The gift of the yule calendar

 

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The other night the sky was on fire.

Like a forest fire.

Like a sun that wouldn’t surrender.

Like a necklace of flames.

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Like the lakes were embers

Like the violet sky was a queens dress of velvet

Like the trees were spears.

And it felt as the beginning of christmas.

As if christmas is a celebration of the sun

 

 

SKIPPING CHRISTMAS

Last year we decided to skip christmas. The mindless reproduction of societal norms and standards, we came to question that, we came to question everything, we wanted to live on PURPOSE.

Clearly we can’t participate in the feast of consumerism, buying artefacts nobody needs for money we don’t have. And why go through all the hazzle and fuzz, couldn’t we just sit in our chairs, relax, don’t do it?
As a matter of fact do we not have the freedom to do just that? To NOT get all worked up whenever there’s a holliday coming? A feast? Run, go get the easter eggs, fetch the christmas table cloth, dance- as if your life depended on it!
Only… couldn’t we just stop doing that?

I suffer from something I call holliday depression. I get it around christmas, easter, birthdays, whenever there is a reason to celebrate I just want to fall to the ground and disappear. Don’t mention anniversaries. Or mothers day! Argh! Die!

I don’t know why.
I question why. I question everything.
(except the sun)

“Why should we celebrate christmas?” he asked “You look like a walking ghost and the kids gets all worked up, everything is just one big mindfuck. Couldn’t we just skip it?”

Christmas was just something we did. Something everybody did. We were raised to do it. But what does it MEAN?
Moving into the wild was a challenge, a showdown. Wouldn’t it be strange to move into the wild and then to just continue all of the traditions? Mindlessly. Not really knowing why?

Couldn’t we just be?
No rituals, no traditions, no imposed values, normative demands, couldn’t we just exist? As a tree? X-rayed by the sun?

 

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So we decided to skip christmas.

 

THE CELEBRATION OF YULE

In Danish christmas is called “Jul”. The word for wheel is “Hjul”.

There is no linguistic proof to this (so let´s call it Unverified Personal Gnosis) but I feel like christmas (hence forward called yule) is a celebration of a turn of the wheel.

We used to celebrate yule on solstice the 21th of december. At this time the sun is reborn, in the uttermost dark she will gain her strength back, the days will be longer now. In the coldest, darkest… we celebrate warmth, summer, sun. Because everything is connected and yadi yadi but that’s just how I feel.
Besides I’ve been a practising heathen for more than 10 years.

However; when moving into nature my spirituality changed. I didn’t need special places for it, special words, no rituals or traditions. I guess my spirituality became mundane. My faith became a matter of walking the talk. Believing that you have the power to change. To do.

Appreciating that sunset was an act of worship.
Scolars call it “unio mystica”… that special feeling you get, sometimes, of being connected to the wider, the broader world, the whole. You can induce this feeling, enhance it in churches, by artefacts, rituals, celebrations. But you can also just feel it.
Randomly.

Maybe we don’t need yule anymore. Maybe we don’t need traditions to remind us of community, feast of the heart, gift giving-  and maybe we don’t need it in a spiritual perspective neither.

 

THE YULE CALENDAR
In my culture (the Scandinavian) there is a tradition of a Yule Calendar. Parents hang a big sock by the bed of the child. Each morning the child will find a little gift in the sock. The gift will be from the “nisse” (pixie, elf, gnome). The child is then supposed to place a bowl of porridge on the loft, in the barn or wherever the Nisse of that particular household resides.
The mutual gift giving between this world and the other world is in this way consolidated. Standardized. This is common tradition and most Scandinavians households will do this all through december until the 24th.
(Socks, shoes, clogs are heathen symbols, they symbolise the forefathers, the footsteps, the line that walks on into the future)

The yule calendar has become much more than a sock though. Every evening there will be a television show for the kids, a christmas tale in 24 episodes. It’s a big thing. It’s a coherent narrative.
Often christmas is being treathened and all of the creatures (both Nisser and kids) will work together to save christmas.
Off course big business has made yule calendars of their own; chocolate yule calendars, Lego yule calendars, all kinds of yule calendars, yule calendars on every street corner. Yule calendar emails. Yule calendar competitions.

 

MY YULE CALENDER

This narrative won´t be coherent. And you can´t win anything. Not even a piece of chocolate. Or a lollipop. Nope.
And I don´t know the ending of this yule calendar yet. Will we celebrate yule? In spite of all that I just said? Will we loose all of the traditions? Or will we carry them onwards? What gifts do we offer? What do we receive?

I don’t know.

We are in the middle of a giant transition, a tremendous transformation. I don’t know who I am anymore, having lived in the forest for four years now… I don’t know. As an author not knowing the story is the most scary thing I can think of. This moment in time, this moment in our story… is essential, dangerous, important. Just as yule is supposed to be. Don´t you think?
Shouldn´t that moment- when the sun is reborn, when we turn the wheel- be kind of…. radiant?

