Lanterns: Freedom of Religion at Christmastime

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Freedom of Religion at Christmastime

Whew! What a year! We all knew in January that 2016 was going to be a wild and wooly year with the presidential election ahead of us. If we only knew! As we approach the end of the year - a year like no other - many are grappling with Trump derangement syndrome, Trump acceptance syndrome. Those effected include college students in desperate need of Play-Doh and coloring books to help them get over Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Now it is on to more important things. Christmas is coming, and not a moment too soon. Americans need something else to focus on. We need to decorate trees, bake cookies, and buy presents for those we love. The usual suspects are bound to appear appear, crabbing about nativity scenes in the yard in front of City Hall and making sure to call the break at our local public schools “winter” break or “holiday” break.

There are, however, other holidays occurring this time of year. The calendar is full of them. But since Christmas and Hanukah are the main events, one can tend to feel a bit slighted. Some families are equal opportunity holiday celebrants, but what if no one mentions your holiday? What if you celebrate the Winter Solstice?

Being a Pagan on most holidays, unless it is the Fourth of July, or, our very own Halloween, can be a bit awkward. It does, however, seem that Christmas has its own special set of, well, issues. While I cannot speak for all Pagans, I think many of us enjoy this time of year as much as anyone else. While we do not celebrate the religious aspect, most of us respect it. We also agree on the traditional Christmastime messages of peace, love, and coming together with our fellow man.

As a Pagan, I feel Christmas all around me, enveloping me. But it does not bother me. For many Pagans, it does bother them, and it bothers them in a big way. Not surprisingly, many Pagans came down this path because of bad experiences with organized religion, either as children or as young people. Because the bad experiences are so indelible upon us, they are often hard for us to overcome, forcing us become bitter and angry. There are even some people on the fringe - and there is fringe in every group - who disrespect Christmas every chance they get. I have never understood why someone comfortable in his or her own beliefs wold feel the need to trash those of someone else. 

Winter Solstice, or Yule by its other name, is very much a time of celebration. It is a celebration of the return of the Sun in the form of longer days. It is a celebration of the balance of dark and light. It is a celebration of the knowledge that with longer days ahead the return of the warmth of spring is not too far away. It is a celebration of life. There is nothing evil about it. The biggest, most important question may be very simple: why can’t we celebrate everything that Christmas and the Winter Solstice are about? The truth is, they have way more in common than not.

This great nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles. I am well aware of that and do not have a problem with it. The reason I have no problem with it is that America was also founded on values such as religious freedom. For those two concepts to be intertwined is nothing short of genius.

I will continue to be a Pagan at Christmas time. I will also decorate trees, buy presents, and eat cookies. Then I will light my Yule candle and perform my Solstice ritual. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Featured image source: Wikipedia

Written by Becky Noble

I live in St. Louis (GO CARDS!) with my husband Randy and our 50 lb Border Collie Jezzie.

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