Winter seemingly has always been a peculiar and extraordinary time of year. It’s hard not to feel a sense of wonderment during the darker days and long nights. The aura of culmination and the anticipation of new life and new beginnings surrounds us all. There are many articles and advice columns on ways to cope with this time of year, but what do we do as Satanists to acknowledge and manage this special season?
While we do not celebrate the tale of a virgin birth or any other stories of the miraculous, we do celebrate, well, whatever we want. The winter is seen as a time of prolonged darkness and death when much of nature is entering hibernation and once flourishing plant life withers. People have historically used this seasonal time of darkness to reflect on the year that is ending and to let go of negative feelings or behaviors in order to begin the upcoming year anew. Many pagan rituals have been co-opted by other religions to form what are now the major winter holidays, and it is these early pagan ceremonies that many Satanists borrow from to commemorate this time of year. Whether it is Saturnalia, Krampus, Yule, or Winter Solstice, the themes for winter time celebrations usually revolve around gift-giving, togetherness, reflection, and general revelry. While no Satanist must adhere to any formal holiday, ritual, or celebration, there is something to be said about observing special or significant moments with community. There are clinically proven psychological reasons why humans have historically come together to celebrate periodically. Humans are social animals and the need for human contact is actually greater than the need for safety. This may also be one reason why many people feel depressed during this time of year. The feeling of being socially excluded activates certain parts of the brain that process physical pain. Social exclusion can also be coupled with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is especially common from late fall through early spring. Even if you choose not to celebrate a specific holiday or acknowledge the season in any way, it’s hard to escape the festivities surrounding the winter months. If this time of year is especially distressing in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to a fellow Satanist.
Gift giving is another prominent element to the winter holidays which raises many conversations regarding consumerism. What started out as the gifting of small tokens or treats many years ago has evolved into a capitalistic frenzy. There is a certain amount of joy in choosing the perfect gift for someone and seeing their face light up when they open it. There is that excitement of tearing into a gift chosen especially for you. Alternatively, there is the horror and distress of hearing news accounts of people being trampled to death attempting to snag huge holiday sales. Of course, people should not feel pressured into doling out gifts. Buying thoughtless and useless items just to fulfill a sense of obligation isn’t just silly, it’s wasteful. Again, you should feel free to choose whatever elements you desire to be a part of your holidays. Many choose to solely exchange hand-made items instead of store-bought gifts. Others eliminate this tradition altogether choosing not to participate in the capitalistic driven slant behind modern winter holidays. Showing your love and appreciation to those you are grateful for can take any form you desire. Utilizing the holiday season to take a moment to express these feelings as the year ends can be especially gratifying.
Decorating for the holidays has exploded from a few customary components to grand displays of lights and robotics. Most of the conventional features stem from pagan traditions such as the Christmas tree which is rooted in the pre-Christian practice of putting up evergreen boughs in winter to encourage the return of the sun. This evolved into utilizing whole trees or “paradise trees” in public spaces in the Middle Ages to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve. This practice was eventually banned by the church which brought the trees from the public sphere into the home. Decorations, like most religious customs, are steeped in symbology. The colors red and green for Christmas symbolize eternal life and the blood of Jesus. Blue and white are traditional Hanukah colors representing the Israeli flag. Kwanzaa utilizes black, red, and green. Black signifies the people, red signifies their struggle, and green represents hope for the future. Like the social aspect of holidays, psychologists have also indicated that decorating for holidays makes us happy. Psychologist Deborah Serani confirmed in an interview that decorating can lift your mood. “It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” she said. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.” Some Satanists definitely feel the positive energy produced from decorating for their holidays. Many put up their own version of holiday trees bedecked in Satanic ornaments and flourishes. There are also Satanic stockings, lights, and other items to adorn your home or office for the special winter months. If you haven’t seen the Snaketivity holiday display set up by The Satanic Temple’s Chicago Chapter, I urge you to look it up.
However you choose to celebrate during this time or not, reach out to your community whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or particularly sad or alone. If you are in a location where a TST chapter is not close by, reach out online. Our religious community is accessible for support whenever you need it. Summed up perfectly in Al Ridenour’s The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas, “Christmas requires the darkness.” Happiest of holidays to all our readers. Hail you all! Ave Satanas!