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Author Topic: General/Non-Specific: Holiday Advice  (Read 837 times)

Mayonaka

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Holiday Advice
« on: December 02, 2019, 07:27:18 pm »
So this might be really stupid to ask, but my family is getting ready for Christmas (we're all Christian), and one of our guests is Pagan ("Closer to Wiccan than anything"). Christian stuff kind of seems to make them uncomfortable, but they're too polite to say. I was wondering what, if anything, we could do to help them feel included, and have a nice time.
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ehbowen

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2019, 03:40:46 am »
So this might be really stupid to ask, but my family is getting ready for Christmas (we're all Christian), and one of our guests is Pagan ("Closer to Wiccan than anything"). Christian stuff kind of seems to make them uncomfortable, but they're too polite to say. I was wondering what, if anything, we could do to help them feel included, and have a nice time.

Speaking as another Christian, my advice would be to let them know that they are and make them feel welcome to participate in your celebration for the feasting, the giving of gifts, the conversation and family time without any pressure to participate in religious activities. That doesn't mean that you should curtail your own religious activities, at all, but allow them to take the position of a respectful spectator

For their part, I would encourage them to follow Miss Manners's (Judith Martin's) advice. As best I remember it, it is, "Bowing the head is not prayer, nor is it consenting to prayer. It is a gesture of respect for the religious activity which others are conducting in your presence." May respect and forbearance be present on both sides of your family's Christmas celebrations.
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Jenett

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2019, 10:56:59 am »
So this might be really stupid to ask, but my family is getting ready for Christmas (we're all Christian), and one of our guests is Pagan ("Closer to Wiccan than anything"). Christian stuff kind of seems to make them uncomfortable, but they're too polite to say. I was wondering what, if anything, we could do to help them feel included, and have a nice time.

I think the best way to handle this depends on a bunch of factors.

First, as someone who is Pagan, if I know I'm going to visit people over Christmas, who celebrate it, I expect to deal with their celebration, y'know? This is the reason I don't visit family over Christmas, because Not My Holiday, and opting out gets complicated. (And I do actually like a lot of carols and pieces of the traditional services.)

But what would help me, as a guest, is clear information about what that means for this particular family.

Does it mean everyone goes to midnight services, but Christmas day is mostly family time and presents? Does it mean that there's an explicit lengthy grace or prayer said before every meal? Does it mean there are specific food customs are linked to the religious traditions? (i.e. if no one eats until everyone gets back from services on Christmas Day, that's a useful thing to know in advance!) Basically, anything that affects household schedule (people being out late/up late), food or timing of food, or expectations for participation.

So what I'd suggest is giving your guest clear info in advance about what the religious pieces are during the visit - everything from day to day stuff (like grace) to specific services. And at the same time, let them know what the options are, so something like "At 10:30, we'll get ready to leave for midnight services. You're certainly welcome to come with us if you'd like, but it's also fine to stay home with a good book or whatever else you'd find enjoyable." or "We'll have Christmas carols on during most of those two days, but if there's any you find particularly enjoyable or particularly dislike, I'm glad to edit the queue."

I'd probably recommend doing it in an email, if possible, so they can have time to think about it (or do a conversation followed up by something written).

Depending on the timing, you might also want to ask if your guest has any particular traditions they'd like to share. In other words, if they're going to be there over the solstice, they might like a chance to either do something on their own, or to share something simple with everyone else there, but they may feel uncertain about asking about using candles, for example, or doing something not-Christian in your home. The only way to sort that out is actual conversation, so figuring out what your boundaries and limits are and communicating them is probably the best place to start.
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Kylara

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2019, 02:51:04 pm »

So what I'd suggest is giving your guest clear info in advance about what the religious pieces are during the visit - everything from day to day stuff (like grace) to specific services. And at the same time, let them know what the options are, so something like "At 10:30, we'll get ready to leave for midnight services. You're certainly welcome to come with us if you'd like, but it's also fine to stay home with a good book or whatever else you'd find enjoyable." or "We'll have Christmas carols on during most of those two days, but if there's any you find particularly enjoyable or particularly dislike, I'm glad to edit the queue."

I'd probably recommend doing it in an email, if possible, so they can have time to think about it (or do a conversation followed up by something written).


This is really excellent advice!  Personally I am really open and interested in how other people celebrate their faith and their practices, but I was absolutely caught off guard one year, while at some very Christian friend's for Christmas, when they busted out a birthday cake and we all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It didn't bother me, but I was sort of inclined to giggle, which I know would have been highly disrespectful, and if I had a little bit of forewarning, I wouldn't have had any issues, it was just I was kind of blindsided.

I also think making sure they know that no one is going to be offended or make a big deal out of them not participating in things (I am assuming that no one will...) can set a lot of fears to ease.  I think that sometimes there is the worry that people will either insist you do things you might not want to, or make a fuss because you politely declined.

If it's something that would be okay for everyone there, another option is to share what you will be doing and then ask if your guest would like to add in things, from their perspective.  If they would feel comfortable, for example, lighting a candle to welcome back the light, and saying a little something.  Some people really want to be able to share bits of what they do, and some don't, so this is really a discussion that would need to happen (you don't want to put your guest on the spot and make them feel like they HAVE to do something to represent their beliefs...in front of all the family)

Really, talking is key, and giving them time to talk on their terms is really helpful, so either bring it up "Hey, I'd like to sit down with you sometime and talk about the holidays, when would be good?" so they have time to gather their thoughts, or through an email/text, where they can think about things before responding.
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Mayonaka

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2019, 08:02:41 am »
I'd probably recommend doing it in an email, if possible, so they can have time to think about it (or do a conversation followed up by something written).

