Solstice Stolen by Christians!

It’s been a long time since I celebrated the christian holiday of christmas. And from the looks of me in a whole series of family pictures, I hated the holiday even as a little kid.

Xmas1953
1953

My little brother Don and littler brothers Tim and Terry are always smiling, especially Don who was an adorable child (now old and still adorable). Why was I so glum? I wasn’t a pouty kid in any other pictures. 

Clearly I was never a fan of christmas, but even less so after I left home and developed a critique of capitalism and christianity. I hated the consumer aspect but also the religious stuff. I joined the  Church of Stop Shopping, led by the charismatic Rev. Billy with backup  by the incomparable Stop Shopping Choir protesting at malls on black Friday. I still avoid shopping after September (it gets earlier every year) because I can’t stand the holiday  music played in stores.

Xmas1958
Martin family Xmas card 1958

In college, researching the history of religions, we learned  that christians had stolen their holidays from pagans and those who had gone before. Christmas co-opted pagan solstice celebrations. They even stole the virgin birth thing. Why not recapture our history; there were so many ancient solstice traditions to choose from! 

In the early ‘70s, we dissidents at the Rosa Luxemburg Collective chose to celebrate the Roman winter solstice holiday of Saturnalia. It was essentially a great big party. Traditional roles were reversed. Masters served slaves. Men dressed in women’s clothes and women in men’s. All were set  free of their marriage obligations and could have sex with anyone they wanted. The festivities lasted for a couple of weeks at least (no research here; just remembering). Of course, we had already dispensed with gender roles and monogamy so the holiday was really just a continuation of our chosen lifestyle. We cooked sumptuous feasts and ate a lot. We set up an aluminum tree with rotating colored lights in the Vulgar Americana Room. It stayed up all year.

Americana
The Vulgar Americana Room with tree and the papier mache finger, made for an anti-war demonstration

Lately Holly and I have been adding to and making up our own traditions. They change every year because we tend to forget our brilliant ideas from the year before, but for many years now we have been celebrating what we call the Twelve Days of Solstice. The holiday starts on solstice, which this year is December 21, and ends on New Year’s Day.  

We incorporate pagan rituals and customs—greenery and garlands, feasting and lights. Solstice signifies the return of light in the Northern Hemisphere, important to our animistic ancestors who worshipped nature. My Swedish grandmother set in her window a brightly painted wooden candelabra which looked very much like a menorah. Her decorations were figures of reindeer and elves made of straw. She made tree ornaments of fat candy canes wrapped in red and white tissue paper. And I still have the slender santa and elf figures that she hand knit and brought out every year.

GramsSantas
Grandma Wick’s knit creations

This year we added some days to the holiday since the full  moon appeared on Friday the 13th of December, an especially witchy occurrence. How did we celebrate? We planted winter greens and bulbs in the garden. We made apologies to our mother earth for what our species has wrought. We donated to the porta-potty fund for the homeless here. I archived some papers, an ongoing project. From the hot tub I watched the moon rise twice from behind cloud banks. We toasted our good fortune. And then, with Holly’s reminder that winter is for hibernating, we settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Wishing you a good solstice or as the Swedes say god yul.

Author: Molly Martin

I'm a long-time tradeswoman activist, retired electrician and electrical inspector. I live in Santa Rosa, CA. I also share a travel blog with my wife, Holly: travelswithmoho.wordpress.com.

5 thoughts on “Solstice Stolen by Christians!”

  1. Happy Solstice! (And somewhere I have a photo of me about 4 years old screaming on Santa’s lap. Of course it ran in the Tri-City Herald.)

    Marilyn Hawkins Hawkins & Company PR Public Relations & Marketing Communications 68 Coyote Ridge Drive Walla Walla, Washington 99362 (509) 876-8202 landline (206) 601-8823 mhawkins@prhawk.com

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  2. 12 Days of Solstice – I like that. 🙂 … I was enraged when I learned (in the 80’s for me) just how much the Christians, closely followed by secular greed and hypocrisy, had co-opted everything that had gone before. I think I’ve mellowed since those heady days, somewhat. 🙂

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