Summer Solstice or Christmas…Issues of Pagan Parenting

Posted by Jodie, 06 November 2011 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Today I bought my first Christmas tree…yes I really just wrote that. For those who know me well, that’s probably one of the most baffling statements I have ever made.  For me this time of year has always brought tension and a feeling of great misunderstanding.

My spirituality is aligned to the Earth Mother and as such I celebrate her seasons and the old festivals with great joy. Across my whole adult life I have never felt the desire to join in with celebrations of Christianity… or do Ramadan or Hanukkah for that matter…or any other festival or religion that has nothing to do with me. I have celebrated the Summer Solstice every year, and filled my home with the festivities, warmth and love that brings.

Each year I explain (yet again) that I have no problems with people celebrating their Christmas and encourage them to honour their traditions. But I take offence at being asked to support and celebrate a tradition that for thousands of years has actively tried to destroy my own. I take a deep breath each time I see the rolling of the eyes and patronising voices saying …“It’s not about religion - that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s about family, Jodie”.  So, as a pagan, I am supposed to just sit around listening to songs about Jesus, with symbols of Jesus on the apparent day of the birth of Jesus and just suck it all up? Despite how uncomfortable it makes me feel, and how much it reminds me about what we have lost as humans due to this religion. That we have moved away from the Earth as Mother, as sacred. This religion has devastated countless Indigenous and earth-based cultures on this planet - in exchange for the ‘one god’ somewhere up in the sky - where the ‘true sacred’ has been now situated for so many people.  I have never bought the line that it is only about family and values. Integrity, ethics, values, and family are human traits. They don’t belong to any religion or festival. They belong to us all.

But now I have my daughter, almost two, and she is not me. She is her own person, with her own thoughts and ideas now forming about the world. I have been watching her eyes light up with the new sparkling trees she is seeing in the shopping centres and I am reminded of a friend of mine from Canada many years ago when I was in my early 20’s. Reminded of her heart breaking for her then-2-year-old boy, who loved his Solstice time, his presents, the music, the parties and the excitement of waiting up to catch a glimpse of the Solstice Faerie. But her family was hounding her, “How could you do this to him? Poor child not getting Christmas! You horrible mother!”

I remember one night she sat up with me crying…“He gets everything and what more could any other child get? Would they ask a Jewish person to take part in a celebration that was on Hitler’s birthday? ‘Oh it has nothing to do with Hitler anymore – it’s just about family’ Just lots of Hitler symbols and songs about Hitler. Really - would they ask this of any other tradition but ours?“ I remember feeling angry and upset that she had been placed in this position – having to undermine her own beliefs so that her child would ‘fit in’ to the main stream. While this was an extreme example she gave, it was fair, festivals are far from neutral. They are imbedded with deep social, cultural and religious ideologies. I remember discussing this very issue one year at Roma park lands with the Buddhist and Muslim woman from my workplace. The three of us had quietly stepped out while the rest of the staff happily celebrated their Christmas party. It has never occurred to them to just make it an end of year party, or indeed reflect upon how isolating these cultural and religious symbols can be for people who have different beliefs. But that’s what mainstream privilege brings…your festivals are viewed as normal, other people are the ones causing the problem. My friend in Canada decided to stick to her traditions and honour the Earth path. Then he started daycare….

It didn’t matter to these children that he received everything that they received and more. The following year he was teased mercilessly as the child who doesn’t get Christmas. He then came home in tears, “Why doesn’t Santa love me? Haven’t I been good enough?” Her heart then broke in a whole new way.

The following year she had a HUGE solstice. The Solstice Faerie came and filled the garden with presents and the lounge with glitter. Family and friends visited. But she also decorated her first evergreen tree with lights and symbols of both the Solstice and Christmas. A few days after the Solstice Faerie came, Santa visited too that year. Not a lot of presents (as Santa knew he already had a lot of things from the Solstice Faerie of course!). When at daycare, as always, he was asked about his Christmas. He proudly said ”I had a great Christmas, and the Solstice Faerie came to my house too! What about you?“ Suddenly - instead of being teased – all the children wanted to know more about this interesting Solstice Faerie that brings presents…two days earlier than Christmas!

I remember thinking then, years away from having my child that my own beliefs and politics need to have flexibility when it comes to bringing up a child in a mainstream world. That I would learn from this moment, and while I respect the choices many people make in this area, for me I decided that my world would have to open more when my child/children came along.

So tonight I will get out the lights, and the new decorations of the Suns and the Santa’s. The Solstice decorations will go up as usual around the house and garden, filling my home with light. But now there is also a tree. Perhaps in years to come I can re-story this tradition. This tree may become a way for me to honour the winter solstice happening in the land of my ancestors, when our country is in the peak of Summer. The old Celtic winter solstice symbols of red and green, mistletoe and holly and lights that always honured the Earth Mothers labour in the longest night of the year, and the birth of her son at the break of winter solstice dawn in mid-December each year. So within one tree we will have the celebration of the sun and warmth happening here in this land and the remembering of our ancestry in the coldest time of the year.