Depending on the timing, you might also want to ask if your guest has any particular traditions they'd like to share. In other words, if they're going to be there over the solstice, they might like a chance to either do something on their own, or to share something simple with everyone else there, but they may feel uncertain about asking about using candles, for example, or doing something not-Christian in your home. The only way to sort that out is actual conversation, so figuring out what your boundaries and limits are and communicating them is probably the best place to start.

Thank you for the advice! They've spent Christmas with us before, so they already know what we do. I only found out they were Wiccan/Pagan (I'm sorry, I don't know if there's a difference) this year.

I talked to them a bit, they know my family isn't cool with that kind of stuff, but I don't mind them practicing around me. I told them there's a few places I know that specialize in Wiccan/Pagan supplies if they would like to go, and they said they were very touched. They also seemed grateful that I got them a Midwinter card, instead of a Christmas one.

We also talked about altars and things like that, so I'm going to give them a spot for one, and pick up some incense, and things for them.

I don't know if that comes off as too much to you guys, but this person means a lot to me, and I want them to have a good winter. They know what I am and am not comfortable with, so I don't see an issue with letting them do their thing.
“Sparrows and cats will live in my shoe,
Sooner than I will live with you.
Fish will come walking out of the sea,
Sooner than you will come back to me.”
― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Mayonaka

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2019, 08:15:08 am »
This is really excellent advice!  Personally I am really open and interested in how other people celebrate their faith and their practices, but I was absolutely caught off guard one year, while at some very Christian friend's for Christmas, when they busted out a birthday cake and we all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It didn't bother me, but I was sort of inclined to giggle, which I know would have been highly disrespectful, and if I had a little bit of forewarning, I wouldn't have had any issues, it was just I was kind of blindsided.

I also think making sure they know that no one is going to be offended or make a big deal out of them not participating in things (I am assuming that no one will...) can set a lot of fears to ease.  I think that sometimes there is the worry that people will either insist you do things you might not want to, or make a fuss because you politely declined.

I had a friend that did the birthday cake thing! I get what you mean though, celebrating with others without knowing what to expect can catch you off guard.

My family isn't the most traditional when it comes to Christmas. Our Christmas specials consist of the Supernatural and Futurama Christmas episodes, and a couple of Christmas horror films, which I'm sure would totally throw off someone that isn't ready for it, especially when we have like an angel topper and a nativity and all that Christian stuff.

I also find other beliefs really interesting. This might seem weird, but when I find out someone I know has different religious views, I take a crash course in that religion, just so I can understand it better, and so I can be more respectful of it, and their practices.
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Fish will come walking out of the sea,
Sooner than you will come back to me.”
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Jenett

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2019, 08:47:32 am »
Thank you for the advice! They've spent Christmas with us before, so they already know what we do. I only found out they were Wiccan/Pagan (I'm sorry, I don't know if there's a difference) this year.

There is indeed a difference - if it'd help you have better conversations with them:

Pagan is generally used for one of a grouping of religions and magical practices that come out of a combination of pre-Christian practices, folk magic tradition, Western ritual magic traditions, and a bunch of other things. There are articles linked from this page on my website that explain different aspects of this.

Wicca is a specific religion and set of practice within that grouping. People use the term in really different ways, so it's often a "Need to ask a few questions to figure out what they're doing" label. (More on that here.)
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Kylara

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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2019, 03:29:50 pm »
I don't know if that comes off as too much to you guys, but this person means a lot to me, and I want them to have a good winter. They know what I am and am not comfortable with, so I don't see an issue with letting them do their thing.

It sounds like you are a great friend to me!  If you are worried about it being 'too much', just remember to offer options but don't push them to do stuff.  Sometimes just having the opportunity means a whole lot.

My family isn't the most traditional when it comes to Christmas. Our Christmas specials consist of the Supernatural and Futurama Christmas episodes, and a couple of Christmas horror films, which I'm sure would totally throw off someone that isn't ready for it, especially when we have like an angel topper and a nativity and all that Christian stuff.

I also find other beliefs really interesting. This might seem weird, but when I find out someone I know has different religious views, I take a crash course in that religion, just so I can understand it better, and so I can be more respectful of it, and their practices.

I am right there with you in being interested in other people's religions and beliefs.  I love learning about what other people do, and what is important to them, especially if they are someone I know and care about.

Your family Christmas sounds lovely!  And now I want to go search out Christmas horror movies....we've watched Die Hard as a Christmas movie before. 
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Re: Holiday Advice
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2019, 06:51:39 pm »
We also talked about altars and things like that, so I'm going to give them a spot for one, and pick up some incense, and things for them.

I think probably if it were me I'd honestly not put in too much effort getting incense etc, unless you're aware already of whether/what sort your friend uses.

Instead,

If you are worried about it being 'too much', just remember to offer options but don't push them to do stuff.  Sometimes just having the opportunity means a whole lot.

...this (offering space and opportunity) would be the most thoughtful gesture, I think.

Good on you   :)
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