11:28am EST December 21, 2017
I heard there’s a war on Christmas, though I’ve not seen one trace of it. While I’m tempted to pit my humble Yuletide against the rush, the anxiety, the inflated expectations, the SELLING, what’s the use? The madness seems to me to be on its usual locomotive trajectory, starting on-cue this past “Black Friday,” which now begins on Thursday, before I’ve even swallowed my last bite of pumpkin pie.
Don’t let my inner Grinch bum you out, but I must admit, the tenets of my beliefs have changed as I’ve grown older. I used to believe that Christ was the Newborn King. I’m now more prone to feel that it’s hard to be cold. That’s not to say the two can’t co-exist.
Sitting on the couch in my drafty apartment when the first snow falls, I admit to myself that the early dark weighs on me. The cold feels unkind. It’s death weather. Death is, literally, ten feet out my living room window unless I perform the rituals of warding it off. And what are those rituals? Well, hoarding warmth and light, of course! What could possibly be more cheer-inducing that to haul in an evergreen tree and festoon it with bright twinkles? What’s more survival-ensuring than a thick sweater and socks? What’s more fortifying than to fatten ourselves, as much as we are able, against the elements with food and sweets, and warm our throats with hot drinks and encouraging songs? Hell, what’s more consoling than a cheesy DJ and the pumping blood of human bodies in close proximity? What makes more sense than adorning ourselves and our surroundings in the layers of life?
Today is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, a traditional midwinter festival and a day both spiritually significant and science-based. Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, is the shortest, darkest day of the year. Even so, celebration is in order as every span of daylight from now until midsummer is a tiny bit longer than the one before. Let’s be honest with ourselves about the stakes: should the light abandon us, every one of us would disappear faster than that last fluffy bow in the trash. With our lives balanced so delicately, why would we spend precious energy warring with anything? Supposed wars are only an excuse for blowhards and troublemakers to foster discord, while the only function of light is to foster growth. The silent light is so much greater that all that noise. It doesn’t even know we’re here, and yet we utterly depend upon it, wordlessly counting on its return. Talk about faith and humility!
So if the dark speaks in whispers the holidays lack, I’ll at least try to pause and listen. I’ll burn frankincense and myrrh, and welcome back the light with candles and a fire. I’ll sit under the mistletoe and holly, extending the emotional warmth of gifts, tangible and intangible, and while I’m gathered with others, feasting on food and fun, I’ll make a short, silent nod to that newborn light that won’t stop growing until I thank its astonishing bounty on June 21.
We’re all here together for this annual orbit around the sun. We all shiver together in the same cold, and tuck under the covers in the same dark. If cultural norms require you to navigate inflated expectations, remember, at least, that you are included among the people you are called to care for. Take a deep breath of frosty air, and once your to-do list is scratched off, enjoy the stunning sleep weather! The light is returning, so you better rest up.
Seasons Greetings, y'all, and a Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule and Joyous Kwanza in addition to the heartfelt Merry Christmas I had no intention to exclude, though I may make a few alterations to my carols this year.
To the tune of O Holy Night:
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