November 25, 2023
Several years ago, in early December, I was sitting on my couch sipping a cup of spiced apple cider, feeling quite proud of myself. The tree was up, the entire house was decorated, the stockings were hung on the mantle and a sprig of mistletoe was hanging in the doorway. As I sat there, basking in a sense of accomplishment, I suddenly had an image of Jesus walking through the door.
"Wow!" he said, in my imagination. "Your home looks so festive. What's the occasion?"
With delight, I replied, "We're celebrating your birthday!" Gesturing to the holiday plaque I had just hung up that proclaimed, "Jesus, the Reason for the Season."
"My birthday?" he smiles. "Well, isn't that something!" He walked around the room, taking in the decorations, stopping in front of the brightly lit tree. "Is this for me?" He looked a bit puzzled.
"Um...yes," I replied, hesitantly.
He walked over to the fireplace and gently ran his hands along the stockings. "And these?" he inquired. "These are for me?" I nodded, starting to feel awkward.
He stopped in front of my dancing Santa and pushed the button, chuckling as Santa started gyrating to a holiday tune, but saying nothing else. The sprig of mistletoe hanging from the doorjamb caught his eye. He pointed, "For me?" he asked.
My day dreaming came to a quick stop. With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I knew that none of my lovely decorations had anything to do with Jesus or his birth. While I didn't know the exact history of the tree, stockings and mistletoe, I did know that it all had pagan roots. It was at that moment that Christmas changed for me. I continued to celebrate Christmas, but I kept my faith separate from the holiday.
In the ensuing years, my interest in the history of American traditions has grown, especially those traditions around our major holidays of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. I learned that "pagan" was a derogatory term used by early Christians to describe anyone who adhered to a religion other than Christianity. It was used interchangeably with "heathen" and was directed at the more rural people of the time, i.e., the peasants. As my ancestry is heavily Scotch-Irish and German and I don't descend from royalty, there is a very real possibility that these "pagans" were my ancestors. That piqued my curiosity even more. I wanted to learn about the festivities my Celtic and Germanic kin would have celebrated, especially during the winter solstice, which is close to the day when Christmas is celebrated.
This curiosity has influenced not just my personal life, but my store, Healthy Hippie Trading Co., as well. For this holiday season, I will be stocking the store with non-traditional items including books on the history of pagan holidays, greeting cards and Celtic influenced jewelry, live trees and winter solstice sage bundles. I will also have a few, tongue-in-cheek, items for those with a sense of humor around the holiday season.
The Healthy Hippie Trading Co. is located in the Old Town neighborhood of Tehachapi at 20418 Brian Way. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Extended shopping hours will begin Dec. 4 until the 23 (Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday-Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.).