Heathen holidays come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on which specific tradition you practice, you may celebrate different holidays than the other Heathens near you. This past month, Heathens have celebrated Yuleblot; Winternights (a holiday I usually celebrate in October, but the dates can vary from group to group); Mother’s Night (Modranight); or any of the many versions of the 12 days of Yule.
The way I that celebrate the winter holidays has changed over the years. While I love a big Yule feast and sumbel, honoring the Gods and ancestors with friends and family, we already have a ton of opportunities throughout the year for feasting. That’s one of the reasons I love being Heathen–we have a ton of excuses to get together with friends and blot throughout the year.
Nowadays, perhaps because I’m working more with Freyr and Gerd, I’ve more interested in the Winter Solstice as a time of quiet reflection. The last few years I’ve held an all-night vigil. This is a huge sacrifice for me, as I highly value my sleep and lack of sleep makes me extremely grumpy. A few times I’ve found a friend or two to help me stay awake, but for the most part, it’s just me, the Gods, and a good book or craft project. It’s very relaxing–no deadlines, no obligations; nothing to prepare or do or be.
This year I also added in a new tradition that some Swedish Heathens have started called väntljusstaken (“Yule Candlesticks”). It’s one of those ways of marking time before the holiday, and it’s a completely modern invention, which is a big challenge for my reconstruction-ish mindset. And you know what? It was still pretty powerful. I’m sure I’ll do it again next year.
I’m entirely sure why my version of Yule evolved the way it has, but I think it’s a good example of how we can make the holidays our own. As a modern version of many older, heterogeneous religious traditions, we’re not locked into any particular set of celebrations. For Heathenry to be a meaningful, lasting religious tradition, it needs to be meaningful to us, personally.
So, as we go forward into the next year’s worth of holidays, don’t worry if you don’t know all of the details of all of the multitude of Heathen traditions. Some traditions are historical, some are just historically-based, and some are totally modern inventions. The important thing is to find a version of the Heathen holidays that work for you.
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