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The sun is highest in the sky and the days stretch out long and ragged. Cicadas chirrup the seconds, minutes, hours away; the land fades from green to a scorched yellow as we run/ hide/cower below the air conditioning if we are lucky (fans, wet t-shirts and iceblocks if we are not). Between the usual oppressive heat, the commercial insanity, the irrelevance of the persistent imagery of snow-capped Kinkade homes seemingly on fire from the inside, and Santa in his woolly red gear, it’s no wonder that folk of all ilk in Australia don’t necessarily rate December 25 as the jolliest time of year.

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As a pagan, how does one reconcile the juxtaposition of the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ and what everyone is supposedly nominally celebrating (I’m sure the proliferation of the righteous letters in the local rag bring more than a few wry smiles and eye-rolls from pagans and historical scholars alike), with our own Wheel of the Year in the Southern Hemisphere?

You’ve probably got some kind of routine of your own, and for the last few years I have struggled and hopefully made peace with Christmas. I celebrate what I call Yule mid-year, and as a coven, SCOTIF usually have a log, the obligatory veggie roast and gift swapping. We usually shiver our butts off in circle and we always have blessed mulled wine which we look forward to with much fervour! Litha is a much more subdued festival. It’s so hot that it’s hard to summon anything but lethargy in what is a theoretically a powerful time for manifesting. This year, the solstice occurs very closely with a lunar eclipse which has much potential for magic making and general mischief. I’m going to lay low, but I will probably reflect on our Litha ritual which we held a little earlier in order to avoid the madness of this week, and my little mojo pouch that I made in circle which I will bury in my garden on the solstice. We unexpectedly shared the park we chose for our ritual with the town’s carols by candlelight celebration, which made for an ironic and somewhat fitting contrast!

Many pagans choose to have two, seperate celebrations; one for their midsummer festivities, and one for whatever their muggle lives might require. This fits well for most people, although it adds one more party to a month already packed with work functions, an unusual amount of Sagittarians with their birthdays (I’m an Aries so I seem to collect these awesome people), weddings of all bloody things, and end of school concerts.  Pagan midsummers in Australia are usually chilled out affairs which serve as a breather amidst the madness.

I will share a meal with my family on Chrissie Day and I do a little gift-swapping to maintain expectations, but I will seriously consider to do what some of my friends have done and make charity donations in people’s names in the future, and/or volunteer at a local soup kitchen or animal shelter.  My partner and I make a joke out of present wrapping by seeing how far we can push the aforementioned local newspaper into new creative heights as gift wrap. We even have a tree this year, which is an appropriate anarchic black, decked with gold and red sparkles in tribute to the height of summer and the blessings this time of year brings.

Whatever your interpretation of the ‘true’ meaning of the Summer Solstice/Litha/Midsummer/Christmas might be, it’s most certainly a time to reflect on the year that was, and it’s important to take time out for yourself. It’s not an easy time for everyone, and managing expectations & staying safe is important amongst the silly season. Go easy on the alcohol, lollies and soft drink, keep the hassling of your colleagues with the Glee Christmas album to a minimum, and drive safely. Spare a thought for people who might be alone on the day and consider inviting them along for lunch, and the animals who do it tough this time of year (make sure there is plenty of water and a cool place for Fluffy!)

If the reason for the season still baffles you and you come over all Grinch-like, there is nothing wrong with making yourself a darkened air-conditioned bunker full of food, your favourite DVDs and the phone switched off!