A "What If?" Yule
Is Richer Better?
We live in a culture where those that have the biggest and brightest holiday season, we are reassured, are the happiest. A world where if we spend the national debt of a third world country and transform our homes into winter wonderlands worthy of a Hollywood movie being filmed there and stuff stockings to bursting and pile up towers of presents we will be happy.
And in some ways, there is nothing wrong with that. We all want to be happy and live in a world of plenty. It is only human nature and a gift from our hunter/gather ancestors. But for all of that, despite ads and films assuring us bigger is better (and secretly implying we are unhappy failures if we don't have it) I'd like to share a game with you I play when things aren't going quite right. It is the What if... game. And the rules for Yule were simple. I asked myself one question. What if I had a million dollars, just for Yule. I couldn't spend it on anything else, just Yule. And what follows were my answers.
I'm not advocating a back to basics Yule for anyone, if you can have that holiday extravaganza do it. But for me I was honestly surprised at my answers. So If I had a million dollars just for Yule I'd...
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I'd Get A Bigger Tree
Like I remember my parents having. A six footer. And new lights and some new ornaments because I remember those traditions. But do you know what? I also remember people grumbling because they had to walk around the tree to get in the coat closet, or they had to walk around another year when the tree was moved, to get into the basement.
I remember fighting through packed stores to get ornaments before any other customer grabbed them and I remember the year my family breathed a sigh of relief because we had enough decorations and didn't have to fight the Christmas crush.
That big tree, pretty though it was, and certainly festive, was simply too big. Now, I wouldn't pass one up if you gave it to me, but I don't really want the tree. What I really want is for Yule to be what it used to be. Which was Christmas, which was my family of four, me, my brother and parents around the tree along with assorted pets and guests. I want, but can't have the past alive again, so it is time to move on, I think.
And I have. I have a modest flocked tree. It hits three feet tall only in the online seller's imagination. It is small and only lit with two strings of lights because any more than that and it is just a snarl of exposed wires. But, it is pretty, I love it, and it is neatly out of the way of foot traffic.
And it actually replaced a smaller tree my family had down sized to after years of angry grumbling and walking around bigger trees. So, no, I really don't want the bigger tree. And when I realized that, when I realized this little tree isn't a mark of failure for me, a mark of not being rich enough or good enough to have 'real' Yule, that it isn't just there to be a placeholder for a bigger and 'real' Yule tree I remembered something else too.
In my kitchen I have a wee, plain tree. The actual size trees would have been for many a family. A mere tip of a branch compared to some trees. And one tradition women used to do with their daughters for Yule, or so I've read, with these tabletop trees, was to rise and bake gingerbread cookies together, then hang them on the tree as loving gifts to one another. It was decoration, tree and gift all in one. And I'm fairly sure they didn't sit around crying because they didn't have the latest doodad or whatsit. They had one another and the rest of the family and that was enough.
Sowulo - Yule (Official Music Video)
It's Her Yule Too
I'd Get More "Stuff"
Yup, I didn't stop to think of charity, did I? But that wasn't the point of the game. The point of the game was "What if...." to shake me out of my winter blues when I'd had one too many ads for a lusher holiday season. And this year being a bit lean, my presents came from my accumulated Bing points or a gift card. I did buy food, and I did buy one thing on my own, but that was it.
But with a million dollars I'd have gotten everything that caught my fancy. Holiday catalogs and Amazon alone are filled with temptations. But the truth is? Even if I came down to a mountain of presents Yule morning, even if I'd bought everything that caught my eye, it wouldn't change the holiday itself.
Sure, it would be fun, but it isn't what makes Yule, well, Yule. Again, if I found gifts mysteriously there Yule morning I'd thank the Gods, but it isn't what the holiday is actually about. It is about whatever traditions you hold. Some say the birth of the God, some may have other traditions. But it is a day to give thanks for what we have, and if we can't be thankful to pray that we can have our eyes and hearts opened.
It is a day to open what gifts we have, and not all come with ribbons and bows. We still have the gift of this earth. A walk outside, weather permitting, costs nothing. Nor does singing praises to our chosen Deities. Or making our own ornaments from what materials we have on hand.
