Browsed by
Tag: Yule

Happy Yule 2021!

Happy Yule 2021!

Happy Yule 2021! Welcome to the Rational Heathen’s Yule (b)Log–see what I did there? I want to wish you a happy Yule 2021. No, this year sucked, just like the last one, but hopefully you didn’t have to deal with getting sick from COVID-19.

Watch the Sunrise over Stonehenge on the Solstice!

Most of this post are roundups of past Yule posts, but I have a special treat for you! You can watch the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge live, which is way cool, thanks to the English Heritage site. The live video will happen the morning of December 22nd due to the timing of the winter solstice. Click on the link above to get access to the various channels, including their YouTube Channel. It’s all free and very cool.

The War on Christmas and Other Fallacies

So, this isn’t quite a post on Yule as it is on how Christians borrowed liberally from pagan celebrations to celebrate Christmas as we know it. Still, I count it with the season. Check it out.

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Yeah, everyone’s got them. And if they’re Christian, they may have a tough time with your Heathen ways (pun intended!). Here’s a way to make everyone happy.

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule can be a bit lonely for the solitary Heathen, so here are some cool ways to celebrate it by yourself.

What You Need to Know about Yule

Because I should be talking more about the history of Yule and how it relates to the modern Heathen.

When You Can’t Get in the Yule Spirit

Bah humbug! Are you the Scrooge around Yule? So am I. So, here are some ways to cope.

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

Heard of the Yule Goat or Yulebok? Well, if you haven’t, here’s your chance to add a little paganism to your relatives’ Christmas under the guise of Christmas.

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Is Santa Claus Christian or Heathen? Should you teach your kids about him?

Yule as a Non-Event

When life intrudes and you can’t properly celebrate Yule.

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

I know many Heathens want to celebrate Yule, but don’t necessarily have an idea how to do it. This is a great book, if you’re looking for ideas.

Enjoy! And have a Happy Yule 2021!

The Rational Heathen

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks.

Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today! Become a Patron!

 

The War on Christmas, and Other Fallacies

The War on Christmas, and Other Fallacies

I hear you’re waging a war on Christmas. Guess again.

Once again, the so-called ultra-right have decided that there’s a war on Christmas this year. That somehow the unclean masses won’t know it’s the Christmas season when their favorite fast food joint wishes them Happy Holidays. Or their favorite coffee shop have red paper cups instead of “Merry Christmas” written on them.

Uh really? Seriously?

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

I can just imagine the conversation at the local Denny’s:

Greeter: Welcome to Denny’s.

Ignorant Patron: I see Happy Holidays on the lectern. What does that mean?

Greeter: Excuse me?

Ignorant Patron: What Holidays are we talking about?

Greeter: Well, there are several this time of year. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, Solstice, and others I’m not familiar with.

Ignorant Patron. Wow! Christmas? I didn’t know Christmas happened in December! I bet I’d know if you had a Merry Christmas sign instead of a Happy Holidays sign. I guess I should be buying presents.

Greeter: […]

Okay, okay, that wouldn’t happen. At least not in the United States. But you get my point. In a country where the major religion is still Christianity, albeit waning, you can’t swing an Elf on the Shelf without hitting something Christmas-sy in local stores. And those who are Christian pretty much know who Christ was — if he existed at all.

Why Happy Holidays at All?

As much as our Christian citizens would like to batter people over the head with “Merry Christmas,” the reality is that we live in a diverse culture in the United States. Christianity is diminishing at a rapid rate, where it was maybe 70 percent of the US population around 2007 or so, it is now around 65 percent of the US population as of 2019 according to Pew Research. Yeah, that means that 35 percent of the US population worships something else, or nothing else.

Many of these people are “Nones,” meaning that they don’t belong to an organized religion and certainly don’t call themselves Christian. In many cases they’re not atheists, but may believe in a higher power or powers.

Given that there is a large number of non-Christians in this country, retailers have decided that it is better to be inclusive than divisive. Hence, “Happy Holidays.” I suppose one could get offended by the word, “Holidays” because it comes from the words, “holy days,” but I digress.

The Christians Weren’t the First to Celebrate Around Christmas

Bad news, Christian peeps. Christmas was established in the 4th century and decided upon by Church leaders so they could incorporate other pagan holidays such as Yule and Saturnalia into the celebration. The Romans practiced Saturnalia. It started on the 17th and originally went for three days. Eventually, it was made into a seven day feast and party days.

