Thursday, 11 December 2008

Keeping up with the Christians?

As the Christmas season approaches, I've noticed a lot of discussions surrounding decorations and celebrations by various pagans and my curiousity has been peaked. I notice the same thing occuring around Easter and, best of all, people referring to Samhain as the Celtic New Year.

Why do so many pagans feel the need to find/invent a festival to co-incide with those of the Christian/secular calendar?

Is there something lacking in those provided by their own tradition?

Why do so many pagans feel the need to adopt the festivals from all the traditions?

Personally, I don't do Christmas or Easter and my new year is not at Samhain [whole other argument which falls outside the remit of this post]. I realise that the northern traditions have feast days such as Ostara and Yule, and the Romans celebrated Saturnalia on 17 December, but these are outside of my personal belief system, so I don't acknowledge them. I am happy with my four fire festivals and two solstices (which are acknowledged on a purely personal level) and don't feel the need to join in the celebrations of others. It feels complete to me.

So, why do so many feel these are not enough, incorporating the Christian and secular holidays in their year? Why try to blend the Christian/secular celebrations with a pagan one?

All this and then there are the rather confused local councils who go around changing things from Christmas to winter festivals so as to not offend non-Christians. As a non-Christian, I object to council's doing this. Why? Because I live in (what I thought was) a Christian country, so I expect to see people freely practising their religion and celebrating it. Seeing the councils change things actually makes me wary about the ability of the citizens to celebrate any religion openly, including paganism.

Anyways, back to the topic. If you are someone who incorporates an eclectic mix of festivals from various pagan faiths into your calendar, may I be so bold as to ask why?

This post is rather convaluted, but I find the whole idea rather confusing. So, forgive me if I come back and edit it at some point.


hen said...

I celebrate the Winter solstice. It fits with me to celebrate that because, although I happen to enjoy winter, I love spring too and this solstice is the moment when the long climb to the soil warming up begins! That is worth celebrating. It breaks up the dark nights a bit too.

I have a little personal thing that I do at the full moon closest to it and then I have a get together with friends on the solstice.

On christmas day I share in other peoples celebrations of whatever it is they believe in. Just because it is culturally traditional and I'll go with anything for good food and a laugh!


... said...

I see your point, but I guess being that I was raised catholic and only found paganism about 8 years ago, for me I blend some holidays for tradition's sake. I am a very traditional and ritualistic person. So, while I am a practicing pagan, I still find that it is easier and more enjoyable for me personally to combine a bit and blend for tradition. Does that make sense at all or am I a fruitcake? I like your blog by the way.

Ancestral Gael said...

Heya Skuld,

I can understand the idea of tradition. I attend midnight mass, solely as a matter of honouring my grandmother. So I can see where you're coming from.

Thanks for the compliment. :-D


Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Ancestral Celt;
my very first suggestion to you , in order to help answer some questions posed on your post tonight, is to explore Ronald F. Hutton's "Triumph of the Moon" (if you have not already).
This has potential for a lengthy comment; if you prefer to correspond via email, mine can be found by linking to my blog profile or simply direct contact @
I must take issue with your statement that pagans are "inventing a festival to coincide with the christian calendar".
Quite the opposite: christians coincide the 'birth' of their 'savior' with the winter solstice (one of your admitted celebratory days) because of it's symbology of the 'Light" [or son, or SUN...] 'returning' to the world. Scholars are nowadays in fair agreeance that Jesus of Nazareth was born around february, 4 'B.C.' [feb= Imbolc; much more appropriate for a religious festival for them, given his followers consider themselves 'sheep'...] It is well documented that CHRISTIANS changed their holiday to COINCIDE W/THE MUCH OLDER PAGAN ONE --- YULE--- in order to bag more converts.
my personal reason for observing Yule, and ( my choice of) the other & 'other' 7 i do is because of their appeal to the human condition, psyche, and relevant stage(s) of said development...
This subject is SO ripe for further development and exploration; I hope other Pagans join in with their quips and add fuel for that visionary fire.
If not,PLEASE FEEL FREE to contact me @ the above-listed URL.
I look forward to hearing from, and corresponding more (and mayhap collaborating with?!?) ou in the very near future.

Deep Blessings, fellow traveler.


Ancestral Gael said...

Hello Cygnus,

I have read all but two of Ron Hutton's books; I read "The Triumph of the Moon" a few years ago now.

I think you missed my point: its not that pagans are inventing a new festival to coincide with Christmas, but that some pagans adopt all festivals, regardless of purpose. I guess Christmas is one of those times when its most prevalent, hence my post. I've seen so many pagans celebrate Saturnalia, the solstice, Christmas and, then, Yule including the Christmas tree, Christmas cards and the giving of presents in their festivities. What I am at a loss to understand is those that insist on celebrating every festival on the pagan calendar, whether specific to their tradition or not, and where some find it necessary to have an equivalency to the Christian calendar and rituals.

For instance, there are four fire festivals in the old celtic traditions with the solstices being something apart/ different. Six special times in all, yet, so many self-confessed Celtic-types incorporate the heathen Ostara into their tradition? WTF for? Do they feel left out at Easter?

For me, it's just the whole "pick-n-mix" approach to which I object. I think I've written on this before, but in relation to gods.

Ah well. I guess we cannot understand all things.