I don’t celebrate Christmas. Not because of the obvious one – I’m Pagan – and certainly not for the whole, “oh boo Christianity, they stole it from us” as I honestly can’t be bothered with that argument (no, they didn’t, it’s become a celebration of a whole range of traditions smacked together and is now about Santa, gifts, and consumerism.) It’s become a time where I refuse to go into shopping centres on weekends in December, Americans go nuts over items the day after they say what they’re thankful for (because that makes sense?) and hilarious photos of kids sitting on Santa’s lap screaming for their parents. Unless you’re my eldest niece, in which case one year she looked like an adorable Cabbage Patch Doll!
I do have friends who have changed the name – Giftmas, or Presents Day – which I get when you have kids. But we don’t, and won’t, and the husband nor the cat really cares if it’s celebrated or not, and I know the cat would love to bring down a fake evergreen every chance he gets (especially as he broke through the fly screen on one of the windows today as I locked him inside and he wanted to play with his friends…)
So why don’t I celebrate it? Because in Australia, Yule/Midwinter is in June.
The main element of Christmas as we know it evolved out of the Roman tradition of Saturnalia, a festival honouring the Roman God of Agriculture, Saturn, on the Winter Solstice.
Yes, I get it – Australia has become a country of the Western world. We’ve adopted the traditions from our ancestors who brought them over on their convict voyage after being kicked out of the United Kingdom as criminals, and from those who came freely from Europe, primarily after the Wars (like my Grandfather did).
My main issue is that we are in Australia, in the middle of summer and sweltering in the heat. It’s not completely because we are celebrating it at the wrong time of the year, but because we (primarily the mainstream, stores and media who force our spending choices) haven’t allowed the celebration to evolve completely.
Many of us do celebrate December 25th in an “Australian fashion” with barbeque’s, stubbie holders with tinnies, singlets and thongs. If we live on the coast, we may head down to the beach on Boxing Day. If not, we may head to the park, or a lake, or river, or whatever – we head outside. Cricket, barbeque, beer. Rather than snug inside by the fire, our volunteers might be battling bush fires. There’s no cold nights and snow falling, because we’re spread out on the bed with the fan going, completely naked (or under a sheet) wishing we could rip our skin off because it’s too damn hot and the house won’t cool down. Instead of snow fights, we’re slapping on sunscreen and aeroguard so we can play outside without being bitten alive.
For the majority of us in Australia, Christmas is no longer about Christ – it’s about getting together with the family, enjoying a lunch or dinner of cold meats and salads, while exchanging gifts of Cadbury Roses, Favourites or a nice bottle of wine (for the adults, at least).
So if we’ve happily evolved all of these other points of this consumerist holiday, why can’t we go further? Look at the land, and see what it’s doing. Rather than holding onto ideals of winter from lands far away, why not decorate the house with flora that’s in bloom in the summer? I know that the Jacaranda’s bloomed long ago in the Coastal Sydney region, but they’ve not long bloomed in the Hills and further west. Look in the garden, or what’s in bloom in the local parks, or along the train lines on your way home from work, and take inspiration from the colours of the land.
Over-use yellow in honour of the sun, and the sunshine. Red and orange for the fire season, or the cracked parched earth, or even blue of the ocean if you’re coastal and will be spending your summer there.
Break away from tradition – look to the land, look to our land for inspiration.
So no, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Yule in June when it’s the Winter Solstice for us, but come December I celebrate Litha – the Summer Solstice. This year I’ll be spending Litha with my family in Victoria while they celebrate Christmas. I give my immediate family gifts, because it’s Litha and I haven’t seen them in a year. I try to give the adults something from the region, and the nieces something they wouldn’t get in their town (Sydney is full of random places that stock random goodies like that).
I’ll honour the Sun, the height of Summer, and the reign of the Holly King as he brought us out of the winter and darkness, and allowed the land to blossom and flourish. Then I’ll bow to the Oak King, who has taken the crown from the old Holly King, as it’s his time to rule and prepare the land for slumber.
Although I do love this photo…
FYI, my favourite story of Santa’s origins is the one I was told in my early 20’s when attempting University for the first time. Based on the tradition of St. Nicholas, he stopped at an inn on a wintery night. The inn keeper was being a bastard to two whores who worked there, stealing their earnings. St. Nicholas had seen their stockings draped over the back of a wooden chair to dry by the fire, so he left them a gold coin each within their stockings, and then left.