and thoughtfulness. We don’t stress about the meals or the exact perfect trimmings. We put thought and care into the gifts we give to our loved ones. We personally sign each and every card that we mail out. We laugh and sing and snuggle up close. We give thanks for the sunrise and for each other.
I end this by wishing every one of you who read this all of those things, especially the magic. The magic is the most important part.
“If you see the magic in a fairy tale,
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