Saturnalia included gift giving, singing, playing games, decorating, dressing in costumes, and feasting. Slaves often got the time off and the master of the house served them (maybe where Boxing Day came from?). Each house had a “Lord of Misrule” who proceeded over chaos in the household. This person was usually low on the social ladder and could insult guests, play tricks, and award special cookies with coins in them to people.

Christmas naturally adopted the pagan trappings so that pagans would be more inclined to join the new religion. Since no one really knows when (or if) Christ was born, making up a date closest to the solstice made a lot of sense to win converts.

Our Ancestors Celebrated Yule

Yule is the winter solstice, here in the Northern Hemisphere. Our ancestors celebrated Yule because it was the return of the light. Solstice was very important part of living in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you were farmers. If the sun did not return, it could spell the beginning of Fimbulvintr–the long dark winter before Ragnarok. So, having the sun return was a big deal.

I could go into all the myths surrounding Yule, but this post is getting off topic. So, let me get back onto it.

Why this Isn’t a War on Christmas in the United States

First, Christians are late-comers when it comes to holidays around the solstice. Humans have celebrated the solstices since Stonehenge, and probably before that. We don’t know how they celebrated it, but we know summer solstice was important enough to mark it with a menhir known as the “heel stone.” On winter solstice, archaeological evidence shows it was likely they sacrificed pigs then. A trilithon marked the sun setting on winter solstice.

Christmas is simply a made up holiday to keep the pagans in line. We know the Christmas stories have their roots in the Exodus, and therefore have pagan roots. So, if anyone ought to be screaming, it should be the pagans. But we don’t, because we aren’t assholes.

I doubt many people in Western countries are saying that Christians shouldn’t celebrate their made up holiday. What the rest of us are saying is be a bit more inclusive and less self-centered. You’re not the only people who celebrate around this time of year.

The REAL War on Christmas

Actually, there has been wars on Christmas in the past. Only problem was, Christians banned Christmas all by themselves. In 1647, the English parliament banned Christmas, which was rescinded when Charles II retook the throne. In 1659, Boston outlawed Christmas, but eventually that law was revoked in 1681. You got to admit, those Puritans were joys to be around.

Nowadays, if you want to see the real war on Christmas, look at any totalitarian government. The People’s Republic of China, for example, insists on atheism and has shut down Christian churches. The USSR in the past had persecuted Christians. So, calling a request for inclusiveness a “war on Christmas” is the right wing version of being a snowflake.  Seriously.

Merry Whatever

Look, I certainly not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, especially if it’s heartfelt. I will wish my Jewish friends happy Hanukkah, if I know they celebrate it. Basically, if you aren’t an asshole, I’m good with whatever you celebrate. I put up a “Christmas tree” even though it’s really a Yule tree. I wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas because that’s what they celebrate. I don’t go ape-shit if they wish me Merry Christmas back.

So, my friends, I wish you a happy Yule, or whatever you celebrate. Have a safe one.

Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

Happy Yule and a Post Roundup!

Happy Yule and a Post Roundup!

Happy Yule! Once again, I find it’s Yule and I still haven’t done everything that needs to be done. This is probably going to become a tradition on Yule to offer a post roundup of all the articles I’ve written over the years about Yule (at least the ones that are interesting).

Check them out and enjoy Yule!

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Yeah, everyone’s got them. And if they’re Christian, they may have a tough time with your Heathen ways (pun intended!). Here’s a way to make everyone happy.

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule can be a bit lonely for the solitary Heathen, so here are some cool ways to celebrate it by yourself.

What You Need to Know about Yule

Because I should be talking more about the history of Yule and how it relates to the modern Heathen.

When You Can’t Get in the Yule Spirit

Bah humbug! Are you the Scrooge around Yule? So am I. So, here are some ways to cope.

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

Heard of the Yule Goat or Yulebok? Well, if you haven’t, here’s your chance to add a little paganism to your relatives’ Christmas under the guise of Christmas.

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Is Santa Claus Christian or Heathen? Should you teach your kids about him?

Yule as a Non-Event

When life intrudes and you can’t properly celebrate Yule.

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

I know many Heathens want to celebrate Yule, but don’t necessarily have an idea how to do it. This is a great book, if you’re looking for ideas.

