If you're thoughtful enough to wish me a Merry Christmas, I won't go out of my way to explain to you why I experience a hidden shiver of annoyance, but I will wish you a Happy Holiday in return. Is this my breach of etiquette or was the original opening yours? You see, I am not Christian, so I don't celebrate the same things you do.
Oh, I still celebrate! This is still a holy time of year for me, my family and thousands of other Asatru worldwide. We put up a tree and decorate it with lights and symbols of our faith, we exchange gifts, and we hang wreaths. We light candles and contemplate the good in our lives and offer up thanks for the people we love and the blessings of our year. We simply do it for twelve nights instead of one.
On December 20th, Hubby and I will light our Yule log. We'll say a blessing over wine brewed from honey, and we'll begin our celebration of Mother's Night, when we honor our female ancestors that we believe watch over and guide us throughout the year.
We'll read a story from the Sagas or a passage from the Eddas to remind each other why we do what we do. We'll raise a horn filled with mead and offer our thanks to the Gods for the blessings we've had and the lessons we've learned.
For Asatru, Mother's Night is a night of focussing on the continuity of life - that which ties our pasts together with our futures. We laugh, tell stories of our Mothers and Grandmothers and discuss where they came from and how they survived the long winter's nights. We enjoy the evening knowing that the next night, the Winter Solstice and Yule proper, is the longest night of the year.
For the following ten nights, Hubby and I will bless a bottle of mead and raise the horn. We'll spend each night contemplating the past year, the things we would like to have done differently, and how we can grow more into the people we would like to be - better friends, better spouses, better citizens.
December 31st marks Twelfth Night, when we stand on the threshold between the two years and offer the horn as before. But this night, we'll offer something more - our words.
On Twelfth Night, the Yule Wreath is taken down and blessed with the mead. Hands are laid on it as favors are silently asked, intentions for the coming year are made, and Oaths are taken. Then, the wreath is set aflame, it's smoke carrying our words to the Gods.
Yuletide, the Twelve Nights, are more than a reason to gather and celebrate. It's a time that stands between the two years - our present joining our past and our future, just as our faith does. We celebrate the light conquering the dark and we honor those who have gone before, who made us who we are.
For us, it's far more than a reason to decorate a tree - a physical representation of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. It's more than an excuse to eat and exchange presents as we share the gifts and blessings we've had in our lives during the past year. It's about honoring our Gods and that part of them that's in each of us, even as we strive to become more than we are.
So you see, when I wish you a Happy Holiday, I'm not being rude. I'm gifting you with the hope that you'll find all the things good and beautiful in your life, that the light will far outweigh the darkness, and that you'll find the strength, beauty and joy from the past year to carry you through the next.