I struggle with it. I have always avoided the commercialism, and even the big gatherings, and even now that I have young children I prefer to keep it low key. Especially as my daughter's birthday is Boxing Day, its the days after Christmas that I find myself looking forward to, when the pressure is off, the deadline is passed, and we can just relax. In the spiritually aware, alternative thinking corners of the interwebs that I tend to haunt, there is much talk of keeping the holiday season harmonious and calm, of avoiding expensive gifts and unwelcome social expectations, of keeping Christmas, and the Winter Solstice for those of us who prefer to celebrate the longest night, handmade and wholesome, magical and simple. Which is all good, except that the self imposed to do lists and deadlines are still there, and worse than ever. Not only do I want to find everyone I love the perfect present, I want to make it myself, not just to save resources but because I can put more of my energy into it, make something truly meaningful. I don't just want to provide a feast for my family, I want to provide a home-cooked, seasonal, healthy feast. However much or little I take on, that deadline, that one day that is supposed to be perfect, slays me (which is why I am writing this instead of wrapping presents, naturally).
Of course I want to make this season magical for my children, to teach them the power of lights in the darkness, to celebrate family and community and love and creativity. But I want to do that every season, and I am uncomfortable with the way we are supposed to focus all those desires into that one day, even that one week. Its meaningless to me if we only celebrate those things for a few weeks every year. The whole of life needs to be magical, filled with spirit and wonder, with creativity and love. As a mother and as a priestess, I work to create the traditions which express that, but not just on high days and holidays. We need to celebrate love and spirit in our daily lives, all year round, just as strongly as we do at Winter Solstice (whichever of the season's special days you choose to celebrate). Yule is one festival of eight, to a pagan, not the great climax - or anti-climax - which Christmas seems to have become.
So the Hermit and the Eight of Wands are on my altar, to remind me of the cycle, the flow, the movement of time even as the sun stands still. To remind me to hold up the light in the darkness, to keep that awareness of spirit, and to trust that everything else will happen in its due time.