Why do we Witches feel the need to give gifts this time of year at Christmas and Yule? Most of the pressure is from Christian society and the materialistic culture we live in. From October on we are driven by commercials to buy buy buy for ourselves and for others. It is estimated in the US that the average consumer shells out $1000 in gifts and purchases. If we do not run up our credit cards and give to all our relatives and friends then we are looked upon as cheap and greedy. It has all become a game of who can spend the most to impress their friends and family. But maybe we are just poor and cannot afford such gifts. Or maybe we just do not buy into this feeding frenzy out of moral reasons.
In Christianity I think the main religious motivation is to emulate the three wise men who brought the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Baby Jesus, obviously a myth well blown up over the years. In the past we just gave simple gifts we could afford and make, maybe a knitted sweater, or a gift of food, or even something we had that we did not use and so re-gifted. Now we have to buy the latest toy and electronic gadget made in China.
I am not going to get into here the roots of Christmas, which have been copiously written about before. We all know this Christian holiday and all its trappings come from Pagan roots.
And i am not going to get on my “Wiccan” high broom and condemn the tradition of gifting this time of year. I think originally in the old times that mid-winter was a time to share what you had with your family and neighbors so we could all make it through the cold brutal winter (at least here in the northern hemisphere). Yea we can all be rebels and just refuse to celebrate our culture’s holiday completely, but that often stirs up more trouble and hard feelings than just going along with the flow in some small way. If you can afford it then just give something you have made, or something that is made in your local economy, something that someone can really use instead of another stupid tie or toy that will soon be forgotten. After all its all about being with your family and friends and having a good time and feeling good together, so why introduce some controversy to stir everyone up? Just smile and choke out the words Merry Christmas and eat the stuffing and mashed potatoes and politely avoid the factory grown turkey. I have gone through this long enough all i can advise is to just chill out, no matter what your religious orientation. Keep to your principles, but tone down your armor.
Let me share what I have done the last two decades. I do not celebrate the Hallmark Christian holidays, except to go to a communal meal with my family. I do not exchange gifts, using the excuse that I really do not have the money to do so (which is true) and have run out of ideas of what to buy for people after doing this for most of my life. After the meal I bug out before the gift giving begins just to avoid the embarrassment. I have told my family to Not give me gifts. Of course my mother always still comes up with something even if it is only a $20 bill or some raisin filled cookies. I give my gifts during the year. If I see something at a store or flea market and it speaks to me for someone, then i buy it and give it to them either right away or for their birthday, which to me is a more sacred event than Jesus birthday. It confused people at first, but eventually they got used to “ole weird Uncle Lee” over the years.
I have been to Witch Yule celebrations where they tried to keep up the tradition of giving gifts with everyone buying something and then picking numbers and if they did not like the gift then they could trade it. But it turned out the person who could only afford something simple would be embarrassed as their gift was passed around. I find it better if everyone just give something perishable and useful, like baked goods, and then everyone was happy. Or give a gift of a contribution to a local food bank or other worthy cause. A good hug and I Love You is more precious than another pentagram xmas tree ornament.
The Witches Yule does not have to be some big emotional confrontation with one’s Christian relatives and friends. Just tone it down and chill out and go along just a little with the game and everyone will be happy. Blessed upcoming Yule, and don’t waste the energy to turn it into some soapbox revolutionary ordeal.