Wassail! Wassail! It’s Yuletime you see?
I’ll shelter the wood elves in my evergreen,
I’ll sing to the gods, and do honor to men,
And when Yule comes ‘round next, I’ll do it again!
What is Yule to me? It’s quite a question; I’m still relatively new to my path in terms of actively following it. I for one have long been disgusted with how materialist this time of year has become. Whatever name you might have for this season, surely you’ve noticed the marketing creep beginning sooner and sooner each year. This year, I noticed Christmas displays going up in July. JULY!! Unless you worship at the Altar of Absolute Materialism (and if you do, I am so sorry for you. How can I help?), you probably find this a repulsive practice. After all, we can only take the material as far as the grave. Beyond that, we take our things with us to the beyond at the Gods’ leisure, and somehow I doubt that they’d prefer we take with us 389 different kinds of tree ornaments, six inflatable santas, a light-rig reindeer team, and approximately 17 tons of brightly colored wrapping paper and ribbons. Just a hunch.
We need to get back to what Yule is all about. But what is it about? This is one thing I love so much about Yule, is that there is actually quite a lot of value overlap concerning it with Christianity, which sure makes dealing with my relatives easier! It’s ultimately about being in the deepest of winter, and sharing what we have with kin and friends. Even the Christmas Tree, as I have explained in a prior post, was all about generosity: allowing the wood elves into the warmth of your home and giving them a comforting place in which to wait out the coldest part of the winter.
But we no longer sit in primitive housing with no heat. Well, some people do, and they deserve our help more than most (give generously to Salvation Army Santas!). But chances are, if you are reading this blog, you’re not one of those people. Winter is no longer a starving time for us. If we’re low on food, we drive to the supermarket and buy some more. If the house is a bit chilly, we dial up the thermostat and throw on a blanket until it kicks in. Things are clearly different now. What do we share in an age when we have SO MUCH? So much food, so much heat, so much comfort?
Time. Time is the one thing we will never have more or less of relative to our ancestors. Even with our longer life spans, we still do not spend enough time with our loved ones. We’re all so busy; who can afford the time? You can. Right now. Make a point to not be too busy to meet up with your own blood and share your time and company. Share your material wealth if you must; many families have that as a tradition, and it’s hard not to appreciate a new Galaxy Tablet or iPad when one is given to you. But society focuses so much on the gifting, like it’s all that matters. Regardless of whether you’re flat out broke, or you’re more loaded than Donald Trump; everyone, from the most unassuming janitor to Barack Obama, should spend time with those that we care about.
I know historically what Yule is all about. I know the stories of Baldr’s return and rebirth. But I also know that historical context doesn’t necessarily mean anything to us. Why adhere to something when it’s meaningless? Because it’s anything BUT meaningless. Yule has real value. It isn’t about presents or trees or cards. It’s about being together because we only see each other very rarely. Being with your loved ones is not the same as “occupying the same general space” as them. We don’t even connect that well over an episode of The Big Bang Theory (our favorite show to watch together). It is at Yule, and only at Yule, where we sit together for DAYS and spend real time together. Yule is about coming together and reaffirming our faith in each other. It’s about touching base with the love that for some reason still exists, regardless of space and time.
I know what I want of my Yule. We’ll all sit at the table and reminisce about the past year -catch up on each other’s lives. After dinner, my mother and I will go for a walk and take in the beauty of the stark trees and icicle-laden eves. Once we’ve warmed up again over cider and tea, the whole family will pile into Dad’s Hyundai and drive around the neighborhood to ooh and ahh over this year’s most inspired and extravagant displays. We’ll exchange tokens of love and admiration, and before we disperse, each will bless the other with love and happiness until we meet again, whether that be a week, a month, or a whole year.
Frigga wants that. God wants that. Buddha wants that. The Goddess wants that.
I want that.
At this final time of year, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Heathen, Wiccan, Christian, Jewish, or a devout follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is a time for all of us to cherish who we have, share what we have, and to cross the threshold into a new year together. Even in World War I, the fighting stopped all along the front lines on Christmas Eve as the Austrians and Germans who had been fighting French and British troops all realized that sharing in their common traits was much better than fighting over their differences. If the concepts of sharing and kindness are that powerful, enough that they can convince opposing boots on the ground to stop one of the largest and most lethal wars in history dead in its tracks, then surely we can set aside a few days and nights for the benefit of friends and family.
Surely that must be a good thing.