Christmas: Celebrate the season outside the box

Ruth McCullagh

Baha’i, Wiccan students may worship differently but enjoy the holidays just the same

Becca Liptok, a Dining Services employee at Kent State, is Wiccan and celebrates the pagan holiday Yule during the winter solstice. Liptok said candles and pine branches are symbolic of the holiday.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Becca Liptok and Carmel Clavin celebrate Christmas like most Americans. With family and friends they decorate a Christmas tree, open gifts and eat a holiday meal.

But Liptok, a cashier at Prentice Cafeteria, and Clavin, sophomore international relations major, participate in the yearly traditions not because they believe in Christmas, but because their families do.

Clavin, who is a member of the Baha’i faith along with her mother and brother, exchanges gifts with her extended family on Christmas out of respect for them.

“This is their tradition, so we celebrate it with them,” Clavin said. “Not as Baha’is, but as family.”

Clavin said Baha’is acknowledge all messengers from God, regardless of the religion. Although Baha’is recognize prophets such as Jesus Christ, they do not choose to participate in religious celebrations such as Christmas.

Besides exchanging gifts and eating with the extended family, Dec. 25 is fairly quiet at the Clavin home. The major celebration occurs Feb. 26 through May 2, when Ayyam-i-ha, which stands for the days of light, occurs.

“It’s a four-day long festival that prepares for fasting,” Clavin said. “It focuses on charity and community building so there are a lot of parties within the Baja’is’ community.”

While Clavin celebrates Ayyam-i-ha with family and friends, Liptok, who is Wiccan, celebrates the pagan holiday, Yule, during the winter solstice by herself.

“I’m a solitary practitioner whereas others might be involved in a coven,” Liptok said. “The winter solstice is the longest time of the year. It’s also the darkest. This isn’t bad, or evil, it’s just dark.”

The winter solstice falls on Dec. 21. Throughout the day, Liptok will be giving thanks.

“I give thanks for the past year and the year to come,” Liptok said. “I give thanks to everyone first before giving thanks for myself.”

Liptok explained that Yule is the turning of the pagan year, which is symbolized by a wheel.

Green Witchcraft defines Yule as “when the Goddess gives birth to the God, a familiarity tale from which Christianity evolves one of its major holidays.”

“I believe that Wicca is centered around a god and a goddess – a lord and a lady,” Liptok said.

Wicca can be expressed through the Rede, which in Liptok’s opinion is similar to the Christians’ Golden Rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Wiccans say “- an’ ye harm none, do what you will.”

During the Yule celebration, Liptok said she usually decorates a tree with popcorn and cranberries. She also lights three candles – one for the Lord, one for the Lady and the other is for her – and sets them in a Yule log.

“Yule logs are actual things,” Liptok said. “They’re pine logs with holes drilled in them for candles.”

Liptok explained the celebration is an old tradition, which is still carried on.

Although Liptok and Clavin don’t celebrate Christmas for traditional reasons, both spend the time with family and friends.

“It’s about unity,” Clavin said. “Really, the whole idea of Christmas is to spend time with one’s family and to observe a holy day, not to give gifts.”

Contact features correspondent Ruth McCullagh at [email protected].