By Joe Perez
A review of the major holidays celebrated in the United States reveals that not a single one is focused specifically on the growth and development of LGBT people. Here’s a proposal for the creation of our own distinctive holiday tradition, starting this month.
Many gay and queer people are noted for our love of merrymaking. We are celebrated entertainers, gracious party hosts, and unsurpassed in the art of throwing a fabulous splash with style.
However, many of us are disconnected from the winter holiday season because of strained relationships with our families or a feeling of disconnection from the season’s religious symbolism. Therefore the holidays can be a source of pain and loneliness.
Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga first celebrated Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday, in 1966, and today it’s celebrated by millions throughout the world African community. However, so far as I know, nobody has ever celebrated a distinctively queer winter holiday. We can all dream that someday such an observance may bring festivities to our homes, churches, temples, mosques, schools, and workplaces.
This year, I will be celebrating a new queer winter holiday called Yuletide. And I’d love company. I propose that a festival shall be created with the specific purpose of protecting and advancing the distinctive cultural traditions associated with the LGBT community.
Yuletide will be a winter holiday that affirms a connectedness to gay cultural identity, and provides a special focal point for our holiday gatherings. I don’t intend this to be a commercial holiday. More than anything, Yuletide should be an opportunity to reflect on LGBT heritage and the principles that have sustained folks like us throughout the ages.
The name "Yuletide" means "Yule greetings." What is a "yule"? Like many terms now associated with the Christian nativity, "yule" actually dates to pagan traditions.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "yule" comes from the Old English "geol," which came from the Norse "jol," a pre-Christian pagan festival at the winter solstice. It is a celebration of the cycle of nature and an affirmation of the goodness and continuity of life.
Although the name has connections to both pagan and Christian religions, Yuletide will be a non-religious holiday. Celebrating the holiday will be open to persons of all religions and spiritual paths, including secular ways of thinking.
I don’t pretend to be a linguist, but I have noticed a queer way of looking at the "Yule" name. In Old English, the word "faggot" originally meant, "bundle of twigs bound up." And "Yule" is commonly found in the phrase "Yule log," a large log formerly put on the hearth on December 24 as the foundation of the fire.
Like Gay Pride celebrations in June that commemorate Stonewall, the Yuletide holiday will allow us to celebrate the goodness of life without shame in who we are. However, the holiday gives us an opportunity to move beyond pride to affirming a healthy, positive identity based on creativity, community, integrity, self-reliance, compassion, and faith.
I propose that Yuletide shall be a six-day celebration to be held beginning on December 19 and continuing through December 24. There is one day for each color on the rainbow flag. Each day of the observance shall be linked not only to a color of the rainbow, but also to spiritual principles of special relevance to LGBT people.
Day 1 -- We will light a purple candle to honor Creativity. This principle affirms the vital life force of the universe and our connection to Eros. We will especially honor queer artists, musicians, and entertainers, and all who create and protect beauty. Paint a mural today or act in a play.
Day 2 -- We will light a red candle to encourage Community. This principle affirms our individual self-respect and collective power, and the pursuit of joyful self-expression in the face of obstacles. On this day we will honor activists and heroes such as Harvey Milk and the patrons of the Stonewall Inn.
Day 3 -- We will light a blue candle to affirm Integrity. This principle stresses the value of looking within to search for meaning and purpose in our lives, recognizing our responsibilities and duties, honesty and accountability. Gay and lesbian parents, teachers, and mentors are especially honored today. This is a day for "coming out" to others.
Day 4 -- We will light an orange candle to celebrate Self-Reliance. The principle of Self-Reliance reminds us of our need to define our success in terms of bringing our individual interests into harmony with the common welfare. We will especially honor gay and lesbian scientists, inventors, and business people.
Day 5 -- We will light a green candle to embrace Compassion. This principle focuses on cultivating sensitivity, kindness, acceptance, and living in harmony with the earth. Today we honor all peacemakers and we affirm the goodness of our multicultural diversity.
Day 6 -- We will light a yellow candle in recognition of Faith. This principle honors the best of our wisdom traditions and each person’s child-like curiosity and gratitude about being alive in the expansive universe. We honor everyone alike in the spirit of unconditional love, and we will share our stories of hope and wisdom.
So there you have it--my proposal for Yuletide, a new queer winter holiday. Through our celebrations, we can honor all those who have gone before us and on whose shoulders we stand, and the queer generations yet to come. Merry Yuletide to one and all!
If you join me in celebrating Yuletide this year, I’d love to hear all about it. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This proposal lives online at: http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/blog/2004/11/a_proposal_for_.html