Hippie Squared: Everybody’s Got One


A blogumn by Jeff Rogers

yuleIt’s all the same holiday. Look around. We’ve got festivals of lights breaking out all over. With menorahs and candles and colorful glowing bulbs and roaring Yule logs we celebrate the continuance of light through the darkest nights of the year.

Call it Hannukah, call it Christmas, call it Yule or Winter Solstice. Call it Saturnalia, Brumalia, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Call it Kwanzaa or even Festivus. Everybody’s got one.

And it gets kinda crowded this time of year with all the gods lining up for birthday cake. Jesus gets the big piece these days, but let’s not forget Mithras, Horus, Pan.

I’m not trying to minimize the differences, mind you. We all get attached to our particular inflections. Hell, I got pissed off at Thanksgiving this year when the branch of the family I dined with didn’t wait until everyone sat down with their plates before digging in. Seemed downright rude to me. Then I reminded myself why I was there: to feast with loved ones and be grateful.

There’s more and more information out there all the time about the pagan origins of Christmas. It’s a flat-out mutt holiday as it’s come down to us, with a little bit of everything to spice it up: Roman, Persian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Celtic, northern European, and stuff we don’t even have names for. When the date for the birthday of Jesus was fixed at the already-crowded celebration date of December 25th during the Roman Empire, civilization in the middle east, Asia, Europe, had already seen so many previous empires and so much trade, so much swapping and co-opting of gods and heroes and mythic motifs, it didn’t much matter who else joined the party. There was room for everybody. There still is.

Let’s throw this into the mix while we’re at it: Hanukkah falls on the 25th of Kislew—the lunar calendar’s equivalent of 25 December in the solar calendar. The Jews picked up the lunar calendar in Babylon, during their exile there. And there’s this, from the Jewish Encyclopedia: “The twenty-fifth of Kislew…had been celebrated as the winter solstice feast by the Jewish people before it became a historical festival.” It’s not too hard to picture the Jews in Babylon adopting not just a calendar but a local mid-winter folk holiday and making it their own. Maybe even the same Mid-Winter Hump Day Holiday that later fed by various offshoots and tributaries right on into the Roman hodge-podge that Christmas got plopped down into.

I think it’s a nice idea, myself. I can’t prove it, but it makes sense to me, so I’ll keep it as my working hypothesis until somebody shows me otherwise.

Personally I’m of the opinion, and I believe the science will back me up on this one: we’re all just animals. Easy to lose sight of that, but it explains a lot when you think about it. Gotta eat, gotta drink, gotta procreate. Gotta scramble to survive.

But let’s not stop there. I happen to be convinced, and here I think the anthropology will bear me out: every bit as much as wolves travel in packs, lions kick it with their pride, and beavers gather round the den at night, human beings are tribal. Gotta sing, gotta dance, gotta celebrate. There’s no dignified way to say it, people: We’re party animals.

The Celebration makes the Tribe.

So let’s all lighten up, delighten up, and fire up our grand varietal festivals of lights. Let’s open our arms wide and throw our circles wide, because the wind howls and the dry skin of the earth cracks. But the grass will blow green and the leaves will dance and Spring is on her way on roller-skates. There’s no stopping her now.

I think Jews should call out “Happy Hannukah” to Christians, and Christians should wish “Merry Christmas” to Jews, and pagans should yell “Leaping Yule” at everybody. And we should all hear each wish with generous ears, translated like so: “Party on, my Brother. Party on, my Sister. Celebrate and be well.”

Happy Celebration, everybody.


Flickr.com Photo Credit: Duane Romanell