Keep the Christ in Christmas

Someone asked today whether either Yule or Solstice get commercialized? I would really hate to imply that Pagans are more spiritual in their holiday practices than Christians, because the lack of merchandising to them makes it seem that they aren’t as commercialized.
I know that Solstice, or at least the Saturnalia, was “commercialized” in Rome. Parties, presents, social silliness. But remember that in the city of Rome proper, the labor was done by slaves, captured for that purpose through incessant warfare. Thinking ahead to New Years Day, during the time of the Republic Roman New year was in March, and they’d have their elections of the new consuls, who’d go out and run the wars. But as they expanded their territory, they had to to farther and farther from the city to reach non-Roman lands to conquer. That made it hard for the newly elected consuls to get to the front at the start of campaign season. Rather than move the elections back (no, they HAD to be on New Years!), they moved New Year’s Day back to the end of December, thus allowing the new consuls time to get out to the legions (and keep sending back conquered slaves and loot). It does show an odd relationship with their holidays that they could change when the year started, but not when elections were held.

Neither Yule nor Christmas could be commercialized as they are now until there was Capitalism, not just the accumulation of wealth, that’s pretty much a constant with human societies, but when gaining and exchanging capital became the way of ‘keeping track’ of power, competitive spending was attached to the holiday. We were no longer simply sharing food with friends, decorating, and giving gifts, but “keeping up with the Joneses”.  When prestige was gained by generosity from your own stores (however they may have been filled), Yule was a time of celebrating what you had, and sharing with those who had less. Massive consumption and distribution of excess proved to everyone how powerful you were. This led to the customs of the poor visiting the rich, caroling, mumming, wassailing, souling, hunting the wren, many excuses to go get a handout. The taxes may have been as stiff, but giving to the poor was how being rich was justified. In the earliest times, they provided the military protection, but later also provided financial protection. And these customs strengthened community ties. It’s not that people forgot the spiritual occasion of Christmas, they remember that, however they are living in a world that has embraced the idea that if you are rich, it’s because you are favored by God, and therefore whatever gets you money, must be His will. The good of the people who work for and with you is no longer a consideration. Part of this is probably also that people follow the jobs wherever they may be, so you don’t have a multi-generational relationship with the land and the people around you.

Once again I think that they have missed something because their grasp of history is so poor.  If the culture doesn’t change, as soon as people with stuff to sell realize there is a market, there will be Solstice and Yule things being pushed at us, with ads to convince us that if we aren’t doing it with their stuff, we aren’t doing it right. We have to avoid accepting the underlying premise that we can judge a person by how much he makes, not how much good he does.

Thinking about the pronouns in that last line, when we look at how much woman are often undervalued because they are so much better at valuing raising children and making a home a safe and welcoming place, not simply trying to ‘make more money’. But don’t let me confuse the issue- men were sucked into the same trap when they moved off their homesteads where they raised the food and built the shelters. Like women, they were and are trying to provide safety and security for their children, so they won’t be cold, hungry, and scared, but they are only offered the option of working for a wage to achieve this worthy goal, and have been gulled into tracking security with larger numbers.
It’s a huge change in how we see the world, and until we can change that perspective, any holiday is at risk of commercializing. If we can help change our societies attitudes toward money and people, it won’t matter what name we give gods or which day we celebrate what they give us. Let us all help each other celebrate that which feeds our souls, and we’ll get through the long winter, the days will get longer, and we’ll all make it to spring together.

Spirits of Christmas- Nisse/ Tomte 12-13-17

Please join Tchipakkan on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2017 (St. Lucia Day), from 8 to 9 p.m. edt. Listen on your computer at http://liveparanormal.com/

If you missed the live show, it’s archived here: http://tobtr.com/s/10461525

By the way, this image is by Sussi1 over on deviantart- available for non-commercial use only. https://sussi1.deviantart.com/art/Tomte-107954573

This week I’ll be talking about the Swedish Tomte, the Danish and Norse Nisse, the Icelandic Yul Lads, English Brownies, and other spirits associated with the winter Solstice holidays. They are generally small, from a few inches to a few feet tall, often with conical or knit caps in red or some other bright color, and look a bit like garden gnomes. Nisse gained popularity during the romantic era and are popular Christmas decorations- along with amanita muscara mushrooms!
These spirits seem to partake both of the ancestral spirit as well as the house or land spirit, and are protective of those whose space and family they share. There are also many tales showing that one shouldn’t disrespect or take the Nisse lightly- for instance the story of the year the farmwife buried the butter in the Christmas porridge, and when the brownie thought he’d been stiffed, he killed the cow. When he ate the porridge, he discovered his mistake and switched the dead cow with a neighbor’s live one. Generally they protected the livestock and often seen with the farm cat.

The Yul Lads (and their mother’s cat) were less benevolent (Mom and the cat were known to eat naughty children) but have been made more safe for company in the modern world. But… I’ll be talking more about these stories on Wednesday and I’d love to have you to call in with questions or stories of your own: 619-639-4606 (live only).

If you can’t make the live show 8-9- and have a question or comment, please feel free to write me a message and I’ll read it on the air.
Want to listen later? Live Paranormal.com archives its shows by date, and I archive them by date, guest, and topic on my website: https://tchipakkan.wordpress.com/the-new-normal/directory-of-podcasts/

Hope you can join us Wednesday night from 8-9 at the New Normal. http://liveparanormal.com/

There’s an amusing interpretation of a nisse here:

https://www.facebook.com/tine/videos/10159509940720548/

 

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