Tuesday, December 31, 2013

High Holy Day Essay: Yule

I attended a few Yule rituals this year, but I'd like to write again about the ritual put on by Prairie Shadow Protogrove. This was one I cobbled together from a few different rituals I found on the website, and was held at my home. It was a Germanic ritual to honor the return of Sunna at the solstice. The participants came down the porch stairs into my backyard, each sprinkled with a bit of water and given a candle for purification by fire and water as they entered. We welcomed Nerthus as the Earth Mother, and offered to the Fire, Well, and Tree. We invited Heimdall as our Gatekeeper, and then the Three Kindreds. Sunna was called as the Being of the Occasion, and we performed a gradual extinguishing of all the candles, including those held by the participants, mimicking the darkness of the long night of the Solstice - this was based on a Solstice ritual by Ian Corrigan. After taking a favorable omen heralding change and transformation as the gifts of the Kindreds, we asked for blessing on the Waters of Life (a choice of mead or cider). After giving out the Waters, another poem was read and the candles were gradually re-lit, the flame passing from person to person, mimicking the return of Sunna on the Solstice morn. Then Sunna and the Kindreds were thanked, the Gates were closed and thanks given to Heimdall, and the last of the offerings given to Nerthus. The ritual was ended.

 So, about five months after attending my first public Pagan ritual, I was thrown into leading one. I was very nervous, between opening up my home to many people I'd never met, and having to actually stand in front of those people and talk to them with a script featuring many words I certainly hadn't grown up pronouncing. I tend to be hard on myself, and so I will attempt to limit my complaints. The biggest problem was the water that was sprinkled at the start of the ritual - it sloshed out of the bowl and onto my script, which I then had to peel apart whenever I needed to turn a page. My husband also commented that my natural demeanor is rather cheery, which may have interfered with the solemnity of the ritual. Personally, I find it hard to sense energy when I am concentrating on so many other things like reading in front of others, who I'm supposed to be offering to, and so on. It seemed as if the other participants enjoyed the ritual, for which I was glad. I was personally unsatisfied; but I don't think I would have been happy if it had gone anything short of absolutely perfectly, and realistically there were no major disasters and all seemed to go mostly well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Pagan Umbrella can be a Community

Last Saturday, I attended a Yule party, put together jointly by the Order of the Red Grail and Nebraska Heathens United.  Yes, you heard me correctly - some Wiccans got together with some Heathens, and managed to put on a fantastic party that most everyone in the community enjoyed.

The way that a lot of Pagans talk on the internet, a person might assume that different branches of Pagans don't have anything in common.  Not all Pagans are earth-centered, not all Pagans are polytheistic, not all Pagans celebrate the eight Sabbats, etc.  This is all true.  There is a huge amount of diversity and difference in the Pagan umbrella, and that's okay.  In fact, it's awesome.  Since most Pagan paths are rather tolerant of other people's ideas of religion or spirituality, there's no reason for us not to celebrate that diversity.  Unlike different Christian denominations that have argued for centuries about, for example, whether Mary had other kids or not; we as Pagans can accept that each of us has a different view of deity (or deities).

I see Paganism as a giant Venn diagram, with many circles.  In each path, and in each person, those circles will overlap differently - and some will not include some of the circles at all.  But what connects an urban-centered, hard-polytheistic Hellenismos follower with an earth-centered, pantheistic eclectic Wiccan is other Pagans, that each incorporate some of those circles in their own path (see example at left).  So the Wiccan who complains that they have zero in common with a Hellenismos follower is incorrect - they have other Pagans in common.

Now I've seen this argued over endlessly on the internet.  But do you know where I don't see it argued about?  My local community.  If a group of eclectic Wiccans and a group of Heathens can get together and plan a successful party, at which most people are enjoying themselves, then we as Pagans can have community with one another.  I think this is made infinitely easier in-person, because there are so many things that can be said over the internet that would not be said to a person's face.  It's difficult to look someone in the eye and insult them unless they truly deserve it.

