What do I love about Christmas? And why do I love Christmas anyway, being raised as a good atheist/jewish boy in the grand old left wing tradition?
I love it because the way that we celebrate Christmas is so deeply pagan. Let’s start with the Christmas tree, that ritual of communion with nature, bringing a living creature into our homes, filling them with the scent and color of the forest. We adorn the tree with lights and glitter, magically banishing the darkness from our homes and our hearts. We place gifts under the tree, symbolizing the gifts of nature and the bounty that spirit brings us. We practice the art of giving, reversing the normal flow of acquisition that is so celebrated in our culture.
One of the great things about the Christmas season is that the normal routine of work and the culture of living to work is interrupted. We are not expected to concentrate on our jobs for a change; we are all given permission to celebrate with friends and family! This is what life’s about, connecting with our communities, and Christmas is the season when it is permissible to do so.
And what could be more magical than Santa Claus? Here we have an immortal being who lives in the north pole, with a retinue of elves, and a magical vehicle pulled by flying reindeer. He is descended from a lineage of Siberian Shamans, who used the amanita muscaria mushroom to aid in their vision quests (thus the red and white coloring). He has super powers, flying all around the world and visiting every home that celebrates Christmas in a single night, descending through chimneys and bringing thoughtful and appropriate gifts for each and every child, and many of the grown-ups as well. He is telepathic (he knows what you’ve been thinking). We even involve him in one of the last remaining transition rituals in our culture, when we move from being an innocent spirit, living in magical reality, to a cynical mundane, living in the “real world”. When did you stop believing in Santa Claus?