Friday, April 21, 2017

celebrating litha instead of christmas

This post is a gathering of a few ideas on how to celebrate Midsummer's Day, also known as Litha or the Summer Solstice, instead of Christmas. It is of course most helpful to people living in the southern hemisphere. However, I know most of my readers experience a midwinter Christmas in the north. I also know that pagan is a uselessly broad term - my own family's spirituality looks nothing like most paganism definitions. Nevertheless, I hope my sharing, even if not specific to your own season or spirituality, will at least inspire you to contemplate how you might serve your own needs and religious callings either on December 21st (Midsummer's Day) or the 25th.



Advent

Midsummer is a time to honour the Lord of Light, the sun king. Following an Advent tradition towards midsummer is more about accumulation than opening or taking things away.

When my daughter was small, instead of an advent calendar we had a painted paper sun attached to the wall with white tack. Every day, it moved up towards a pinnacle which represented Midsummer, the longest day. Along with tiny chocolates, there was a written blessing - a gift of shining light and love - for each day.

Another idea for Advent is to pin up a picture of a golden-haired king with a 12-pointed crown. (I personally believe in a short advent for younger children). Or 13 points if you want to include the sacred number of the Mother. Each day, the child can place a star on the king's crown.

If you worship the Oak King instead of God as Light, then you may prefer to pin up a picture of a tree, and attach leaves for each day ... or have empty branches in a vase, and hang a leaf for each day.

Every day of advent, go out and pick a wildflower which you can add to a vase. As you are adding the flower, you might want to say a prayer or give a blessing to someone in the family. On Litha eve, take out these flowers and press them.

Make a series of pockets from felt and inside place a gemstone, leaf, acorn, dried rosebud, or other piece of nature, along with a blessing or a note about some special activity to plan to do that day.


Midsummer Decorating

Instead of killing a tree to decorate, you can bring in branches, place them in a vase, and hang them with handmade flowers, leaves, and stars.

Or have a vase of fresh flowers on a table, surrounded by gold-painted stones.

Make paper chains from red, yellow, and orange crepe paper to hang around the house.

Hang painted cardboard suns in the windows or make cellophane stars.

Hang a wreath or bunch of flowers on your front door.


Crafts for Children

Make fairy windchimes using ribbons, tiny silver bells and gemstones.

Sun weaving with wool and coloured paper.

Sew a sun doll.

Make a fairy maypole using cardboard and crepe paper streamers.

Print out and put together this sun box.

Make a sun fairy wand.

Plant sunflowers.

Make a sun wheel for your garden.

Make a lavender star.

More ideas here.

If you are sending out seasonal cards, rather than staid expressions of "seasonal joy", send a blessing by writing in each one what you like best about the person you are sending it to. Also add a flower over which you have said a small prayer of peace and happiness for the recipient.


For Adults

If you are pagan but not interested in Wiccan magic practices, group rituals, or old kitchen witchery - if you just believe in the old gods and want to celebrate this season without hocus pocus, here are some gentle ideas for adults at Litha, not involving children.

Take a nature walk - in the woods, along the beach.

Dance together when no one else is around.

Donate food and clothes to charity.

Cleanse your house with natural, flower-based cleaners. Sweep the hearth.

Host a barbecue or picnic.

Do something special for your husband.

Light a candle and pray for the peace and happiness of your marriage, or your family, or the world.

Rent a good version of Shakespeare's A Midsummernight's Dream and having a movie evening with honey-coated popcorn and wine.

Write a letter to your father telling him how you honour and love him.

Gather berries at local farms.

Meditate upon the spiritual themes which summer arises in your heart and mind.


On Litha Eve

Watch the sunset and tell stories of good kings and brave, honourable knights. Stories of flower fairies, promises kept, dreams redeemed.

Visit the woods and sing songs, make circles from flower petals, leave fruit for the birds.

Visit the beach and leave coils of shells or stones in the sand.

Set out colourful silk cloth prayer flags in your garden.

Ring a delicate bell at midnight for any children who are lying awake hoping to see or hear evidence of the Litha fairies.

Sprinkle glitter and flower petals on the floor so when the children wake in the morning they will see the fairies have been, leaving them presents.


On Litha Morning

Instead of paper crowns from crackers, make leaf crowns or flower wreaths hung with brightly coloured ribbons.

Wrap gifts in muslin and silk cloths instead of paper.

Light a candle and say a prayer or sing before opening gifts.

Burn incence.

Sit in a circle to open gifts.

Have father dress up as the sun king or forest king and bring gifts in a sack.

Lay out beads or genstones in circles so they can soak in the sun through the day. In the afternoon or the next day, make them into bracelets.


Through the Day

Have a picnic lunch.

Set up little tents for the children. Each one could contain a different activity or special food.

Make a summer pinata by gluing leaves to a paper mached balloon.

Since a special song, say a prayer, drink a toast, or scatter flower petals at noon.


Litha Night

Have a bonfire.

Fill your garden with tea light candles and have a picnic dinner.

Sing goodnight to the sun.


Food

Fruit salad
Vegetable and herb salad
Coiled bread
Sun cake (however you want it - for example, a sponge cake with jam, cream, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with clean rose petals.)
Sunflower seed bars
Strawberries dipped in honey
Fruit cake
Rose sugar
Find the sun inside apples by cutting them open horizontally


Gift ideas

For stockings or otherwise. Most of these you can make yourself. Trust me! Many of them I have made and it's easier than you might think.

Fleece fairies
Felt dolls
Silk cuddle doll
Solar dyed cloths or tshirts
Willow whistle
Soft-coloured muslin or silk cloths for playtime
Modelling beeswax
Felt gnomes
Felt finger puppets
Hand-carved dolls' furniture
Fairy garden
Painted stones
Fairy baby in a cradle
Candles
Handmade books
Magic wands


Explaining to Family

If you have extended family who are not pagan, who believe strongly in another religion, or who simply sneer at anything they don't follow themselves, then don't explain about your December tradition unless you want to. Just say you are doing your own thing at home ... Or don't say anything, simply do it and don't invite them.

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