Trees, Traditions, and Snowless Cold Weather

Surprise, surprise, it’s that time of the year again when I feel a little more Germanic than I usually do: Yule!

It’s a day after the nones or 9th day of the month, and we’re nearly finished in decorating our Holiday Tree (I say “holiday tree” because it’s really more of a mix of holidays than just Yule or Christmas). If you think it’s a little too early for Christmas, I’d have you know that Filipinos are total Whos. Christmastide lasts from September to January in most of the country. Talk about Christmas creep.

Holiday lights in Ayala Triangle Park, Makati City

Holiday lights in Ayala Triangle Park, Makati City.

The lights at night. You should see them in action.

The lights at night. You should see them in action.

My family, however, is a little conservative in this regard. Christmastide should, at least, begin after the annual ancestral rites. I reckon it a little odd to put up lights and wreaths and divine baby figurines alongside candles and offerings to the Dead. A time for everything, as they say.

And, that time has come (whobilation!) as we officially started welcoming winter (which is really just mildly cold weather here) on the first new moon after All Souls (which also happens to be the time when the cold northeast winds replace the warm southwest monsoon). By this time, almost everybody’s got their decor up, anyway.

Of course, I’m willing to bet my left arm that 99% of the locals who put up trees and wreaths here have no idea what they’re supposed to mean. There weren’t any holiday trees before the American colonists came, and even when they came over, nobody ever thought about what it was for. (In all fairness, though, I don’t think most of the colonists knew about its significance, either.)

And, whilst it’s unlikely that the ancient Romans and Greeks put up ‘commemorative trees’ to honour the pan-European axis mundi, I see no reason why we – as modern pagans – can’t, especially if it means something to us. In my case, as one who has a couple of German ancestors, has had the Holiday Tree as a family tradition for generations, and as one who generally likes trees and December holidays, it feels very, very appropriate.

Our Holiday Tree
It’s not real, but we treat it as if it were a real tree.

It’s not real, but we treat it as if it were a real tree.

After 10 months of slumber, it gets bathed and is crowned with a golden bough.

After 10 months of slumber, it gets bathed and is crowned with a golden bough.

It is adorned with flowers and sheaves of grain.

It is adorned with flowers and sheaves of grain.

It is showered with spices and aromatic herbs.

It is showered with spices and aromatic herbs.

Because this tree is not just any tree.

Because this tree is not just any tree.

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2 thoughts on “Trees, Traditions, and Snowless Cold Weather

  1. Pingback: A Syncretic Advent | Under Two Trees

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