So I will share this december with you. Each day I’ll post. Might be recipes, might be interviews, might be just pictures. Might be special, sensitive, fragile, strong. Might not be. But it´s what I have to offer. It´s a story.
Like a gift.

Like a question.

Why do you celebrate yule?

14 thoughts on “The gift of the yule calendar

  1. Yule is tradition, and I love the tradition. We have been broke through christmas for some years, so it has been re-invented for us. Church plays a big part for me. I like going there in the afternoon and at midnight, singing and wishing friends and neighbours a merry christmas. Our 3 children get things they need, we get the duck we eat for dinner. Every day I read in Jostein Gaarders “Julemysteriet”, 24 chapters for 24 days. This year the kids get nothing each day of December, our son (9) asked if we instead could do something together every sunday. Yesterday we went bowling, never done before – was great. We had gift-certificates we’d won = free fun! Next sunday we’ll go paint on clay cups that will bee gifts for grandmothers. One sunday is ear-marked for going out on saturday evening and lighting up a fire (Andrea – don’t forget the “how to make a fire”-post!). We will bring food to cook on the fire, a book and sleepingbags to keep warm – it’ll be the highlights of the 4 sundays! The last sunday we’ll go chop our christmastree. Between christmas and new years we invite friends to a left-over party. They bring whatever is left over from christmas and we are toghether for hours and the kids a playing. New years we spend alone and go watch whatever fireworks everyone else fires. The holiday-season can be made rich from spending very little money, unfortunately spending little seems incompatible with christmas for most people.

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    1. Your Christmas sounds great to me — full of fun and friends and family! I like the idea of a leftover party — maybe I will borrow that, thank you.

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  2. I recognize the Holliday depression and since a few years we don’t plan anything. If we feel to it, we visit family..if not, we don’t.
    The peace of mind this gives me…
    I never celabrated Yule, but I like the spirit behind that tradition. Aknowledge how important nature is and her rithm, respect that with a special moment. Maybe I will celebrate it this year. Maybe not. If I feel like it 😉
    Looking forward to your december posts. Kind regards, Patty (a Dutch woman living in Germany)

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  3. Ser julen som en (hellig) pause midt i ræset. Pauser bør ophøjes til helligdomme i disse tider hvor hver 9. offentligt ansatte er sygemeldt med stress. Men nissen….Andrea….Føler mig stødt på nissens vegne over at du reducerer ham til at være Santas Hjælper. Han (og hans grød på loftet) har da ikke noget med Julemanden at gøre!

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  4. Andrea, thanks for an interesting post. Lego Yule calendars. 🙂
    I am with you on trying not to plan out holidays too much. . We do minimum, no preparations. If kids insist on Christmas tree, we get the tree. Usually end up walking in the forest or visiting with some animals some place on Christmas, with no real purpose.
    Kids insisted on turkey this past Thanksgiving – I almost never made turkey previous years. So we cooked the turkey – which they were nervous about, they felt sad for the bird to go into the oven. 🙂 So they came up with a game to be two little turkeys and me being a mean hunter trying to hunt them, but they would win and beat me up in the end. So we played for hours while turkey was cooking. Then dad showed up, so I became a good hunter, dad became a bad vulture trying to eat the turkeys, and I had to shoot the vulture. So we played some more. 🙂 And then we felt like visiting a local farm to feed the sheep and chickens, to pet the horses, and to watch how funny Mr Wayne makes candies 1890s style on a wood stove, and makes cool string tricks while sugar is boiling. . And it was so much fun, and it just happened, no planning, no parties. So yes, I am with you, just do whatever it feels like doing. 🙂
    I just have one question for you: what makes a “practicing heathen”? Can you be a non-practicing heathen? 🙂

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    1. That sounds very cosy! Animals are a big part of yule I think. Well, a practising heathen… hmm…. I meant: I´ve been studying these traditions for many years and have done many rituals with likeminded thourhg the years, reinventing, reconstructioning an ancient worldview 🙂

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  5. Hej Andrea! Jag skriver till dig på svenska, då jag är helt säker på att du kan det efter fyra år i Värmland. Din blogg har varit så inspirerande för mig att följa. Jag kommer med glädje att följa din decembergåva. Jag skulle gärna vilja skicka en sång till dig och din familj som jag har blivit inspirerad av via just dina underbara texter som du delar med dig av. Jag känner mig så otroligt lik dig på många sätt men du är definitivt modigare än jag.

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  6. New to your blog. Love it! Spent some time in Scandinavia during medical school. Why do we do these crazy things we do…run and buy things we don’t need and race around to get things that aren’t necessary, adding work, adding stress?? I wish I knew. I try to stop. I do celebrate Christmas/Yule because I am a seeker of the light. A single candle in the darkness is all it takes. But I need to get rid of the other things that come along with that celebration that dampen the light I seek. Your blog is food for thought/ an inspiration.

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