I have not felt the need to celebrate other peoples’ traditions ever since I left home. But as bizarre as it is…here I am…now planning my first Christmas since I was a child.  In my heart this is still the warm time of Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin, of feasts, of friends, of dancing, of sun flowers, cicadas, geckos, wild storms and dancing. When the strong Sun shines brightly…and for just a moment…stands still. But my daughter has her own story to write, so somewhere in these warm and wild celebrations I shift and allow room for other stories to be nurtured alongside my own, as we all move into the tide of celebrating our lives together within all these sparkles of light that surround us.


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Posted on Sunday, November 6th, 2011 at 10:25 am and is filed under Wheel of the year. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
11 Comments so far

  1. 1 Tess Elliott on November 6, 2011

    Beautiful Jodie - I am placing my own Xmas tree up this year for my grandson to enjoy after many years not doing this. I will be celebrating the Solstice Faerie ( I like this title)& Summer Solstice Feast which my family will be coming too a week before the 25th. To be open and flexible is natures way Blessed Be

  2. 2 jacqui weller on November 6, 2011

    Jodie, you are an amazing woman!! Such a beautiful way of approaching what could have been a much harder situation. Blessing to you and your little girl :)

  3. 3 Anonymous on November 7, 2011

    I didnt own a xmas tree, when my first daughter was born, I didnt want to have something I didnt believe in. But I do love the spectacular that people go to, in decorating their homes, opening their homes to public to view their displays. one year I took my then 4yr old along, and there was a Santa. She was asked, and what do you want for xmas this year little girl? and she replied …A Christmas Tree. We do not own a jesus, or a manger, but we have craft, things the children have made, lots of suns, moons, popcorn strings, paper loop tinsels. I retell the xmas story of a wonderful human, named St Nick, or Santa, who gave love and joy to the children. That is xmas to me, love and joy and giving, with St Nick Spirit alive thru the generations. good for You Jodie, confronting the change, embracing the joy of your daughters new path. xx

  4. 4 Anonymous on November 10, 2011

    It is so good that you have made a small place in your Solstice celebrations for a decorated tree,Ryley will just love it.Love you,
    Dad

  5. 5 Karen Hawk-Lyons on November 30, 2011

    I decided that seeing as a multitude of “Christmas traditions” were actually deeply & richly steeped in various Pagan beliefs I would view Christmas from a unique proactive celebratory point of compromise. Atop our Xmas Tree sits a delightful “Witches Hat” :-). All who enter our abode blissfully chuckle about this sight including my Grandchildren; it creates a joint gateway for celebration as does mistletoe, which in our case, living in the Australian Tropics is light-hearted substituted for Palm Tree branches :). Although, Xmas here is celebrated in Summer…sizzling Summer…Xmas Stockings adorning a fireplace has never been a huge priority HOWEVER due to its Pagan origins we maintain this symbolic tradition. My 5 grandchildren know their young 48 yr old “Granny” is somewhat colourful & ‘left-field’ & they have always been so beautifully accepting of that therefore I have returned their acceptance & embraced Christmas on levels which are comfortable & true for all. I also send cards to loved ones as its a great time to simply say hello & inject more love in their direction. My cards state “Happy Glitter & Gratitude Season (c)”. There is always room in life for amalgamation :). Blessings galore & may your Summer Solstice be rich of heart. Love to all, Karen xx

  6. 6 Karen Hawk-Lyons on November 30, 2011

    P.S. It also helps enormously that we live on 16 acres with our own divine pristine Waterfall Creek where nature & faeries abound. Our magnificent rainforest canopy is alive with spirits of all kinds & they do so love our crackling campfires, feasting, airbed creek races, laughter & dancing…our “Christmas” is less about a singular day & more about the season as a whole. Your daughter is OBVIOUSLY exceptionally blessed to have choosed you xxxxxxxxxxx

  7. 7 Karen Hawk-Lyons on November 30, 2011

    opps! choosen! :) Blessed & WISE

  8. 8 Fonda on December 21, 2011

    I wonder if you would be interested to know that we are doing the reverse by request of our daughter who is now 5 and wishing to honour the Pagan traditions over the Christian ones we were raised with. This makes my heart smile because it fits more with our beliefs, so we have been exploring the different pagan traditions all over the world. We have discovered that there is a pagan god of winter that dresses in red and white and black and that he is the “giver of gifts” so we decided that Santa probably represents that god and will be welcome to come for a visit when he’s traveling by. That also helps us transition from Christmas to Yule in an easier way.

  9. 9 Jodie on December 21, 2011

    Arh yes ‘father winter’ is a lovely tradition of the Gods and community Elders giving gifts. Thats lovely to hear that your daughter is exploring these elements herself. Here in the peak of Summer (not as easy as Yule)though I have had friends in the cold part of the world use the old symbols (which are xmas symbols) very well. The red, green, misletoe and holly, decorating the trees with lights to welcome the birth of the Sun god after winter, are all winter solstice symbols used well before xmas was invented. since the Fae are strong at solstice, I have used the solstice faerie and covered my house oranges and yellows, gold tinsels and light for the light of the summer.Blessings for your yuletide and your family…Jodie

  10. 10 Ruth on February 9, 2012

    Yes, we have not celebrated Xmas in our childrens lives except to invite others over to a generous (blessed)meal on that day.

  11. 11 Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Summer Solstice « lavendilly on December 21, 2012

    [...] cycle of the sun for the last week or so, and inspired by my friend Oakwillow this year we invited the Solstice Faeries to come and dance in our garden tonight. We had such a delightful time creating a ring for the [...]

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