I am, admittedly, a bit biased.  The Pagan community is something I care deeply about.  Though I am fairly specific in my own practice, I really want to be able to reach out to others who are different from me, learn from them and just.. exist in community with them.  This is part of the reason that my ultimate goal is to become a well-rounded Pagan clergy-person.  I want to be able to help and bring together people on many different paths.  This is a big part of the reason why I'm currently learning with a Wiccan coven - I'm not a Wiccan in my personal practice and haven't been for a long time - but there are many Pagans who are, and I want to be able to understand and help them as much as I would be able to understand a fellow ADF member.  And because all the people in that group are fantastic people, and I enjoy knowing them and spending time with them, regardless of the fact that we have different theological positions on the nature of the Gods.  While I acknowledge and accept that there are some Pagans who are happier remaining only among those who share their views; I think the majority of the Pagan community would be a happier and better place if we learned to work together with one another rather than at odds with each other.  It can be done!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Frige and the 'Womanly Arts'

Growing up, my mother was a feminist.  Not a radical feminist, or a particularly far-out-there one; but I grew up being told not to get married or have children, that there were so many other things in the world I could do if I wanted to.  Well, it turned out that I did decide to go the traditional husband-and-babies route; and now being a stay at home mom, it can sometimes feel as if I've taken a step backwards.

Enter Frige.  An Anglo-Saxon Goddess, Her name is cognate with the Norse Frigg; wife of Odin and Queen of Asgard.  Through Norse sources, we know that She is the Goddess most often associated with women, children, and the home.  She is also the patron of what those of generations past would have called the 'womanly arts': spinning, sewing, knitting, cooking - the things a woman needed to know to maintain her home.  However, Frige is no 1950s housewife, and those who honor Her certainly aren't, either.  In the Lokasenna (you can find Benjamin Thorpe's translation free), Loki accuses Frigg of sleeping with Odin's brothers; the Goddess Freyja retorts by saying "Mad art thou, Loki! in recounting thy foul misdeeds. Frigg, I believe, knows all that happens, although she says it not".  This has led many to speculate that Frigg winds the threads of fate that the Norns spin into orlæg (ørlög in Old Norse).  By the way, later on in the poem the God Njörðr says: "It is no great wonder, if silk-clad dames get themselves husbands, lovers", seeming to say that women having multiple sexual partners was not a big deal.  In the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, it is mentioned that Frigg has a "falcon form"; not quite as tame and feminine as one might expect from the Queen of the Æsir.

Now that I've gone off-topic talking about all the ways Frige is not like a housewife, it's time to circle back around and talk about the more traditionally feminine crafts She is associated with.  Because I don't have a spindle or access to raw wool, I've eschewed the traditional spinning and have instead learned to crochet as a devotional act.  It's very calming and meditative, as the same motions are repeated over and over, but requires constant attention; it's not the kind of thing you can do absentmindedly while watching a movie, you must be looking at your work.  It's the same with embroidery, which I learned long ago in Home Economics, but still enjoy doing on occasion.  These actions both quiet and focus my mind in a way that traditional meditation - which usually just puts me to sleep - is unable to do for me.  This kind of work does not have to be only a time-consuming chore put aside when faced with modern conveniences.  It doesn't have to be a symbol of subservience, as if being domestic and taking care of one's living space is somehow lesser.  The act of creation: of a meal, of a scarf, of a clean space; is very powerful, and lands squarely in Frige's domain.   I think this is part of the reason crafting is so popular today - many of the people I know either work office jobs or are working on their education; there's a lot of work that happens but doesn't produce any real, tangible result that can be held in your hand or used for a practical purpose.  But the creation of those tangible things can be so satisfying; the simplicity of taking a strand of yarn and working on it for a few hours until it becomes a cute little pouch is something I think a lot of people crave.

I know I titled this post about the 'womanly arts', and that's because they've historically been a woman's domain.  But I want to make it clear that men can absolutely benefit from learning these things as well!  I taught my brother how to sew one day when he lost a button, and now he fixes his own pants when they get holes in them; and finds a great deal of satisfaction in being able to do so.  On the one hand, simple things like sewing and cooking are great life skills; and your life will be easier for having them.  On the other, as I said earlier - these activities are also very psychologically fulfilling.  I plan to pass these skills down to all my children, daughters and son, and hopefully an appreciation for Frige as well.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Y is for a Yellow Ritual

'Woman with Yellow Scarf' from NationalGeographic.com
Color magic is the kind of magic that is intuitively understood by many Pagans, even the most early of beginners.  Looking at a love spell and seeing '2 red candles' listed as an ingredient just makes sense.  Using a green altar to attract prosperity seems like the most natural thing in the world.  It's so readily understood because the science of 'color magic' has been in general use in our society for a long time.  Hospitals paint their walls greens or blues to calm, night clubs often use big, bold colors to pump up their visitors.  Stanford even has a class on the power of color (I found one of the class projects, check it out!).