Enjoy! And have a Happy Yule!

The Rational Heathen

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks.

Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today! Become a Patron!

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule
Author: Jenn Campus
Available on Amazon and https://dreamsofydalir.com/
Price: $3.99 or Free for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers
Format: Amazon Kindle (eBook)

For Yule, I decided to do a book review on celebrating Yule (seems appropriate). I’ve chosen A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule. I’ve recommended this book in the past, but maybe, you haven’t seen this little gem. This Yule, since you probably are spending it alone or with immediate family, due to the pandemic, it’s helpful to have a guide in celebrating it.

Not for Recons

Now, this book is pagan and not necessarily Heathen, but even Heathens can get good ideas from it. It’s not a primer on Heathen celebrations and you won’t necessarily find something that will be 100 percent Heathen. That being said, if you’re a reconstructionist, avoid this book, because these are not the droids you’re looking for. For the rest of us Heathens, who are simply looking for good ideas to incorporate into our Yule celebrations, this is beyond helpful. It may give you even more ideas on how to celebrate the season.

What I Liked About A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

First, I’ll say that I like how this book is organized. She takes you through preparation and each day of Yule, and what she does to celebrate it. For those still starting out as a Heathen, this offers nice suggestions for each day and how to give offerings to the gods who preside over Yule. Some of the rituals are obviously the author’s design, but I look at them and think how wonderful it is that another Heathen has designed her own rituals according to her family. Other rituals, such as the Yule log and leaving oatmeal with butter out for the Tomte have their roots in Heathen tradition.  She includes her prayers to different gods and goddesses as well as cool things like recipes for a Yule log cake, glog, and crispy roast pork with cherry sauce. It all sounds delicious.

What I Didn’t Like About This Book

It’s really hard for me to come up with something wrong about this book. Yes, it’s more pagan than reconstructionist Heathen, but I’m okay with that. If I could make a complaint to the author, it would be that a paperback version isn’t available, possibly because it is a short book at 66 print pages. Lots of people can complain that it’s not in other eBook formats or with other vendors. But given that the Amazon app is available for most platforms such as Android and iOS, not to mention Windows, you don’t need to buy a Kindle Reader or Fire device to read and enjoy it.

So, if you’re looking for modern ideas with Heathen influences for how to celebrate the 12 days of Yule, pick up a copy of A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule HERE.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks.

This post was made possible by Sarra Keene and all my patrons at Patreon. Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

 

Five things you can do for winter preparations

Five things you can do for winter preparations

Every year in November and December, I go through typical winter preparations. This year has been no different. While I realize that my preparations for winter it’s probably vastly different from yours, given the fact that I live in a rural area, there are still some things you can do right now to prepare for the oncoming season.

1. Prepare your winter food

At this point, I tried to get as much food stocked up for the winter. Most of this entails drying fruits and vegetables that I get either from the Farmers Market or from the local food bank. Quite often in my area, they give you far more produce then you could possibly eat, so it behooves oneself to take advantage of the extra food. I have a dehydrator that I run a lot during this time.

A lot of people can and freeze — and I do this too — but I’ve found that I have a lot more room when it comes to dehydrating. You can store a lot more dehydrated food than canning or freezing — any you have the bonus of it staying good for a long time if stored in airtight containers.

I usually find that I have more peppers, carrots, and celery then I can possibly use in a few days. While root vegetables tend to stay pretty well for a while, I really find dehydrating them makes a lot more sense. When I make a stew or pot roast, all I have to do is grab my dehydrated vegetables from the cupboard instead of wondering what that nasty black stuff is at the bottom of my vegetable tray.

You can easily purchase a dehydrator for about $60, give or take, and save a boatload of money on produce you would have normally thrown away. You can dehydrate lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots, celery, pineapple, cranberries, peaches, apples, oranges, lemons… just about anything you care to imagine.

2. Hunting

Fall means fall hunting. Hunting means excellent venison, turkey, and grouse, so I look forward to it. Unlike many people, my family relies on hunting for most of our meat. That means I make offerings to Skadi, Tyr, and Ullr, as well as the local wights for success.

Even if you’re a city dweller, chances are there are ways to hunt in your area. In the United States, you’d be surprised at the urban hunting opportunities available. Never hunted or shot a firearm? There are classes for hunter safety and for firearm safety. Prefer something more akin to our ancestors? Bowhunting is big.

