Sunday, December 25

Leaving Christmas Behind

I have been a Pagan for about 20 years, but only in these last 6 years has the importance of the Wheel of the Year hit me. I used to pop around to area groups for sabbat rites and holiday potlucks, but would tend to return home and go with the flow of my Catholic family.

Yes indeed... I was a Pagan celebrating Christian holy days.
[Madonna and Child by Sassoferrato]

I didn't go so far as to attend regular church services, but I did sing along with "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and bowed my head in prayer at Easter.  I tried to look at it as still male and female energies and told myself that deep down I could change the meanings of the words in my heart... so I was still Pagan, right?  About a decade into this, I understood how ridiculous that sounded, however I would just shrug it off as 'celebrating with my family'.

With the birth of my son, I had a new family: one born into Paganism.

[Original painting by Briar via Eastgate Resources]

For the first few years, the sabbats would creep up on me and I'd forget to do anything.   Christian holidays were hardwired in my mind. When my son began preschool at age 3, I decided to change things up. I put together a basket of goodies and sweets for him on Ostara morning and lit the candles on the Yule log at Solstice... but with only my son and I the holidays felt empty. Also, I had very little experience putting together festivities for all the new holidays like Lammas and Imbolc. It didn't help that when Christian holidays came around, I was stuck with this awkward vacuous feeling of jealousy, like I was being left out of all the fun.

My mother noticed my quandary and I am blessed that she has been not only tolerant of my defection from Catholicism to Paganism, but highly supportive. She had two perspectives:

  1. She felt left out, too.  She was unsure how to participate in our new holy days or if she was even welcome.  Also, she didn't know whether to include me and her grandson in her holidays without offending me.
  2. She did not want her grandson to grow up void of celebration (happy days, as she calls them) and joy in faith.
Her first concern is a topic for another blog post, but the second is something I think a lot of Pagan families struggle with. As we discussed things, I decided that what I was missing was actual 'celebration' in my Pagan celebrations. It's all good and fine to "light a candle on my altar and meditate", but truly that is nothing to write home about compared to the glitz and glitter of the holidays that a Catholic grows up with.  Also, being alone at the holidays, Pagan or Christian, is something no one should have to go through.

That year began my trek to create memorable, fun, and joyous sabbats for my child. After Papa J, my fiance, joined our little family, his interest in Pagan faith spurred me to come up with new traditions for us to look forward to as a whole family. The holidays have become exciting again... and not just Ostara or Yule, but Midsummer and Mabon and the rest that don't quite have comparisons in the faith I left behind.

One of the primary goals of the ITHOMS blog is to chronicle our journey as we learn and create our very own family tradition.  I want to inspire other families through the posting of crafts, rituals, teaching moments, recommendations, recipes and other things which will help Pagan families find new, fun ways to explore their faith and celebrate the holy days.

UPDATE 2017:

The Mama Stacey Clan is much larger than it was when I first wrote this.  Papa J and I have since married, had two more children, and taken in pets.  Simplicity is our back-pocket trick to celebrating and enjoying the Sabbats. We have created our own traditions and definitions of the holidays to suit our family, our local seasons, and our children's interests. Back in 2016, we underwent a shift in faith that loosened our edges and left us somewhere between Paganism and Atheism, but we still honor the Pagan Wheel for a multitude of reasons.  The Wheel helps our family track the seasons and be enthused year-round.  If you decide to take the plunge and leave  the shroud of Christianity behind, or rid yourself of contradictory religious habits in general, I encourage and applaud you.  It has been a healthy and spiritually full-filling transition for us.