A night keeping vigil with the Lady, with lights burning if possible also costs next to nothing. And we get the gift of longer days from here on out and the promise that Spring will be with us in due time as the sun once again warms the Earth.
Emerald Rose - Santa Claus is Pagan Too
Santa's Still Welcome
I'd Have Gotten More "Fun Food"
By fun food I mean the stuff we take for granted most Yules. Eggnog, cookies from the store, mounds of candy and other goodies. There will be a fruitcake for example, but a small one. Not a big one meant for six people as I remember from Yules (well, Christmases) past when there were six people to eat it. There will be a tiny sampler of smoked meat and cheese, there will be candy in my stocking. But with the million? There would have simply been more of it. A huge variety pack of cheese and meat, and enough candy for ten adults, and oh, look at that online care package of junk food I can send myself.
Now it is true the holidays are about feasting, but I will have enough. I have my choice between chicken or pulled pork, a luxury a lot of folks don't have. I have cookies, scones and pumpkin bars I froze as I baked the last month or so. I even have Coke, sort of a luxury item now, but I budgeted for it.
Yes, some things are missing. No gingerbread house this year, no store bought cookies, no crazy amount of extras, no eggnog as of yet, but there will be food on the table and the extras I mentioned and I know I'm blessed to have it. For our pagan ancestors the feast was as much necessity, you had to kill off so many animals to have the rest survive until spring on what food you have for them, as it was about celebrating.
And it was a time to feast to please the Gods because this act of faith showed they trusted the Gods to bring spring in due time and provide food and fuel during the long winter months ahead.
I'd Have Decorated More Luxuriously
There is always the temptation to mistake lush, costly and bright with happiness and we all do it. And it isn't the fault of evil advertisers or greedy capitalist stores, either. A lot of us want a Victorian Yule, complete with shiny baubles. Dickens in excess, as long as we aren't cast as a member of the Cratchit family.
And I am not going to lie. Excess is beautiful. Lush full swags of fresh greens that would make my decorated bannister look like an anemic pipe cleaner are tempting. But are they happiness? Will they somehow fuel a better, more magicial Yule? Will the sun God be born days earlier or my fortunes explode because I put myself in the poor house playing decorating maven? Of course not.
The first thing our pagan ancestors did was decorate naturally. And not because they didn't know any better or were deprived. But because they saw themselves as a part of nature and believed in the nature spirits. By bringing in greenery for a little while they invited these spirits into welcoming warmth, love and feasting, and believed that these spirits in kind would bless them
The greens were returned to the wilds by Twelfth Night so that their guests could return home, happy to have spent another Yule among mortals and left blessings, but happier still to be back home.
Let There Be Light
But The Truth Is...
The truth is, my Yule wouldn't have been much different than it is now. At first my mind whirled with the idea of luxuries like getting a taxi to take me into a bigger town and see a play. Going to the mall and shopping until I dropped, or splurging on gifts for myself. Of having a house decorated to the nines with all things bright and shiny and new. Of mounds of presents and books. And, like a little kid hoping Santa would make my wishes come true if I shared, I seriously promised myself I'd also give to the less fortunate.
Well, I did give this year. I donated clothing and toys to the less fortunate several times and was blessed to be able to do so. I've given food to food drives and although I don't have a dime to spare I have prayed for those in need.
To those dreaming of the Yule of excess I qualify as one of the needy, but I don't look at it that way. I have the essentials our ancestors prayed for. I have a warm home, food on the table and clothes on my back. I even have a few gifts as some cultures would have exchanged. And I'm happy as I have my Gods with me.
There are lights on the tree and ornaments too. And they are more pretty than anything new as they hold wonderful family memories. My decorations may never make a glossy holiday magazine, but they are filled with the love of generations now gone on to be ancestors.
And I wish my readers, those with much or those with little find the true meaning of the season. Love, brotherhood, hope. Faith in our chosen Divinities and a chance to reconnect with Them and celebrate the birth of the sun together. It is a time to extend love, not war, with those celebrating other holidays.
Our time on this globe is brief and none of us is promised anything. We may all have many Yules to come, or just this one, so let's make it a good one.