Being Pagan in Ireland is a little different, I think, than being Pagan anywhere else. We’re an odd lot, and we value individual strength, as long as it doesn’t upset the apple cart of family/community tradition, or give the neighbours anything bad to talk about.
How does all that translate into today's Irish Christmas? Most folk here go to mass on the eve or day, even if it’s only their token attendance of the year. Besides the fact of the Catholic Church in Ireland essentially stopping anybody from leaving their organisation (is it just me, or is that a little cult-like? Illegal, even?) – Irish people are still stuck in ‘the done thing’, so babies are baptised, kids make communion and confirmation, and most people still get married in the church.
Many of us know that Winter Solstice is a much older tradition than our modern Christmas. There's the world famous Newgrange Alignment, and the new but old City of Dublin Winter Solstice Celebration, with much more going on around the country, publicly and formalised just in the last few years. Before that, you'd have to know someone who knows someone to get a personal invite to a genuine celebration rooted in Irish Spirituality. If you're not familiar, there's a great post by Bernadette over at the Rathcroghan blog.
So, raising kids in Ireland, interacting with non-Pagan friends and family, working, and all that jazz, you kinda have to do the Christmas thing, to some extent at least. But Winter Solstice is still a big deal, and getting more so. How do we Irish Pagans handle that?
This is the time of year we acknowledge the deepest and longest darkness, and make a point of balancing it with the lights of food and fire and feasting, family and friends.
Do I think the sun won't rise unless I am there to greet it? No, not as such... but I guess it doesn't hurt to be sure, right? You're welcome ;o)