Somebody (not Someone) recently sent an e-mail asking if I would write about Christmas symbols from a Jungian point of view. What a clever idea! I have never thought to do so.

To review – a Complex is a conglomeration of personal memories and energies, combined with universal and archetypal unconscious energies, to form a separate indentity from the conscious Ego. I’ve used this metaphor before – your Ego is like a CEO around a table of complexes. They all ‘have their say’, sometimes they want to ‘take over’. The Ego’s job is to listen to all of their input and make a decision – without letting any of the complexes run the show. (phew- years of Jungian psychology summarized in a take home message).

Here are complexes I think are particularly useful for Christmas. These characters ‘stick with us’ because they hold archetypal truth. I will start with the modern ones, and go back into time.

grinchThe Trickster – The Grinch. There has always been a Trickster at holiday times; Lord of Misrule was a popular Trickster for a while. Nowadays trickster energy is captured by the Grinch. He sneaks around in the night and cleverly takes away Christmas. This splendid symbol captures the negativity/opposite of the next archetype, thus restoring balance of good/bad, and giving/taking. We like the rascal, and at times identify with his awful ways. It is no surprise “The Grinch” remains a negative symbol, viz. how he was before – not after – his transformation.

santaThe Wise Old Man  – Santa. He is also Father Christmas and St. Nicholas. He holds the benolvence of Age and Wisdom who has the essence of giving. He is a magical ‘jolly old elf’ who mysteriously arrives and provides. He and the Grinch wear the same clothes. They are flip sides of the same energy. In Europe, St. Nicholas’ Shadow side is represented by Black Tom, who threatens the children and beats them for being naughty.  (BTW – David Sedaris has a hilarious satire on this called “Six to Eight Black Men”. )

scroogeThe Miser  – Scrooge.  In Jungian psychology, the Psyche needs balance. Even in the most giving of times one needs someone or something to hold the energies of not giving, not participating, and not caring.  The Grinch and Scrooge are both negative archetypes, but they have importance differences – while the Grinch is proactive in removal, Scrooge is passive and stagnant in his isolation from other. Again, it is no wonder we think of Scrooge prior to his conversion, not as someone who transforms.

3kingsThe Divine in Triple Form – 3 Kings.  Many cultures have the Divine in triple form – 3 gods, or sages, or goddesses. The Christmas story has three ‘wise men’, who have divine knowledge through astrology and being in touch with the universe. Coming from a male dominated religion, we don’t have the triple goddess as is usually seen in pagan cultures.

maryThe Anima – The Virgin Mary.  the Divine Feminine is vital in all good myths, tales, stories and psyches.  For most, Mary gets brought out once a year and put up with the Christmas tree, necessary for the season, but taken down with the other trimmings. Too bad. We need some connection with the Anima all year round.

babyjesusThe Divine Child  – Baby Jesus.  Back to pagan times, the return of the sun from the winter solstice was celebrated as the birth of the God. A divine child at this time of year captures our hope of light to come and salvation.

Bonus –

hermieI think Rudolpf and Hermie the Elf are going to turn into lasting Christmas archetypes. It is somewhat due to the yearly promotion by TV, and grownup children who want their own children to participate in it. But at heart they hold the Archetype of The Hero. The Hero is ostracized. He goes on a journey with a mission. He rescues the Heroine and eventually saves the day – and gets his recognition and status.

These two ‘archetypes in training’  are especially appealing to Gay/lesbian people who see the homosexual undertones in the story – and the triumph of ‘fabulous difference’ over stuffy convention.

And for the fellow who sent the email – Yukon Cornelius is not an archetype, he is a fantasy figure!