Don’t think hunting means deer only. Small game such as rabbit, squirrel, and raccoon can provide decent meals (although I look at squirrel and trash pandas as a last resort for my food). Some people really love small game meat, so give it a try.

Also grouse, quail, chukar, duck, goose, and turkey are all excellent foods, and I find grouse better than chicken and goose remarkably yummy. Wild turkey (the bird, not the alcohol) is amazing if brined properly. I prefer it over store-bought turkey.

3. Gathering Food

Fall is usually the time I gather wild rosehips, elderberries, and any chokecherries I’ve missed. This year, we had a really bad cold snap early in Fall that pretty much killed off the berries. So, luckily I had gathered chokecherries and made syrup this summer, and I have a lot of dried rosehips and elderberries from the previous year.

I honestly stay within my comfort zone when it comes to foraging. I have a lot of book knowledge when it comes to certain plants, but I stay within the plants I know for certain. If I came across some morels, I’d go for them, but I don’t recognize other mushrooms and stay away from them. If this is something you’re interested in, I’d recommend finding a mentor or looking for a class on the subject. Get it wrong, and you could poison yourself.

4. Plan Your Yule

It’s not too late to plan Yule for yourself and your family. Even if you live in a Christian (or other faith) household, you can still plan on certain days/celebrate the Heathen holiday. There’s no reason why you can’t celebrate Mother’s Night and Solstice as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas. Sure, your family may look at you oddly when you suggest spending December 20th or 21st reminiscing about loved ones who are no longer with you. Or, they may appreciate it. I’ll try to create another post on things to do for Mother’s Night—hopefully before December 20th!

Don’t forget to plan Christmas Eve and Christmas as well. Yes, you may not believe in the whole mythos, but honestly, where’s the fun of being a spoilsport for your family? Kids love Santa Claus, and you can certainly enjoy a secular Christmas. Plus, the Tomte are looking for oatmeal with a pad of butter on Christmas morning.

5. Spend Some Time in Nature

Now, more than ever—especially with the pandemic—you need to go into nature and enjoy its beauty. (Bring a mask with you, in case you run into people.) If you live in the north where we have snow, enjoy the amazing beauty of a snowy forest. No snow? That’s okay. Even the stark beauty of barren branches and the shortening of days will remind you that on the winter solstice, the days will grow longer again. And warmer days will soon be here.

So, how are you planning on preparing for winter? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks. Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

Happy Yule and Winter Solstice!

Happy Yule and Winter Solstice!

Happy Yule and Winter Solstice! Yeah, it’s that time of year when I tend to not do much on the blog. So, in keeping with that tradition, I’m going to provide links of all the posts I’ve made about Yule in the past, including at least one from this year, in case you missed it.  Anyway, have a good Yule and if the Yule Goat comes by to deliver presents, don’t roast him, okay?

What You Need to Know About Yule

Because I should be talking more about the history of Yule and how it relates to the modern Heathen.

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Yeah, everyone’s got them. And if they’re Christian, they may have a tough time with your Heathen ways (pun intended!). Here’s a way to make everyone happy.

When You Can’t Get in the Yule Spirit

Bah humbug! Are you the Scrooge around Yule? So am I. So, here are some ways to cope.

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

Heard of the Yule Goat or Yulebok? Well, if you haven’t, here’s your chance to add a little paganism to your relatives’ Christmas under the guise of Christmas.

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule can be a bit lonely for the solitary Heathen, so here are some cool ways to celebrate it by yourself.

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Is Santa Claus Christian or Heathen? Should you teach your kids about him?

Yule as a Non-Event

When life intrudes and you can’t properly celebrate Yule.

 


 

As you all may know, I am a fiction author, and currently I’m working on a bunch of Urban Fantasy novels with a Heathen bent. Right now, several of my books are in promotions. That being said, you can visit the following newsletters, and if you’re lucky, you can download my books and enjoy them. (No, I’m not telling you my real name, dammit, and if you figure it out, please keep it to yourself.)

It’s All About the Dragons runs now through December 31st. Some free, most 99 cents.

Portal to Fantasy runs January 1st through the 31st, and is all free books!

Have a great Winter Solstice and a good Yule!