I want to talk today about the power of color in ritual.  In the same way that buildings can use their color schemes to project a feeling onto their visitors, we can also use color to help bring the group into the ritual mindset - or if doing solitary ritual, help to bring ourselves there.  Since this is a Pagan Blog Project post, and this week is the incredibly difficult to find a topic for Y, I'll be using yellow as an example.

Yellow is a color with a lot of associations both in general culture and for Pagans.  In our wider society, it is known first as a color of cheery, bright happiness; maybe the color of sunflowers evokes warm summer days, or daffodils remind us of the spring.  It is also the color of the sun, which has larger significance to many Pagans.  And yet, its most common use in the general population is a color of warning.  Yellow is the 'caution' of the traffic lights, it is the color of signs warning the floor is slippery, it is the color of school buses that bear our most precious citizens and need the most protecting.  This is because yellow, sitting right in the middle of the visible spectrum of light, reflects the most light back out towards its viewer of any of the colors - it is the most attention-getting, and the easiest to see at long distances.  For many Pagans, yellow is also the color of the East, and the element Air.

Now how can we use this information to weave color into a ritual?  First, we've learned that yellow is a strong, at times overwhelming color - so it ought to be used sparingly.  Other colors can certainly be brought in to complement yellow and the overall ritual theme.  Representations of the element Air, for example, should have some yellow on them; but the primary color should be different and softer, so as not to overwhelm or outshine the other elements.  For a ritual celebrating spring or a spring goddess, bringing in some yellow flowers would certainly be appropriate.  One fun use of the color would be to have a dark-colored altar cloth, like a plum purple or navy blue; but set bright yellow cloth napkins underneath the ritual items that are particularly important - this will help keep a group's attention focused on these items specifically.  If your group or practice is the kind that marks out sacred space, try using the color yellow to do that.  It will create a very clear delineation that will aid in seeing the sacred space as separate from the outer world.  One idea I've always liked, but have never gotten to try out, is the idea of a ribbon dance.  As Pagans, we do a lot of work on the sound side of things when it comes to dancing - we drum, rattle, and some groups add other more melodic instruments as well.  But not a lot of work is done on the visual side; wouldn't it be amazing to see a group of dancers (in a rather large space, mind you) waving ribbons of various colors specifically chosen to aid in the group's working?

For more information on a wide range of colors, you can visit colormatters.com; they have lots of interesting info to explore.  Use this to find some ways to incorporate more color and visual drama into your own rituals!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reconceptualizing the Power of Myth

When I was first getting started in Paganism in the early 2000s, all the beginner Wiccan books I read made a point of mentioning the "real" origins of Wicca.  There was no early Goddess-worshiping, peace-filled matriarchy, no nine million witches burned, no ancient lineages passed down through the generations; only an old British guy with a liking for Margaret Murray, Aleister Crowley, and nudity.  I read a lot of debunking, but never actually explored what was being debunked.

So when I first read Triumph of the Moon, with its rather dispassionate, scholarly take on the origins of Wicca, I was completely baffled as to why some people in the Pagan community seemed so offended by it.  Facts are facts; and Murray's pseudo-history was most certainly not that.  I wasn't one of those Pagans, the ones who held on to their antiquated and disproven beliefs; because I believed at the time beliefs must be factually accurate to have religious meaning.  I now understand that this was rooted in my fundamentalist Christian background - it can be hard to shed the idea of a literal religious interpretation.

Since my own path long ago veered away from Wicca into paths that are a bit more academically based, I hadn't really gone back and re-examined those basic ideas of who is 'right' and 'wrong' when it comes to religious truth.  In reconstructionist religion, things can be a lot clearer - something either is or is not attested in the lore.  In my efforts to find community and gain a broader understanding and knowledge of the Pagan community, I have recently become a student of a local Wiccan coven.  Reading my study assignments, I am forcibly confronted with this idea and the preconceived notions I carry about it - facts vs. not facts, 'not facts' being the clear loser.

