Heathens like me, we call it jól, or Yule, dedicated to the Wild Hunt Sleipnir the eight-legged horse that gave us eight reindeer. For us, the reason for the season is Odin, the jólfaðr or “Yule father” as he was called of old. There is even a kenning, a skald’s metaphor for the season: hugins jól or “a raven’s feast” for Hugin, one of Odin’s two ravens.
Christians were celebrating something else, something different yet full of Pagan trappings, and their reason for the season was, or meant to be, something more otherworldly: the promise of an afterlife rather than the embrace of a life defined by our earthly deeds.
What Heathens wanted, and what they strove for at their assemblies (called a ‘thing’), was good rule. In the days before kings, a rough democracy functioned among the Norse, giving the people rather than kings rule over the land.
Good rule is what any of us want today. It is what most have wanted all down through history. But it is a precious commodity, often dearly bought. And while “Merry Christmas” may be “back” don’t expect good rule for more than a very few.
There is nothing better to ask for than a gift that serves all. As Rome’s philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote,
“Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down on the ploughed fields of the Athenians and on the plains.”
“In truth,” he tells us, “we ought not to pray at all, or we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion.”
Republicans have offered us a different sort of gospel, though few would call it “good news.” Jesus said “the last shall be first, and the first last,” but Trump says, “Nah, let’s just leave it like it is.”
On the opposite side of the coin stands Donald Trump, who prays for nothing if it is not personal gain, whatever the cost to others (he certainly intends there to be no cost to himself). Trump’s dutiful servant at CNN, Corey Lewandowski, told Sean Hannity recently like a prophet fulfilling a prophecy that,
“You can say again, ‘Merry Christmas,’ because Donald Trump is now the president.”
You could always say “Merry Christmas.” President Obama said, “Merry Christmas” every year for eight years:
Of course, they can’t hear a black man they insist is a Muslim say “Merry Christmas.” The words fall on deaf ears and empty hearts.
Nobody was stopping Christians from saying it before. Even non-Christians like me have offered it as a greeting to others and cheerfully accepted the greeting in return. But there is a difference between offering it freely and having it demanded.
There is no freedom in compelling others to follow or celebrate the holidays of others. This has more the feel of an imperative, as in, it’s what a real American says at this time of year. For Republicans, Christmas has become a sort of un-Constitutional religious test.
The implications are lost on no one, least of all Lewandowski. Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald spoke for the rest of us when he tweeted,
“Im SICK of conservatives who whine that they’re victims cause ppl recognize there are other holidays at Xmas time.”
No good rule to be found in the Trump cabal or in the House of Representatives these past eight years. Nothing good at all, in fact. Obstruction. Hate. More hate and a stubborn refusal to demonstrate the protestant work ethic thought so long to underpin the American spirit.
The National Review has a jaded and rather pathetic St. Nick canvassing undeserved funds for an oxymoronic “intelligent conservative thought,” telling us “We saints expect venerating.” Perhaps so, but what NRO wants for Christmas is money to perpetuate their propaganda machine. What they deserve is a lump of coal.
Kings promised good rule. They seldom delivered on it. The Founding Fathers, acting on the cusp of the European Enlightenment, understanding that political power derives from the will of the people, gave us democracy free from religious tyranny.
For Christmas, and for every Christmas to come, Republicans want to give us a lump of coal as they strip those rights and that power away and give it to their rich corporate benefactors.
We shouldn’t expect a lot out of Trump’s empty promise to bring back something that has never left beyond the empty words themselves. Words are cheap. What is important comes from the heart, and Donald Trump, like the Grinch, can’t find his.
Trump isn’t Odin. He isn’t Santa. He certainly isn’t Jesus or any representative of his, no matter what the corrupt Religious Right might claim. Whatever Trump is, he is the antithesis of a season of love and giving.
And all that has been missing these past eight years is an obligation for everyone else to bow to White Christian America.
For the next four years, though Trump sees only white folks gathered around his Yule feast, remember: there is room for all of us at this particular inn.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.