Look, if you’re in the giving mood this Yule, consider becoming a patron of this blog through Patreon. For just $1 a post (and you see how much I write here each month) you can support great Heathen content. Subscribe and become a patron of The Rational Heathen on Patreon. Become a Patron!

 

What You Need to Know about Yule

What You Need to Know about Yule

Yule is one of the biggest Heathen celebrations. If you’re new to Heathenism, chances are you know of Yule and maybe got a quick explanation. Or maybe you looked it up on the web. All good. But maybe you want to read about Yule from your Internet curmudgeon and rabble-rouser (That would be me). Seeing as this blog gets the most hits on winter solstice, I’ve finally wizened-up and will post more about Yule.

So, this year, I’m going to give you a nice list of Yule pieces I’ve written in the past and maybe some access to some freebies on December 21st. (Just another reason for you to visit this blog then, eh?)

Yule—What is It?

Yule is a midwinter celebration that occurs on the winter solstice and days following that day. Many pagan religions have some version of Yule to mark the time when the days go from getting shorter to growing longer again. In the northern hemisphere, it is a celebration of the light during the darkest month. It is in anticipation of Sunna taking more away from the dark and cold times and the return of Baldr, the god of the mid-summer sun.

Christmas borrows most of its trappings from pagans, and in particular, the old Heathen customs. Sure, Christmas now celebrates the birth of Christ, whom we have no really good idea when he was born, assuming he even existed. Even the Puritans outlawed Christmas for a time, because they recognized it as a pagan holiday. Man with a beard delivering presents? Yep, Heathen. Singing carols? Heathen. Christmas Ham? Heathen. Feasts? Heathen. Christmas tree? An old Germanic tradition that stems from Heathenry. Mistletoe? Heathen. Yule log? Well, you get the idea…

In fact, if your family is Christian, you can enjoy celebrating Christmas because it’s really Yule with some Christian dress-up. Just don’t be a smart-ass and tell your Christian family that or you’ll be sure to get a lump of coal this year.

A Very Brief History of Yule

We know that the Germanic peoples celebrated Yule at least as early as the 4th Century. Yule was typically held for 12 days, usually starting around the solstice. In the Norse calendar, the month of Yule was known as Ýlir. One of Odin’s many names is Jólnir (Yule-person), which has a the root Jól Yule), thus the association with Yule. During this time, Odin was said to lead the Wild Hunt through Midgard. In some places, children would leave hay in their stockings or shoes for Sleipnir and Odin would return the favor by leaving candy or presents. Yeah, it’s true: Odin is Santa.

In the Saga of Hákon the Good, we know that Yule had diminished to three days, starting at the winter solstice. According to the saga, King Haakon I was instrumental in Christianizing Norway and changing the date of Yule to match Christmas. We can easily see how Yule traditions blended into Christmas traditions as many Heathens became Christianized.

Although Christmas was celebrated in Europe, it really didn’t have the same look as it does now. We can thank Queen Victoria for adopting her husband’s (Prince Albert’s) German customs and making Christmas complete with Christmas trees and feasts. Furthermore, Charles Dickens recreated Christmas in A Christmas Carol.

The Wild Hunt and Yule

Like the Celts, Heathens believed in the Wild Hunt, but the leader of the Wild Hunt was Odin who led his hunters through Midgard. In many stories, he is joined by goddesses, most notably Holda (Frau Holle) and Berchta (Perchta). The Wild Hunt flew in the sky, but occasionally flew down to chase their prey close to the earth. In some places, if you came upon the Wild Hunt and failed to join them, bad things could happen. Or Odin might accidentally run you over on Sleipnir, which is why in some cultures you needed to lie down to avoid being hit by the horses’ hooves if they rode too close to the ground.

What they hunted is up for interpretation. People, souls, or game, the Wild Hunt was something to be feared. The current belief is that the souls of the dead ride with Odin, but I’m fuzzy as to what Odin is hunting. More souls? Possibly. Basically, it’s a time when the veil between the realm of the dead and our world is at its thinnest because of the darkness. This is why we celebrate Mother’s Night (Mōdraniht) on the 20th or 21st of December. Historically, it was celebrated on the 24th. We celebrate Mother’s Night in honor of the disir, our female ancestors.

Modern Yule Celebrations

There are plenty of awesome ways to celebrate Yule. I’ve outlined several in a couple of articles HERE and HERE. I really like Hugin’s Heathen Hof’s 12 Devotional Days of Yule. I think you’ll like them too.  Anyway, have a terrific Yule and be sure to check out my post on December 21st.

