While my husband and I grew up with Christian backgrounds, we both consider ourselves pagans now. This is not a problem around the Christmas holiday, because so many of the the traditions associated with it ARE pagan (candles, decorated trees, feasting). The Catholic church chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus around the Winter Solstice because pagans were already celebrating the Goddess giving birth to the Sun/Son (as the days grow longer again). It made the transition from paganism to Christianity easier. When I was a practicing Christian, we downplayed the whole Santa connection, because we wanted our son to understand the real meaning of Christmas. But the Nature connection was always present (even if quiet).
I know pagans who have made the switch to celebrating Winter Solstice rather than Christmas, and I applaud their decision. However, family is also a very important part of pagan beliefs, so what we now do for Christmas is more of a family tradition. We put up the decorated tree, we decorate the house (minus the manger scene and with more emphasis on nature), some years we put lights on the outside of the house, we used to send recycled paper cards with nature scenes on them, we get together with friends and family to eat and exchange gifts, and most of this centers around December 25th.
Most years everything is decorated and done by now. This year things have been a bit more . . . casual. 🙂 Gifts were purchased and mailed, or wrapped and put under the tree. But we never did get the outside lights up. The tree has been up and decorated for a couple weeks, and we have been listening to holiday music, but the rest of the indoor decorations have come out in only the last day or two. I haven’t done any baking (yet). We gave up mailing out cards several years ago (when money was tighter), and never quite got back into the habit. We are getting together with family and friends, but at their houses.
I remember Christmases when I was still embroidering a gift until 4 a.m. on the 25th. When I spent hours baking, and it disappeared within minutes (with nary a thank you). When I met many evenings to practice group performances. When I spent many hours writing holiday letters, and preparing and addressing Chistmas cards. When I fretted about wrapping presents perfectly. When we hosted family gatherings, and the food didn’t meet their expectations or people were rude to each other. When I spent days planning and preparing the perfect potluck dish. When I went into debt to get everyone just the right gift(s).
For years I wished I could relax and actually enjoy this Winter holiday. I have been practicing saying, “No, I won’t be doing that,” and it is finally beginning to work. Now I am choosing how I will spend my time, with an eye to what I want or what is important to the people I care for most. It doesn’t mean I am angry with anyone, or becoming anti-social. It does mean I am far more relaxed this year, and enjoying the season.