The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to experience maximum joy everyday

full day exposure of Winter Solstice

"Is it that you might offend many in the masses by simply saying Merry Christmas?...gag".

Thanks for the question, Dennis.

No....anybody who knows me learns real quick that I don't really care much about offending the masses, but there is a statement between the lines that I think you might be reading the wrong way.

In my opinion Christmas feels more like a war between Jesus and Santa these days, and by saying Winter Holiday instead of Merry Christmas I'm making a statement that I prefer my Solstice celebration to be more about observing the journey of the sun...not The Son, or Santa, or whoever else is trying to hi-jack what I feel is the true reason for the season.

This year Anna and I made more of an effort to slow down during the days before and after the Solstice and it felt good. I figure the more synchronized we get with the cycles of nature the better our chances are of experiencing maximum joy on a daily basis.

defintion of pagan is...

simple image of yin and yang
Yes.....this means I'm a Pagan, which originally meant someone who lives in the country. In 1913 Daniel Webster brought religious church dogma to the English language when he added to the definition of Pagan- "One who worships false gods". This is exactly the kind of distraction I'm talking about. Is Jesus or Santa true or false? I say neither....they both act as a diversion and both happen to be of the male gender who are trying desperately to take one's attention away from Mother Nature who I think most people agree has a distinct feeling of being female. Is this really a conflict between Yin and Yang forces?

I don't know.....all I'm sure of is that I want less Santa and Jesus and more Mother Nature and if it takes saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas to communicate that then I'm prepared to keep it up till the cows come home....wait...we don't have any I guess that means till I stop hearing cashiers ask me if I'm "Ready for Christmas yet?".

Image credit goes to Danilo Pivato for the amazing full day exposure of a Solstice sun moving across the sky in 2005 near Fiumicino, Italy.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You know, I had my suspicions about your views on paganism. Just little hints here and there.

Perhaps it takes a pagan to know one? I am pagan as well and find it much more fulfilling to be centered on the earth than anything else.

And not to be biased toward anyone who is not pagan, but I love you guys a little more because of this. :D

Comment by Araby Sun Dec 26 15:00:04 2010

For me the winter holidays are about the solstice too. I wlecome the lengthening days.

It amuses me to no end that the christians who complain loudly about christmas being "under attack" from non-christians often seem ignorant of the fact that the church hijacked several pre-existing ceremonies from other religions (especially the Roman saturnalia) to create christmas. An obvious attempt to get converts, IMO.

Midwinter solstice celebrations are common in many cultures.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Dec 26 16:49:59 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a bit leery of the term pagan. I definitely agree with it in the sense Mark has described above, but I don't know that I would call myself a pagan as described by mainstream society.

I have really loved focusing more on the seasons every year, though. You're right that the earth-centered approach is very fulfilling.

Comment by anna Sun Dec 26 17:04:06 2010
Roland --- good reminder of the many other winter solstices! I've been wanting to build our own winter solstice tradition, but wasn't quite sure where to start. Clearly, I need to read up on all of the traditions from around the world and pick and choose my favorites. (Probably not Saturnalia --- drunken orgies just aren't my thing. :-) )
Comment by anna Sun Dec 26 17:08:36 2010

Very well put.

I refer to ourselves here as heathens. We are aware of the winter solstice when it happens. We celebrate it then and on December 25 and call it christmas even though we do not believe in that faith. We believe in the spirit of Santa Clause in the old way and so much the commercial way. We have taught our kids that is it is all in your heart. If you do not believe in good, good will not exist.

I believe that I am a loose piece of the universe that has become aware momentarily. It's nice but I wouldn't want it to be permanent.

Comment by oldfool Sun Dec 26 21:50:44 2010
I think I might like the term heathen even more than pagan. :-) Glad to see all of these pagans and heathens coming out of the woodwork.
Comment by anna Mon Dec 27 10:42:29 2010
I would have guessed you for Pantheist or Deist (or maybe even a Unitarian) before I'd use the word Pagan. But words mean different things to different people and, frankly, we could all use a list less isms and ists these days.
Comment by Everett Mon Dec 27 11:08:08 2010

Especially the monotheistic religions seem to have hijacked/invented lots of pejorative words for those who do not share their (variant of) religion; pagan, gentile, infidel, kafir etc.