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle–when you were young, chances are you were told about the jolly man in the red suit who filled stockings and put presents under Christmas trees on Christmas Eve. Even if you were raised pagan or in another religion, it’s hard to imagine a more ubiquitous figure than Santa Claus. So, it’s somewhat tragic that I stepped on the road to skepticism at the tender age of four or so with the disbelief in Santa Claus.

About St. Nick

We pagans love to put our spin on Christmas traditions — Heathens, no exception.  Santa Claus does borrow heavily from the story of Odin and the Wild Hunt, but St. Nicholas was purportedly a Christian saint who was born 280 A.D. 

Known for his generosity and kindness, stories about St. Nicholas and his miracles were popular among Christians. Nicholas could raise the dead, save innocent men from execution,  multiply wheat during a famine, calm storm winds at sea, and even had a good throwing arm that most baseball pitchers would kill to get.  Okay, maybe not the last one. But the story below suggests he had to have an arm to throw gold into a chimney.

This Christian saint is reputed to have saved three daughters from being sold into prostitution by providing a dowry for them. He did it in an unusual way.  He threw a bag of gold into the chimney of their house the first night. The gold fell and spilled into the stockings of the women who hung them up to dry by the chimney.  He did this three nights in a row. On the third night, the father discovered Nicholas had done this good deed. Nicholas had the man promise he would not tell anyone how the daughters came by their dowry.  (Never mind this is the most famous story about him.)

St. Nick’s Popularity

Apparently, old St. Nick became quite popular. Christians celebrated feast day, the day of his death on December 6th, with presents given to the poor. (Morbid that one would celebrate a saint’s death. But, that’s the Christians for you.) Saint Nicholas presumably died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 73. Martyrdom is so overrated.

But, the common folk loved the Saint Nicholas stories. Saint Nicholas was popular even in the medieval era, with many people attributing Saint Nicholas to act of kindness, generosity, and charity. Not to mention gifts. The Protestants tried to do away with St. Nick and substitute Christkindl, the baby Jesus, who gave presents. But Nicholas was too popular, beating out the Christ child bearing gifts. To avoid issues with the Protestant church, Protestants called St. Nick Father Christmas. And Christkindl evolved and the name became “Kris Kringle,” thus giving Santa a new name.

By the way, Santa Claus got his name from a corruption of Sinterklaas from Dutch settlers, who stuck with Saint Nicholas even after the Reformation.

But What Does Heathenism Have to Do with Christmas?

Despite St. Nicholas’s obvious Christian roots, Christmas day was the birth of Mithras, a Persian sun god that was popular around the time of Christ and the new Church. The festivals of Saturnalia and Yule were already firmly established. It made sense to adopt these solstice celebrations and make them into holidays to help convert the pagans.

St. Nick took on characteristics of Odin in Northern Europe. Odin rode Sleipner during the Wild Hunt. Children were encouraged to leave hay in their shoes for the steed and Odin would reward them with a gift. In some places, St. Nick rode a horse to give his gifts. It’s easy to see how Heathens could make the connection between the two.

People being people simply adopted Christmas for Yule, but even kept the Yule name. In places where Thor had been popular, the Yule Goat became popular, and even pulled St. Nick’s cart with presents. The Christmas tree, handed down from Germanic traditions, represents the World Tree to Heathens and obviously a holdover from pagan times. Queen Victoria made the Christmas tree famous when she adopted the Germanic customs. So, as you can see, Heathenism has influenced many of the current Christmas customs.

A Four-Year-Old Skeptic

Unless your parents are hardcore skeptics or complete and utter religious assholes, they allowed you the fantasy of believing in what is commonly termed as make-believe things. We can debate what we consider make believe versus real another day.  When I was four, my sister’s fake enthusiasm for Santa already convinced me, a beginning skeptic, that the guy in the red suit was a lie.  I had inklings that Santa Claus didn’t exist. The logic of so many Santas everywhere you looked didn’t jive with what I saw, and my parents’ explanation that these weren’t really Santa, but Santa’s helpers, didn’t make sense. (Those were supposed to be elves, you see.)  So, the Occam’s razor solution was that my parents were giving me presents and not an imaginary guy riding a sled pulled by eight plus one tiny reindeer.

