Solstice Mistakes for UUs to Avoid
1. Don’t turn the Flaming Chalice into a seasonal idol. It has no seasonal significance. In fact, it has no figurative significance at all. It began out of convenience as a randomly chosen image for some stationery, for goodness’ sake. (If you deconstruct its components into authentic, historic religious symbols, though, chalices represent the Blood of Christ and flames represent the Holy Ghost. Did you really mean to idolize them?)
2. Don’t turn the 7 Principles into a seasonal idol. They have no seasonal significance. They may be sound rules to try to live by, but they aren’t a creed or a similar statement of our highest truths. They are no more than a transitory statement of broad propositions that all of us in our wide theological diversity were at one time willing to support, a lowest common denominator, a catalogue of platitudes. When they were first written and adopted as a denominational bylaw, it was on the express condition that they be periodically reconsidered and revised as appropriate. We are already several years late in meeting that condition, but we're on the verge of doing it, so it could even be said that whatever denominational authority they once held has now lapsed.
3. Don’t envy or covet the authentic seasonal observances of other traditions if they don’t have authentic meaning for you. As your mother told you a million times, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to go along.”
4. Don’t bowdlerize the authentic seasonal observances of other traditions to make them more enjoyable or meaningful to you. It’s an insensitive, self-centered affront to others, who take their own traditions quite seriously and might see even well-intentioned imitation as blasphemy or mockery. We sensitive and enlightened types call that "cultural misappropriation", and respectfully avoiding it has even been included in the discussion draft for the present 7 Principles' replacement. (See lines 26 and 27 here.) Rather, celebrate other traditions’ seasonal observances authentically if at all, and preserve and uphold our own authentic traditions of the season as well. We have enough of our own not-oppressively-dogmatic seasonal heritage to draw upon if we wish – for example, the Puritans’ rationalist rejection of midwinter celebrations of Jesus’ birth as being unsupported from Scriptural or other evidence; or Charles Follen’s 19th-century re-introduction of Christmas trees and other “Yuletide” traditions that had been forbidden as unacceptably pagan by the Puritans; or Edmund Sears’ beloved carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, which manages to express the spirit of the season without mentioning Jesus; or Charles Dickens' similarly Jesus-less masterpiece, "A Christmas Carol"; or James Pierpont’s “Jingle Bells”; or Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus illustrations.
5. Whatever you do to mark the season, don’t just pull it out of your @$$ and make it up as you go along, while holding forth as if “this” is what “we” do at this time of year. Most people are smarter than that, or at least most other people are, so it only makes “us” all look like fools and dilettantes.
If you’d like to simplify your hectic seasonal planning by avoiding all these mistakes at once, consider avoiding Chalica.
[reposted by necessity from last year, with minor revisions]