Philosophy · Relationships · Society/Culture · Spirituality

Seeking Happy Holidays

It’s 1:31am on December 21st, 2016, as I write this. Good Yule, y’all!

Or, blessed Solstice!

Hearing these words in person would be uncomfortable for many people. What did she say? Yule, seriously?? Must be a New Age wonk…smh.

There are also those for whom hearing anything other than their own particular holiday greeting triggers feelings of anger. It knocks them off-balance. They feel somehow attacked. This phenomenon seems particularly Christian-centric for some reason. To wit, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard complaints about the “war on Christmas.”

(What war?)

There are tons of people (my immediate family included) who celebrate Christmas in this country. There are notably fewer who celebrate holidays such as Yule. Being a religious minority is something that isn’t limited to the holidays, but it can feel most alienating then.

I know that many people are uncomfortable with Paganism and that wishing them my own holiday’s greetings in passing may not be appreciated. So I don’t say it. You won’t hear me wishing “Good Yule!” or “Solstice blessings!” to folks one-on-one unless I’m certain they are also Pagan or at least open-minded and friendly toward those beliefs.

Some within the Pagan community may feel that I handle this incorrectly, that I should say these things as often as I’m given opportunity, because how else will we normalize these beliefs in a culture that delights in pointing out the Otherness in our fellow human beings? I can see the point there. I also know that it makes people uncomfortable at a time of year that’s already stressful…a time of year when people just want to celebrate hearth and home with friends and family in whatever way fits their beliefs and traditions.

It’s not hard to not be a jerk about it. Responding to a cheery “Merry Christmas!” with a snarled or huffy “Good Yule!” does nothing to further understanding or dialogue between us, and it takes your genuine wish for me to be happy and twists it into something ugly: a cause for division.

That said, I would like a seat at the table, too. I would like to walk into an interfaith gathering and know that I belong, that I’m not the weird token “Other/None” gal. I would like to be respected as I am and as I believe, just as I accord others respect even when I privately, adamantly disagree with their chosen faith/dogma in general.

I would very much like for this to not happen (this is from a distinguished British professor — read more here):

“It is remarkable how high a price I paid for my association with Wicca[…] An American scholar visiting Cambridge University asked historians what I was doing, and was informed that he could forget about me, because I had gone mad, become a witch, and left the academic profession. The student newspaper in my own university put a photograph of me on its cover with caption “Warning! This Man Could Be A Witch!” For nearly ten years my career stalled. I was not considered fit for positions of higher managerial responsibility or any honours, applications for research grants were rejected, invitations to give guest lectures and papers dried up.”

We have still not learned to respect diversity of faith. We don’t seem to be able to grasp the simple concept that each path is equally valid for those who walk them. We don’t get to decide what’s capital-r Right for someone else, or to declare someone weird for their beliefs. You walk in your shoes; I’ll walk in mine. And I’ll probably compliment your kicks at some point if you aren’t too busy hating on mine to listen.

When I say “Happy holidays,” I’m not perpetuating a war on Christmas (or Hanukkah, or anything else) — I’m gently offering the one festive phrase that holds space for everyone…with maybe even a tiny corner for me.

Happy holidays, y’all!

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