Hail! I am so happy to be writing this for TAC and sharing some ideas for family traditions with you!
The holiday season is always a magical time for children. As parents, we try to make each year memorable and special. As Heathen parents, we have a unique challenge to creatively incorporate our faith into this precious time.
Let me talk for a minute about traditions. Childhood passes in a blur, and traditions are usually the best and most memorable parts. Small or big, it doesn't matter what your family traditions are. They will be cherished memories someday for you and your kids.
Now, specifically regarding Yule, we are lucky that most of the secular traditions are based on much older pagan practices. Considering that many of us have extended family members of differing faiths, this is a blessing. Our kids won't have to feel left out while watching holiday specials or attending dinner at Grandma's.
Here are some ideas I have found or come up with. Some of these traditions you are familiar with, but I have added a Heathen spin. I hope you find something that inspires you for the holidays!
1) Santa Claus
I loved waiting on Santa Claus when I was little, and I love seeing my kids' eyes sparkle when they get excited for his visit.
There are many different back grounds and origins for Santa Claus, and several of them are from the Northern Traditions. His ties with Odin are what I am going to focus on right now.
Santa can be related to Odin when he is on the Wild Hunt. His eight-legged horse became eight reindeer. Children used to leave hay out to feed Sleipnir on his long journey and Odin would thank them by filling their shoes with candy.
Since Santa is based on Odin anyway, you could explain that "Santa" is one of his names, or you could just call him Papa Odin in your house. I would still explain that other people call him Santa, just so there is no confusion when they talk with other kids or watch TV.
2) Yule Tree
Putting up a Christmas tree is a modern tradition, based on ancient celebrations of life. It is a scientific fact that bringing elements of nature into our homes improves the mood and health of a family. Especially during winter, having a beautiful and colorful center piece is very uplifting. There are many ways you can also incorporate the Gods, Ancestors, and/or Wights in this practice.
Wights: Decorate a tree outside as a family. You can buy cheap plastic baubles, or make home made ornaments. If your homemade ornaments are made from birdseed or peanut butter, make it an offering to your local wights.
Here is a tutorial on birdseed ornaments:
You could make a "Family Tree". If you are lucky enough to know your family history and have some old photos, it would just take a little time and a trip to a photo center. And maybe some ribbon.
Print out some photos of your ancestors, their houses, their favorite things, and anything else that reminds you of them. Poke a hole and thread some ribbon into these pictures, or find some ornaments to add them to. Write down their names on the backs of the ornaments. Your kids can learn their names even if you aren't there to tell them (for the third time) who it is on each ornament.
As you decorate the tree together each year, tell any of the stories you know about each picture. You will have a beautiful dedication to your ancestors that will help your children learn to honor them and include them into their lives.
Here is a simple tutorial on making different kinds of photo ornaments:
Okay, I saved my favorite tree idea for last: make a World Tree. Get ornaments for everything that the Sagas mention on Yggdrasil (such as a snake, squirrel, and an eagle)
Other ornaments to include are:
. "House" ornaments for the different halls
. An ornament representing each of the Gods
.Ornaments for each of the Gods' familiar animals
.An ornament for each rune
.The Gods' chosen weapons or vehicles
.The Sun and Moon
. Anything else you want to include from the Sagas
Tell stories as you place them onto the tree, and as your kids get older they can tell the stories with you. This is a great learning tool for the younger kids about the various Gods and the World Tree.
Personally, this idea seems the most costly, but also the most educational and fun. If you are like me and can't afford to buy an entire tree's worth of custom and unique decorations all at once, then take it slow and just buy a little at a time. Also, never forget the value in crafting something yourself. This is an especially rewarding task if it honors the Gods.
If this is something you want to do, then over the next few years plan on aquiring or making all of the various ornaments for a World Tree for Yule.
Any of these ideas can be done on a small 4ft. tree separate from the one with everyone's favorite family ornaments.
3) Yule Logs - This is an old tradition that is making a comeback in some Pagan households.
Make a Yule log from the bottom of your tree (saved for next year, or the beginning of spring, however you choose to do it). If you have an artificial tree, find a suitable log for each year, have your family write down all their wishes for the coming year on it, and burn it on the solstice.
Another option is turning a log into a candle holder and burn candles for the twelve nights of Yule. This is a good idea if you don't have access to a safe place for a large fire. Re-use this log every year, burn it on the last day of Yule, or burn it to welcome spring in a few months.
If you live in an area where it is unsafe to burn, burying your Yule log is another way to return it to the land. Plus, it will help add nutrients to your soil. Just don't forget, we are welcoming the Sun back. So having candles or special lights will tie this theme into that ceremony.
If you want to follow a slightly more modern tradition, try baking a Yule Log cake for a holiday feast. And because I like wishes, I would still try to include everyone adding their wishes to the cake mix before it's baked. Here are some inspirations:
4) Holiday Movies
It's true that there are not a lot of Pagan family holiday movies out there. However, there are a few gems and watching a movie together is great quality time. And, it's one of the best no-hassle traditions you could start
. The Hogfather - This movie has some great Heathen friendly themes, but still has a holiday feel to it. It has some dark humor, and a little violence, so use your own discretion.
. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus- This movie is based on L. Frank Baum's children's book, and is largely focused around various types of fairies. There are at least two different versions of it out there, so hopefully you can find it and enjoy.
. Lord of the Rings or Hobbit trilogy - Or both! Why not have a seasonal marathon? J. R. R. Tolkien was largley influenced by the old Norse stories, making it appropriate for Heathen families year round.
. Harry Potter - Just some family friendly magical fun, and the holiday scenes are always beautiful.
It doesn't matter what movie you pick, but sometime in December make sure you gather around with blankets and hot cocoa as a family for some cinema magic.
5) Make an Offering
It can be to your house wights, land wights, ancestors, or Gods. Do it as a family and with reverence. It will become a fun and meaningful experience.
It can be a place you set at your Yule dinner for your ancestors or treats for Sleipnir the night before he brings Odin. (These treats can be holiday cookies or apples, depending on your preferences.)
There are a million things you could do with your family to celebrate this season. I hope there were a few ideas that inspired you on this list, but here are a few more ideas to help you on your way.
Make your own ornaments!
Here are some kid friendly activities.
Another idea to try is to make a special, seasonal dish.
Have a Blessed Yule!