What Should You Tell Your Kids About Santa?

As Heathens, we’re supposed to be above the whole bullshit lies, but Santa Claus is pervasive. If you have kids, they’re going to get an earful about Santa. If you don’t tell them, their friends will tell them, and they’ll be asking you why the fat man in the red suit isn’t stopping at your place. Telling them that Santa only visits Christians makes him look like an asshole and makes you look like you’re following the wrong religion. Trust me on this when I say that sort of thing makes an impression on kids early in life. You don’t want to be the Grinch even if Santa isn’t really our thing.

We can bring Santa Claus’s image back to his Heathen roots of Odin and the Wild Hunt. Telling your kids that Santa Claus is just the Christian version of Odin and that he’s a wintertime spirit who does not care what religion you are will strengthen their belief in the god as being good. (They can learn about the bad sides of Odin later as they grow up.) This isn’t a lie, because Odin really doesn’t care what religion you are and yes, Santa Claus, despite being Saint Nicholas, has taken on the trappings of Odin.

Celebrating Santa at Christmastime is okay. If the kids figure out that you’re the one handing out presents, be honest and tell them that all parents who celebrate Yule and Christmas do that to honor their gods. Santa Claus isn’t a lie–you are the duly appointed gift giver. And if a child hears that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, the answer is yes, there is, he just goes under a different name.

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule is one of our biggest celebrations as Heathens, but if you’re a solitary Heathen, like I am, you may be wondering how in the Hel you can celebrate it.  So, I’m offering ways you can enjoy Yule, even if you’re a solitary Heathen.

Greet the Sun on the Solstice

If you’re a morning person, you might want to get up before the dawn and greet the sun.  Or, if you’re a crazy bastard, you can stay up and greet the dawn from the other side.  Either way, you get to greet the sun on the solstice.  Write a prayer or poem to the sun and read it out loud, or just maybe say a few heartfelt words to the sun.  Maybe you’re not one for words, but maybe you can read the story how Sunna was put to drive the sun’s chariot each day.  Do what feels right to you.

Honor the Ancestors

Mother’s Night is December 20th — a day when we honor all female ancestors who came before us.  Even if you do not have recent ancestors you wish to venerate, you can offer food, mead, and other gifts to distant ancestors, both known and unknown, thanking them because without them, you would not be here.  You can also offer gifts to the gods, whom many of us look on as our ancestors as well.

Bake Yule Cookies

Nowadays with so many types of cookie cutouts, you’re sure to find cookie cutouts that have no Christian significance.  Snowmen, reindeer, Yule trees, stars, are all pretty common.  Hel, I bet you could make an angel into a Valkyrie easily. Your non-Heathen friends and family members won’t care about the shapes either.

Make Some Mead

If you have any time off this holiday season, it’s time to get some decent local honey and make some mead.  Never made mead before?  What is wrong with you?  Making basic mead is relatively easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wondering what kept you from making it for so long.  And while it won’t be ready for this holiday, it’ll be ready for spring.  Even a gallon of must makes 5 to 6 bottles of mead, so what are you waiting for?  Here’s a mead making kit for you. 

You also might find this book useful too.

Drink Some Mead

Okay, so what do you do in the meantime while you’re waiting for your mead to ferment?  Why not enjoy some mead?  Don’t have any?  That’s okay.  You should be able to find someplace that carries esoteric wines like mead in your city or town.  Have it ordered, if you really can’t find a place that carries it.  Or order online.  One meadery who will ship is Hidden Legend.

Make a Yule Feast

Just because you’re the only Heathen around doesn’t mean you can’t share a Yule feast with your family and friends.  Invite your friends over on the solstice for a Yule feast, complete with mead.  Bake a ham or pork roast and enjoy the holiday with good friends and family.  Most people have obligations starting Christmas Eve, so having a celebration for the holidays ahead of the total Christmas thing may be welcomed.

Offer a Blot to the Gods

Offer a blot to the gods this solstice.  Write out your prayers or let them come from the heart.  Either way, make it personal and heartfelt.  Remember each god you honor and those who have helped you in the past year.

Remember the Wights

Whether or not you believe in the wights, now is the time to offer the Tomte and the Nisse as well as any house elves porridge (with a pat of butter).  These critters also like milk, cookies, chocolate (keep out of reach of pets), and other gifts.