a1sx2_Thumbnail1_golden-holly.jpgYule is a tough time of year for me. Not because there is anything tragic. My holiday memories are pleasant. I am the only child of a single mom, who lived far from her family of birth. Christmas was just she and I opening presents and she would make little Cornish game hens for Christmas dinner. Sometimes we would join friends of hers but it was always congenial. My birthday is also at this time of year – the 23rd – as is hers – the 19th.  She was very careful to make sure I got separate birthday and Christmas presents. As an adult, I suffer from too much celebrating, and not enough of it being meaningful. Not to put too fine a point on it, but by the time New Year’s Eve comes around, I’m pretty done with celebrating, thanks-for-asking.

Something I realized was that, as an adult, I really didn’t have Yule traditions of my own. And really, its just in the last five years or so that I realized I wanted to celebrate my Pagan holiday in my own home, not just at a local gathering. Many of the trappings of Christmas are Pagan anyway, the tree, the holly, the wreaths, and of course, the Yule log. When I was a kid, I loved decorating the tree and putting up holiday decorations while listening to carols. Baking cookies was another favorite – and of course – eating them.

But not all my Christmas holiday traditions translated smoothly to Yule. The music was very problematic indeed. Last year I set about collecting Pagan Yule music. I found a few things that were ok, often with poor production values, and then at Rites of Spring I found a CD of Yule music by MotherTongue. So this year I have that to listen to. I also have the music from the South Park Christmas Special, which is my antidote for too much Christian music that I can’t tune out.

The there is the cookie thing. The bummer about a degree in Nutrition is that you know exactly what you’re eating and the consequences of doing so. I gave up gluten 12 years ago, so that means I couldn’t eat those cookies that were coming out of the oven, so I stopped making them. I do bake; my husband used to make banana breads for friends and clients, and I’ve pretty much taken that over. But I can’t eat them. So I bake in large batches, and smell chocolate chips, and try not to drool too much.

This Yule season is definitely better. I listen to my Yule music while I bake my banana breads, and I think carefully about who these breads are for; the people in our lives that we care about, and to whom we are grateful for their help and assistance. I have collected a number of lovely gluten-free recipes and make those for the people I know who share my issue. I have a small tree that I put up on my last trip to Maine and it is awaiting our arrival. All I have to do is decorate when we get settled in. It seems to be working. I feel happier this year than I have for a long time. I’m even prepared to cheerfully participate in the New Year’s celebration of my husband’s choice, an event I cared little for even as a child.

What are your cherished traditions? What makes Yule meaningful and brings those feelings of good cheer? If something is not working, how can you change it to accomplish the goal? How do you balance the various holidays? Share your answers and especially your favorite music!