Nine communards stood in a circle around a towering hemlock, the tallest evergreen on the commune’s property.
“Can you explain what we’re doing again?” asked Patsy.
“Okay,” said Marge. “Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. For pagan folk like me, this is the yule. While many witches and pagans think the new year is at Samhain…”
“Wait,” said Paul G. “What’s sow-win?”
“That’s Marge’s idea of Halloween,” Ken said. “I learned that last year.”
“Halloween is what happened after the Christians stole the pagan’s beliefs,” Marge said. “We called it Samhain and for many folk it’s the beginning of the new year. However, some pagans like me think that Yule or the winter solstice is the start of new year, since the days start getting longer after this. Anyway, we’re out here to celebrate the solstice.”
“Can we get started?” asked Cat. “I’m cold.”
“I’m colder,” said Chuck, who was wearing a short sapphire skirt.
“Okay,” Marge said. “Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Light is coming back’.”
Dutifully the nine communards sang: “Light is coming back,
It can’t stay away too long,
No one can keep away,
They circled around the tree and chanted and sang for over an hour. Finally they raised their hands and claimed: “This circle is open and broken and done with. Happy together, happy alone, and happy inside. Thank goodness!”
Afterwards, Patsy asked Marge, “Did the Christians really steal Christmas from the pagans? Are you sure?”
“Let me ask you this,” Marge said. “Why do we celebrate the birth of a child by bringing in pine trees and holly and ivy and mistletoe and everything that’s green in the winter? Why do we light candles and have fires in fireplaces?
“Okay,” Patsy said. “Why?”
“Because in the deepest winter, we need to remember that there’s still life and in the dark and cold we need to remember that there’s still light and heat, and that really doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas.”
“Wow,” Patsy said.
Afterwards, Luna said, “Be gentle with her, Marge. You’re shaking her beliefs.”
“Wait until she finds out what the word Easter really means,” Marge said.
“It looks beautiful out there,” Nancy said on Christmas morning. “Just look at the sun glistening on the snow.”
She and Sal and Luna and Dan and Cat and Blue Sky and Patsy all sat around the yuletide tree. The Trollwork crew had gone off on a ‘secret winter expedition’ and taken Lois and Mo with them. Marge and Viv had gone to be with Marge’s sister--again this year--and Ken had gone off to be with his family. Darren and Chuck were off at a holiday faerie gathering and Strange Brew had simply disappeared, as had Paul G. And Grace and Will had headed south for the holidays.
It was a small intimate little Christmas at the commune and all seemed peaceful. At least until the doorbell started ringing.
This year, Amanda and Steve were the first guests.
“This is our second Christmas smoke free,” Amanda said. “And we’re loving it.”
“And each other,” added Steve.
Ralph and Ed were next, bringing many bottles of cheer. “Eggnog for everyone,” Ed said.
“And presents,” Ralph added, as he brought in a bunch of boxes.
Peter came next, followed by Luna’s mother.
When the doorbell rang again, everyone looked at one another.
“George and Fred are out of town, so I know it’s not them,” Peter said.
“Are we expecting anyone else?” asked Sal.
“Not that I know of,” said Dan.
“Well, open the door,” yelled Luna.
Blue Sky opened it and was very surprised to see Birch standing there.
“Can I come in?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Blue Sky.
Everyone stared at Birch. “My mother was being a total platypus,” he said. “I had to get out of there. Besides, I really wanted to see everyone again. I told her I was off to visit friends and I think it’s true.”
“Of course it’s true,” said Nancy. “Welcome and Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas!” came cries from around the room.
While the feast on the table was not as large as the one at Thanksgiving, there was ample food for everyone there.
Ed and Ralph passed out presents just before people sat down and there was one for everyone there--including Birch.
“How did you know?” Luna asked Ralph.
“Easy,” Ralph said. “I found out how many people were expected and then added one for the unexpected guest.”
The gifts were small and cute and funny and everyone enjoyed them, just as everyone enjoyed the feast that followed.
At the end of it all, Luna sighed. She looked around the room and said, “All of you are my best present. This place is so wonderful. What more can I say? I feel blessed.”