Because of their negative associations I reject those labels. I'm an atheist, and proud to be so. Reason will be my guide instead of superstition and "revelation". Like children shed their belief in santa claus when they grow up, I think that humanity as a whole will do the same in due course.

To quote my favorite philosopher Bertrand Russel:

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.

[who also made a splendid argument about the burden of proof with regard to the existence of god(s) in Russell's teapot.]

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 27 14:03:32 2010

Everett --- I don't think Mark's a pagan in the Neo-pagan sense, and I have heard him bandy around the word Theist (although once I look it up I think he might have meant Deist since Theists believe in one god.) I think he makes up his own religion and just likes the idea of re-coopting a term that's already been coopted by the Christians.

Roland --- I agree with you...and I disagree with you. :-) I really like that quote from Bertrand Russell because I feel like it sums up something I've been trying to find a way to vocalize for a while. On the other hand, I feel like the earth is sacred despite the fact that I'm an atheist and don't believe in any gods. So, my actions end up being like a pagan/heathen/pantheist/whatever you want to call it even though I roll my eyes a bit when people talk about spirits and gods.

Comment by anna Mon Dec 27 16:21:26 2010

I have long been curious about the Native American belief systems since they seemed to be tied much more intimately to their environment and "Mother Nature". However, alas, I have really done no research whatsoever on it. If anyone can recommend a book... I'm all ears. And when I refer to Native Americans, I guess I really mean North American rather than Central and South American natives. I don't see myself getting all into building a pyramid and sacrificing folks.

I no longer consider myself a Christian, though I was raised Catholic. 9 years of Catholic school made sure I saw right through that crud. And I have to admit, my hackles go up a bit every time someone wishes me a Merry Christmas nowadays, especially with some of my coworkers or well meaning folks that send preachy emails around the season. But, I just accept it and go on.

As a person who is somewhere between Agnostic and Atheist, leaning very strongly to the latter, I have to admit that I have enjoyed taking up Buddhism. It is refreshing to learn about and take part in something that is not really tied to deities. The parts of it that I enjoy are the philosophies on life, living in the moment, etc. Buddhism is also completely open to each individual's interpretation rather than trying to teach dogma, and they are up front about it, which is also refreshing. I may grow tired of it one day and move on to my own interpretations and practices, but for now it seemed to be what I needed for the last year or two - post nervous breakdown mode. :D

Anyway, I could go on about religion and US politics, but I think I will skip that. ;-)

I enjoy reading other "non-conformist" views on religion. It's always refreshing for me to see others who don't just swallow the dogma. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said something like "My karma trampled your dogma" or something to the effect. I just had to laugh.

Comment by Shannon Mon Dec 27 16:48:42 2010

I believe that's the bumper sticker you're talking about?

I suspect that what you're really interested in is North American Native American belief systems from before corn migrated north and produced large societies more divorced from their hunter-gatherer roots. Or at least, that's what I'm interested in. :-) Unfortunately, that's really tough to discover --- it's hard enough to figure out what Native Americans thought before Europeans showed up, but it's even harder to find out what they thought hundreds of years before that.

As a side note, I find it intriguing to see Me, Mark, and you getting pissy when people wish us a Merry Christmas, while I read on Christian folks' blogs that they get pissy when people wish them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Clearly, the only solution is to skip the holidays entirely, or at least not mention them outside your own home! :-)

Comment by anna Mon Dec 27 19:53:15 2010

why would it annoy anyone for another person to wish you a merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday or a great return to longer daylight? I think the only thing that should offend would be for them to spit in your face and say bahumbug.

As a Christian (please don't flee screaming or right me of as an uneducated pack follower), I believe in your freedom to believe whatever you wish. I will not be little it or you because of it. But don't let it bother you that someone is wishing you a happy season, no matter how they express it.

And to the writer that started this thread with their comment. Shame to you. Don't judge. That's not Christian either.

Anyway Happy and Merry ____________ (you fill it in)

Comment by Erich Tue Dec 28 23:21:39 2010
You're completely right, Erich. I think I let a bit of this year's Christmas's bitter taste leach out into that comment. Of course we don't get mad when someone just wishes us a Merry Christmas with the sole reason that they're happy about the day; it's just annoying when the "Merry Christmas" is more of an occasion for preaching/judging.
Comment by anna Wed Dec 29 09:14:48 2010

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