Original Artwork, Winter Solstice Magick ©Wendy Andrew 2008
"Mama, why is there Christmas?"
Ok, so it really came out more like, "Mama ... Mama ... Mama Mama Mama Mama - "
"Why der Tismis?"
This was a challenge. First of all, he might not really be interested in the answer. Many times have I launched into elaborate, knowledgeable explanations to such questions as Why is the sky blue, Why is Darth Vader bad, or Where is God only to look over and find my inquisitive 3-year-old busy making a Gordian knot of his shoelaces, not paying me the least lick of attention. So I try to keep it short and sweet.
But I wasnt sure what the short answer was to this question. The answer I had been given as a child, and the message for which was all around us, was PRESENTS - I mean, the birth of Christ. Not terribly applicable for the paganish sort. So I improvised.
"Well, the Christmas season is called Yule. Its the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. So we celebrate the winter season by cuddling up with our families in our homes, sharing love and joy - yes, and presents, I know. Yes, presents. YES THERE ARE PRESENTS, but thats not the point, ok? Now listen. Its all about showing love to our friends and family to help us get through the darkness of winter - "
Aaaand he was off. So I turned to the baby, always a good captive audience, and waxed on about the twelve days of Christmas, our Yule log, Hannukah (just so hed know), how most of our family celebrated a little differently and that was ok, and how it wasnt really Jesus birthday but the ancient Christians decoupaged that event over the pagan solstice to make everyone feel a little more at home with the new religion. And there was Kwanzaa, which I still wasnt clear on.
Here I thought Halloween/Samhain/All Saints Eve had layers.
Then there are symbols like Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes and the like that dont seem to be related to anyones religious inclinations. Well, maybe Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox if you go back far enough. I find myself making stuff up about how the tree celebrates life and the cycle of the seasons - except its a fake evergreen - and how candy canes represent our need to go to the barber before taking pictures.
But I kept going back to my first instinctual explanation of Christmas. Why does it need to be more complicated than showing love? Why should everything mean something, especially when the kids are so little? Yule logs and Christmas trees and the like dont need to be anything deeper than beautiful decorations that make us happy. Songs like "Silent Night" can just be pretty songs; I dont need to try to filter them or explain them simply because they dont represent my theological leanings.
In the end, I explained to the baby as he tried to remove my glasses, I was glad to have come to peace with not needing to explain everything about Christmas. There would be time in the many years to come to explore symbolism and cycles, historical rhythms and theology.
As complicated as the little darlings seem to make everything else, trying to explain this increasingly mountainish holiday to a child really helps me to boil it down to the really important part. Its about love. And thats really all we need to know.
About the Author: Julie Cox is a new pagan writer and artist who lives with her two young children and husband in Texas. She carries degrees in both Art and Religion. To see more of Julie's artwork go to Shopping and Art gallery on our main menu.