And yet, with these views, I am a complete hypocrite.  I rarely talk about it because I know it's controversial in Pagan circles, and because I don't want to be looked at the same way I originally viewed those Pagans who still find value in the idea of an ancient, Goddess-worshiping matriarchy.  But I do honor some *gasp* fictional deities.  At least, that's how others would describe them - I consider them just as real as the other Gods and Goddesses I honor.  See the double standard?  How I can I mentally reject a person for finding value and worship-deserving entities in the myths of King Arthur, while at the same time finding inspiration and religious truth in a work of fiction?

This is something I'm still grappling with.  On the one hand, I think it's incredibly important to be accurate when talking about facts - especially with the Wicca's history of unclear information.  On the other, I think that some of Wicca's early shared mythos, while historically inaccurate, has been cast aside too easily by some newer to the faith.  There are many lessons to be learned in myths, whether they are ancient or recent.  Just because something is not factually true or historically attested doesn't mean it can't hold value.  As a polytheist, I am already adept at holding multiple truths simultaneously - the values Brigid calls me to are certainly not the same as those Thunor calls me to honor -  is it so absurd to imagine that, while there was no historical Camelot, a valid and fulfilling religious tradition can be built from those myths?

While the evidence tells us there was no peaceful Goddess-loving matriarchy in ancient Europe, that doesn't mean a peaceful Goddess-loving matriarchy can't be created as a valid practice today.  And it doesn't mean the myth isn't very powerful to a large number of traditions doing good work today.  It's still not the path I walk; but I'm starting to understand, at least a little bit, those who do.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crafting the Runes: Wynn

Bliss he enjoys who knows
not suffering, sorrow, nor anxiety,
and has prosperity and happiness
and a good enough house.

This section of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem speaks of the rune Wynn, which translates directly to "joy".  The Saxons apparently had a very wide definition of joy, one which is often overlooked today in our materialist-driven culture.  If you aren't suffering, in sorrow or anxious, the poem says, you are enjoying bliss.  If you have prosperity, happiness, and a "good-enough" house - you are enjoying bliss.  Alaric Albertsson talks about this rune in his book Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer.  In it, he translates the Anglo-Saxon word blæd as "prosperity" - which the translation above also does - but makes note that "blæd does not necessarily mean 'endless wealth;' it means 'having enough'."

Joy, to the Anglo-Saxons, was having the resources and tools you needed to build a good life.  This is a lesson many, including myself, desperately need today.  Having just enough of what you need is wealth and bliss, perhaps greater than that of the very rich.  I am in a position myself where I have a lovely home, enough food to put on the table each night, and that's about it - not a lot of room for extras.  Wynn teaches me that there is great happiness to be found in that.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Three Kindred Essay

The Three Kindred are, in my opinion, the most essential piece of ADF Druidry.  Honoring ancestors, spirits of place, and gods and goddesses was an essential part of the Paganism of the Indo-Europeans.  Though perhaps the ancient Indo-Europeans did not fit the spirits they encountered into boxes as neat as we do today, they are nonetheless helpful categories to aid our understanding of IE spirituality.

The Gods and Goddesses are considered the most powerful kind of spirits by most Indo-European cultures.  Called the Déiwōs, which translates to "Shining Ones" in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (Ár nDraíocht Féin [ADF], 2009, p. 69), the Gods and Goddesses are humanity's allies, and sometimes, friends.  Their power is certainly much greater than our own; many Gods are described as having gifts of foresight or magic, and others are said to possess tremendous strength unthinkable to a human.  They are also immortal, a class of being that does not have a permanent physical form or experience death in the way that living things with bodies do.  Nonetheless, the Gods have chosen to take an interest in humanity, as evidenced by their ongoing interaction with both our Indo-European ancestors and the Pagan community at large today. 

