It was less than a week following Samhain, in 2000. My girls were clamoring for the Christmas tree to be put up, and presents to be put under it. Amazingly enough, once told that it was still seven weeks before Christmas and that was a long time to wait and not open those presents, they relented. Just a little…
I didn’t want to think about Christmas yet – I have a huge extended family, and we try to get everyone together at Christmas. That year, it was mine and my mom’s turn to coordinate the festivities, and I frankly hadn’t wanted to think about it since the year before (don’t ask-long story). It was always somewhat difficult explaining my differing beliefs to some of the cousins and their spouses…and pointing out pagan practices in modern Christmas traditions just doesn’t go over. So, we three say our blessing, and those that understand do, those that don’t…well, they are a tolerant bunch. That’s maybe why I love em so much.
I also didn’t want to think about Yule, which also meant trying to work in celebrating our wedding anniversary, as well. Little piece of advice for people considering marrying at Yule. Don’t. Just…don’t. It’s insanity, I tell you! (It may sound cynical, but I’m really glad most times, that I no longer have to work in an anniversary around Yule circle and Christmas preparations, LOL)
The second week of November was chillingly cold here. That Monday, both girls woke feeling a little under weather, and Rhia didn’t have a fever, her sister had a slight one and some mysterious marks on her face. I had been up all night getting some articles done and working on formatting a novel for editing. I was tired, my eyes were terribly sore from staring at the computer for six hours, and I was just slightly grouchy, too. Care ended up in tears as her temperature rose and her tolerance for anyone dropped. Rhia had (and still has) little patience for anything in the morning, and decided she was going to school to get away from her sister. Sibling rivalry overcomes the blahs of winter.
We got her off to school, and waited to hear from the nurse’s office as to whether or not we should take Care in to be checked out. When 10 AM rolled around and they hadn’t phoned I figured I’d go to bed, and Care and her father could fend for themselves. I wasn’t too worried about her – she’d had two mild cases of Chicken Pox before that, and that’s what this looked to be as well. But why did I leave Daddy in charge of a little girl who knows how to pull the sympathy strings? Lack of foresight perhaps. Or exhaustion. I claim holiday insanity!
My alarm rang at 2:30 PM, and I stumbled from the bedroom rubbing the sleep from my eyes and mumbling something about coffee. A further lack of foresight kept my eyes closed – after all, I could navigate the room in pitch darkness, why not with my eyes closed? Something prickly hit first my legs, then my face as I made intimate acquaintance with our tree. The two Yuletide culprits were sitting silent on the chair, hoping I wouldn’t notice them or the slightly guilty looks on their oh-I’m-so-innocent faces.
Goddess knows where I summoned the smile from, but I managed.
While the two of them washed the ornaments and garland (they’d met with a nasty accident involving a hot water tank, a broken pipe, and a wrench thrown in frustration against the low table they were stored on), I made myself extra-super-strong coffee, sat down with Yule – A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison. I hoped that would inspire some warmth and holiday spirit within my own spirit, and it did. After dinner that night, as the girls decorated the tree with the shiny clean ornaments, and lamented the loss of the musical lights (note: water and musical lights don’t mix; no, I was not disappointed in the least LOL), I sat writing an entire gift list for my family, with ideas from said book. The crafts and activities in the book are wonderful, and I highly recommend them for those celebrating Yule with families that generally celebrate Christmas…
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What a difference almost a decade makes! My grandparents are both gone now, and our family has scattered to the four winds, it seems. The girls have grown up and as of today (December 16th) we still do not have a single decoration up to indicate it is approaching Yule, let alone less than a week away.
In our defense, we are awaiting arrival of a particular tree – The Nightmare Before Christmas Tree – featuring Jack Skellington and all his little friends. Still, we could have at least made a start on the decorating with lights and other ornaments. It seems as though the girls have, for the most part, lost interest in the holiday. They are at that age, you know the one. Mid-teens. Everything is just ‘too much work’ or ‘stupid’ and Goddess forbid they spend time with their family! How uncool!
I think we’ve finally hit on a mutual agreement. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this time of year since I was a mid-teenager, too. I love seeing some of my family, but I hate crowds; I love shopping for gifts, but hate crowds; I love seeing the Christmas lights in town, but hate crowds – I think you’re getting the picture. This time of year has been filled with guilt and uneasiness for me since I was a teenager, due to maternal influences I still to this day, am trying to shed. For the years of my relationship with my now-ex-husband, it was a battle between choosing between he and my family. They rarely extended an invitation for him to join us, and even though I took it upon myself to do so every year, he refused to go more often than not, because they made him feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I dreaded the yearly fight, and it wasn’t fair – our wedding anniversary was also Yule, and not once was it acknowledged by my family. Christmas, Yule and the anniversary, marred yearly by an immature family unable to release control of anyone else’s life.
This year, my daughters have the opportunity to meet their paternal grandmother, aunt and uncles for the first time. They are both looking forward to celebrating the season with a family that is hopefully less dysfunctional than the one they’ve known all their lives. Honestly, I’m hoping that will be the case, despite and regardless of my mother’s reaction to the news that she may have to share her granddaughters at Christmas. She was livid. Too bad. For the second time in 16 years, she does not get to dictate when and where, and I will not allow her to guilt the girls into changing their minds about spending time with their other family. It should be a happy time for them, not made uncomfortable by a guilt trip from grandma.
My one respite from this has always been Yule with my grove. Glas Celli was formed at Litha in 2001, but we knew each other for a year prior. This will be our ninth Yule as friends, and eighth as a grove. It’s always been a happy celebration for us, just a sense of togetherness, celebrating the rebirth of the God, the battle between Oak and Holly kings. A warm and happy time.
Home and heart. That has always been our focus with Glas Celli at Yule, and I think it should be the focus of this holiday season universally. As long as there is food on the table, love in our hearts and friendship to share, who needs baubles, bangles and bobs?
Happy Yule, everyone!
Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.
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