It Starts with Just One Thing

It’s a gunmetal grey day, portending welcome rain. The last of the autumn foliage is still evident, this being Northern California, and somehow it is calm and silent in our neighborhood despite the proximity to shopping districts.

Today is the day I declare it: the season of Yule has begun.

Usually, Thanksgiving is the transition: that’s the day I pull the Hallows decor from my Focus and replace it with holly and evergreen and sun symbols. But I’m a little late with the spirit of the thing this year; I wrote about that before.

A part of the challenge is that we’re in a new place and still settling in. The traditions and habits of more than a decade must now shift to new accommodations, and some of them are hard to fit.

Still. It starts with just one thing: a step. Any step.

Today we will secure Victorian outfits and our tree decorations from our storage unit, and then go to buy a tree from a live-tree lot we prefer in the green countryside of western Sonoma County. We have box-moving to do before we can set it up, but a little incentive for getting that done isn’t a bad thing.

The Victorian duds are for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a recreation of Victorian London held in San Francisco every holiday season. Think Renaissance Faire, only Dickensian. Wandering the streets of “London” and enjoying the various entertainments, pubs, and street actors in character is great fun. We’re going tomorrow with a group of friends.

Our tree decorations are characteristically Pagan: we have ornaments of bats and mushrooms and an octopus, of apples and acorns and snakes and salmon, as well as a collection of antique ornaments from the 1940s and 50s which remind me of the ones my parents still had hanging around when I was a child.

We don’t do presents under the tree. We already have enough stuff; more than enough, considering we need a storage unit as well as our apartment. Instead, we place precious treasures under the tree to remind ourselves of how rich our lives are: fossils and antiquities, artworks, reminders of friends and community.

We will do stockings, though. Something for a little surprise.

We have a lot of traditions, some of which haven’t happened every year, but I feel I really want to pile it on this year to reinvigorate my seasonal celebrations. One that I’ve missed is making an Atheopagan “advent” calendar–maybe next year.

Our circle, Dark Sun, gathers on the 19th and 20th for our annual house-lighting Yule ritual and feasting and just being together. We’re in our 25th year now: they are my truest family, every one.

Nemea and I will decorate a Yule log and burn it on the night of the Solstice (usually, it’s made from the trunk of the previous year’s Yule tree, but that disappeared in the move this year), sipping a warm rum drink, perhaps, or cider.  And we must, at some point, watch the BBC production of Sir Terry Prachett’s (RIP, Sir Terry) Hogfather, which is easily both the most entertaining and the most Pagan of Yuletide movies.

My intent is to rise to watch the Solstice sunrise. That is usually my intent, but frankly, I am not a morning person and it’s pretty hard to pry myself out of bed when it’s cold and dark. We’ll see.

On the 23rd, we celebrate the faux-holiday Festivus, mostly (I think) because we happen to have a metal pole with a stand. That said, we have plenty of grievances to air this year, so we should have a good time with it. I hope to have a friend over for dinner to join us. Perhaps we’ll play a game afterwards.

The plan for Christmas eve is to try to recreate a wonderful dish from a restaurant we loved and which has now closed down: wild boar ragout, Austrian style with lingonberries and cream sauce.

And on Christmas Day, we’ll go over to spend the day with Pagan friends, enjoy another giant meal, friendship and love.

If that sounds like a lot for a couple of people who have been known to struggle with depression and its associated isolation…well, it is. And maybe we won’t get to all of it.

But I hope we do.

The Longest Night is a holy night indeed, every year: a time to marvel that this Earth can sustain us at all, given that only a tiny shift renders it cold and hostile. It’s a time for huddling close with loved ones, enjoying the fruits of the harvest, remembering and gratitude.

Among other things, I am grateful for you, reader. Sharing and discussing Atheopaganism with this community over the past eighteen months has been a marvelous experience. So thank you.

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