At the center of an ADF Druid's relationship to the Gods is the Proto-Indo-European concept of *ghosti, which means "someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality" (ADF, 2009, p. 21).  The idea is that gifts to the Gods and Goddesses of Indo-European pantheons begin a relationship of reciprocity, in which the Gods and Goddesses are then encouraged by the concept of hospitality to bestow gifts and blessings on their worshippers.  The nature of this relationship is not exactly tit-for-tat; but instead each member gives according to his or her means.  This means that while a Druid may pour out a shot of mid-range alcohol with a prayer to a God or Goddess, that being will reciprocate in a way worth much more than ten minutes and fifteen dollars; because the resources available to that God or Goddess is much greater than the Druid's.

It is also the duty of the Shining Ones to maintain the cosmic order of things.  Most Gods and Goddesses have specific parts of human culture or the world at large that they have jurisdiction over or are associated with.  For instance, the Norse God Tyr is often looked to in matters of justice, or the Gaulish God Ogmios associated with eloquence and public speaking.  In many pantheons and Indo-European myths, the Gods and Goddesses are shown fighting or at war with a more primal kind of spirit, more chaotic and much less favoring towards humanity; in ADF these spirits are usually identified as the Outsiders.  The Shining Ones fight or distance themselves from these spirits to maintain the balance of the cosmos.

The Spirits of Nature are perhaps the most diverse, and therefore difficult to classify, of the Kindred.  There are spirits of land and place, house spirits, plant and animal spirits, and in some IE cultures, even specific rocks are said to have spirits.   These spirits also seem the most ambivalent towards humanity - unlike the Ancestors or Gods, many of these spirits are hostile towards people, and will not seek a relationship (ADF, 2009, p. 42).  On the other hand, since these spirits are not as powerful as the Gods, for some it is easier to build a close, friendly relationship with them.  Some Germanic peoples, for example, believed that plants had spirits and were useful in healing because of this (Gundarsson, 2007, p. 28).

It is my personal opinion that the hostility of many nature spirits towards humanity may have been overstated or caused by a Christianized population.  It is often mentioned in Irish folklore, for example, that offerings were frequently left out for the Fair Folk - and any offerings missed or stopped were met with anger (Evans-Wentz, 2003, p. 291).  It seems to likely to me that tales of angry or hostile Nature spirits may largely be a result of offerings, once frequently given by the local people, stopped and the spirits themselves renounced in the name of the new god.  In any case, I have found my local nature and house spirits to be receptive to offerings; and though I always extend any overtures with caution, I have yet to experience any negative consequences from attempting friendship with these spirits.

Nature Spirits are the least mobile of the Kindred, though there are a few Icelandic tales of house wights (troublesome or friendly) following a family to their new residence (Gundarsson, 2007).  Spirits of my local park, for example, are best honored in their place of residence; it is unlikely that one would be able to reach them in a far-away city.  However, I have also found that in many cases, land spirits know and interact with one another; so that if for some reason I wanted to relay a message or feeling to a spirit in my local park, I could address the spirit of the Platte River basin and ask that spirit to pass the message along (though whether it would choose to or not is debatable). 

Just as there are many pantheons of Gods and Goddesses and many kinds of Nature Spirits, there are also many kinds of Ancestors.  Though all humans who have passed from this life and their mortal bodies are Ancestors, and all are honored when we call on them, there are of course some who are singled out for greater honor and closer relation to Druidry and individuals today.

The first and most obvious are Ancestors of Blood, those whose DNA directly contributed to making us who we are.  Contrary to a popular modern belief about the unimportance of "sperm donors" or "egg carriers", the DNA of our family plays a big part in our personalities, character traits, and areas of struggle in our lives.  Equally important, however, are Ancestors of Culture - those Ancestors that we choose to honor or take on because of their actions or important contributions to either modern or ancient society as a whole.  For instance, though I have no idea if she is an ancestor of blood, I honor the Celtic warrior-woman Boudicca as an ancestor of culture because of her heroism and bravery in a time when women had a great deal less power than today.  I also honor the ancestors of my adopted father as ancestors of culture - though they did not contribute to my DNA, I gained them as ancestors when my father took me as his child.

