How is everyone doing out there? I know the holidays can be a really bad time for some people. There is so much loneliness, stress, anxiety, and the pressure of shopping for gifts and spending time with a family that may be abusive, judgmental, bigoted, etc.
These days the world is in a massive cloud of malaise. We're facing war, huge price increases on everything from gas to food, violence against minority communities (like LGBTQ folks), and the continued rise of extremist domestic terrorism. That can add extra anxiety to family gatherings this year, especially if those forces collide and make your holiday get-togethers contentious.
But remember: you DON'T have to bow to the pressure of tradition, society and religion. If being with family members causes you stress, you are 100% allowed to sit this one out. Stay at home and give yourself a free day focused on rest and self-care.
I am lucky and have super awesome, loving parents who accept me as I am, but I've found over time that I am an exception in the parents department. There is so much abuse, judgement and other trauma that goes on in many families. In some cases, my friends have even internalized guilt about being abused, like it's their fault somehow, because their parents or other family members have told them that over and over again. Those people walk into a holiday family gathering and, not surprisingly, immediately go into a PTSD-induced panic attack. They and all of you who struggle with similar family issues are well within your rights to cut off people ─ even family ─ who can't stop putting you back into the victim role.
Some think you owe forgiveness to people who are your biological family no matter what they've inflicted on you. They may be your biological family, but you know what? Fuck them if they can't accept you, your lifestyle, your religion, etc. or if they fall right back into abusive patterns with you. I've seen abuse in action. You deserve to be free of that bullshit. I know many of you coming from an abusive family have worked your asses off growing, changing, and evolving, and you deserve encouragement, respect and support, not disrespect, snarky underhanded comments and a return to abusive patterns by your family.
I realize there is a very strong tradition in this country, particularly among Christians, that one is absolutely required to "honor thy mother and father" no matter what ─ no matter how much abuse and/or judgmental rejection occurred.
But guess what, dear readers? You are Satanists. Bucking tradition is part of our religion. Do the right thing and put yourself first if you are asked to go to stressful family events ─ just say no! You deserve to put your mental well-being first. The First Tenet teaches "compassion within reason" ─ and it's totally within reason for you to draw firm boundaries to protect your mental health. You don't owe abusive people anything, no matter how much they wheedle, cajole or scream.
Instead of going to a stressful family gathering, consider staying at home and making it a deep self-care day. Soak in the tub, catch up on your sleep, read an engaging book, or do whatever else nourishes you.
Or you can choose to spend the day with "chosen family," those who support and encourage you, those who accept you as you are, those who love you without demanding you change. Many of us have made staunch friends in the Satanic community and prefer to spend our holidays celebrating with them.
Overall, you can choose to just ignore the holidays completely (a necessity in our household, where my partner Uruk has serious Christmas-related PTSD); find a way to reimagine your childhood holidays in a more healthy image; or even celebrate a new holiday that is an official part of our religion. As Satanists, we have a December holiday of our own: Sol Invictus. From The Satanic Temple's Official Holidays list:
Sol Invictus: December 25
Celebration of being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge.
The cult of Sol existed within Rome since its early days as a republic, and Invictus was an epithet used for Jupiter, Mars, and Apollo (among others). The festival celebrated these gods and may have also been used to celebrate the winter solstice.
The modern Sol Invictus holiday may include gift exchanges, particularly books. As Satanists, we revere the sharing of knowledge.
In the end, it's totally up to you what you do with your holidays; just try to do things that make you happy and that relieve some of that insane holiday-season anxiety our culture has created.
By refusing to go to stressful holiday gatherings or participate in mass-marketed holidays, you are re-writing your own narrative ─ quite the Satanic thing to do! Celebrate yourself and your freedom instead of bowing to the obligations others try to place on you. You deserve rest, relaxation and the chance to recharge your batteries with those who really love and care about you.
Hail Satan! Hail Thyself!
Lilith Starr is the author of The Happy Satanist: Finding Self-Empowerment (2015) and Compassionate Satanism: An Introduction to Modern Satanic Practice (2021). She is an official Minister of Satan ordained by The Satanic Temple, and is Spokesperson and founder of the Satanic Temple of Washington State. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard and a Master's degree from Stanford. Contact her if you'd like her to speak at your book club or organization, or if you are interested in having her officiate your wedding or other ceremony.