Beliefnet
Reprinted with permission from The Voice magazine.

It isn't easy being queer at Christmas. We may be estranged from our families. If we do visit them, it may be that we can't take our lovers home. Maybe Christmas isn't even part of your tradition, but wherever you turn, you're bombarded with it. I say, let's take from it what we really like and work with that. There are the influences of so many cultures in our celebrations at the Winter Solstice and at Christmas.

Our pagan Anglo Saxon ancestors called December 24 the Mother Night or Modraniht. Mary, Queen of Heaven; Demeter, who gave birth to Persephone; and Holle, the universal mother patron of all newborn children in charge of naming them, are among the mothers to be celebrated.

Earlier in the month, southern Mexicans honor the ancient Mayan mother, Ixchel, with processions and blessings on small boats. In Japan, women entertain for a day (December 8) and take over men's roles in the household. It's called the Hari no Kuyo. Now there's a definition-defying ritual we can relate to!

The tree, the sweets, the gifts, the entire nativity scene is part of pagan heritage. It was Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, who brought the custom of the Christmas tree to England from Germany. The Yule log on the fire has German/Scandinavian origins. Yule means "the wheel." The holly, with its red berries that we hang on the door, reminds us of the underworld goddess, Holle. We borrowed Santa Claus from the Dutch: Sinterklaas puts gifts in the wooden shoes of Dutch children. It's a time for us to give and receive gifts.

So much of this time of year has to do with ancients memories as well as those of friends and family no longer here. Even the food I cook or serve has memories: Eggnog. Apple cider. Wine. Chocolate and shortbread cookies. Fruit cake with the almond icing.

I think we need to create a season that represents comfort and home for ourselves, whether we call it Christmas and whether anyone comes over or not. I want to be Hestia, keeper of the temple flame. (Hestia is the goddess of home and hearth. She is so ancient a goddess that she is invoked simply by lighting a fire in your hearth. If you don't have a hearth, think of your stove as the place where you keep the home fires burning. Light some candles.)

Maria Harris in "Dance of the Spirit: The Seven Steps of Women's Spirituality," says that working at home, doing the daily tasks "in rhythm and ritual instead of routine, create[s] a harmony between [our] inner and outer worlds."

One can become centered, as Harris says, through the actions of ritual. I know what she means. I remember the summer when I moved into my apartment. I was not focused on work but on creating a home. I was making poetry as I placed my spices on the shelf in the kitchen, for instance. Poetry is the soul creating a ceremony with the elements of an ordinary event. I would like to recall some of that ceremony as I clean and decorate my home at Christmas. I want to find that sacred in the ordinary as I share a cup of tea or a glass of eggnog with friends.

Along with spirit, I don't want to forget nature. That's why I chose this apartment surrounded by trees where I can take a daily walk and observe the changes. I see details I hadn't seen before: pussy-willow-like buds on the magnolia tree. Red berries on the hedge that I think is called burning bush. A white birch tree that gets to shine now among the bare gray trees. Red cardinals--a surprising flash in the yard. I'm going to bring a little tree into my dwelling for everlasting life. Decorate it with lights to brighten the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

I look forward to turning off the computer. Seeing what decorations I have saved. (I threw out a lot of tired-looking Christmas ornaments at a time when I didn't think I ever wanted to celebrate Christmas again.) I feel a need for the real thing--for balance from nature in the form of fresh-smelling pine boughs and poinsettia and wreaths. Candles and incense will represent the spirit. I want Christmas and home to be what I want and need right now. Not the way it should be and will be but how it is in the moment for the very first time.

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