Though we often think of ancestors as far-distant figures of the past, or great Heroes of long ago, it is also important to remember our Ancestors who have only recently passed.  One important ancestor to all of ADF Druidry is Isaac Bonewits, who I am sure continues to guide and watch over his organization and its members from the otherworld.  Though limited in life, the beliefs of the Indo-Europeans tell us that in death, people gain a degree of might, magic, and foresight that rests somewhere between the Gods and men.  Praying and offering to the ancestors is often just as effective as praying to the Gods - perhaps even more so, as the ancestors are kin, who have a vested interest in seeing their relations healthy and happy.

The Three Kindred - Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones - are all equally important to the faith of ADF-style Druidry.  Each one of the Kindred brings unique attributes that are helpful to humanity in some way or another, and also helps us to understand the wider world and otherworld in a more complete way.

Ár nDraíocht Féin, (2009). Our Own Druidry. 1st ed. United States: ADF Publishing.

Kvedulf Gundarsson, (2007). Elves, Wights, and Trolls. 1st ed. United States: iUniverse.

W.Y. Evans Wentz, (2003). The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries: The Classic Study of Leprechauns, Pixies, and Other Fairy Spirits. United States: Citadel.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Resource for Children's Rituals

While stumbling about the internet today, I came across a wonderful resource for children's ritual that I had to stop by and share!

The website of Charter Oak Grove ADF has an entire section devoted to rituals for each of the High Days designed specifically for children.  While the rituals are written according to ADF's Core Order of Ritual, there's also a nice amount of resources for Pagan children of any path that honors Celtic deities.  Their book about the Kindreds (ancestors, nature spirits, and gods and goddesses) is available in print from Lulu.

I hope this is helpful to some parents and groups out there who might be having trouble coming up with ritual ideas for children!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Y is for Yule

Yule - perhaps the most recognizable of all Pagan holidays.  In my opinion, it features the easiest celebrations to translate from secular to religious.  Especially for me as a Heathen living in America, many Germanic traditions have made their way into our celebrations of the holiday.  Christmas trees, Christmas hams, and warm fireplaces - all leftovers from or inspired by pre-Christian Yule celebrations - were childhood staples for me.

Today, my family and I celebrate Yule as twelve-day festival full of family, food, and fun.  The first celebration falls the night before the solstice, known to the Anglo-Saxons as Mōdraniht; it is a night to remember our female ancestors, called the Idesa.  We celebrate this night with a feast featuring family recipes, talking about our lineage and memories of relatives recently lost, and leave portions of the food out for the Idesa.

The next night is the Solstice, on which I try to keep on all-night vigil to wait for the sun.  The Wiccan coven I'm learning from hosts a Solstice ritual at the local Unitarian Universalist church.  At dawn, I will hail Sunne and make offerings to Her to thank Her for the return of the warmth of the sun.

The next few days (depending on how close the Solstice falls to Christmas) are a rush of baking cookies, last minute gift construction and wrapping, and card-making.  Some local Pagan groups also have their own celebrations around this time that I like to attend.  Another special thing that I usually like to do three days following the Solstice (though this year, due to Christmas Eve, it will only be two) is an adaptation of the Yule ritual described in Heimskringla by Snorri Sturlson.  I cook a large feast, sprinkle the kids with a bit of gravy, and we drink toasts to Woden, Ing-Frea and His father, and the ancestors.

Then comes Christmas Eve!  Traditionally, my father's family has a get-together with all my aunts and uncles and cousins (who are steadily increasing in number!) - it's becoming quite the gathering.  This is a big family celebration we've been doing since I was very young.  In ADF Druidry as well as Heathenry, spending time with folk and family is as important to our religion as prayers and devotions.

We usually celebrate Christmas morning with my mother and siblings, and Santa always makes a visit for my children.  The next few days are a fun blur while going to parties, seeing family, and this year helping out with the Prairie Shadows Protogrove (ADF) ritual on the 28th.

Then on Twelfthnight - which this year coincidentally falls on New Year's Eve - the season comes to an end with another big feast.  Since my family is pork-free, I will often make bread or cake in the shape of a pig, and we'll make our New Year's resolutions over it.

All in all, it's a pretty full religious calendar - but since much of it is 'secular', emphasizes family and social gatherings, and includes holidays also celebrated by mainstream culture; it's easy to incorporate it into the season's busy schedule.  To me and my family, not surrounded by a large Heathen community, that mix of 'secular' and religious is what makes the holiday season.