If Samhain is my most favorite season (tied, perhaps, with Beltane) – the autumn weather, the symbolic emphasis on death and rebirth, the opportunity to wear my “Witchy clothes” out in public without drawing the attention that it does the rest of the year – then Yule is my least favorite. This has nothing to do with Yule, itself- the embryonic year which we will shape with our rites between Samhain and Imboc – and everything to do with the American holidays that take place at about the same time.
Thanksgiving and Christmas have been a nightmare for me ever since I was old enough to pick up on the social tension within my family. The details are beside the point – you all have families, and while the particulars vary from one family to the next, the dysfunctional dynamics are largely similar. Suffice to say, I’d skip it all if I could. Moreover, working in jewelry, I’m exposed to a uniquely savage side of the holiday shopping frenzy: propitiative diamonds, engagement jewelry, and frantic “what do you mean it will take an hour?” repairs and alterations. There’s the incessant Xmas music and – as I currently work in a mall – the screaming children and the grownups fighting like children. And so on, and so forth, ad nauseum, ending with New Years – a fantastic drinking holiday that I might like more if I weren’t so scared of being run over by the amateurs who only drink and drive on St. Patty’s and New Years.
That the weather has finally turned cold here in Kansas City both helps and hurts the situation. On the one hand, it’s comforting that the season is finally moving on – 60-70 weather in November and December was somewhat disconcerting. On the other hand, the cold makes me want to hibernate, which just makes me grouchier. Whether it’s seasonal stress, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just Pavalovian conditioning, I’m finding it difficult to react to things proportionally.
I’ve been trying to get into the spirit, I really have. Last year, I even bought a Santa hat (of course, it does read “Bah, Humbug!” across the front). I’m wearing it at work again this year, and I’ve got a little reindeer at my bench, clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels (which I might well drink in an emergency). I’ve been studying the Sabbats a lot – that whole “starting at the beginning again” thing – and I’ve volunteered to write the ritual for my working group. Last week at the full moon, my partner and I changed over the house altar from Samhain to Yule. My Death God’s Mask was replaced by the still-drying Solstice God Mask, which I am painting and ornamenting to serve as both Oak and Holly King, and our various symbols of death and tributes to the dead were packed away; she made dinner out of the winter squash we’d had on the altar, and we decked it up in garland, put a golden Sun Candle in the center, and finished our first semi-formal Esbat with some trancework. The Yule altar is turning out to be pretty spectacular, actually: the garland, the candles, the mask. I even let Aradia talk me into putting up a tree (something I actually forbade my previous room-mates to do): it’s a three-foot plastic thing that she already had (we really wanted a live tree, but we’z po’), and surprisingly attractive and tasteful.
The Solstice will come soon enough. And spring soon enough after that.