If so, you watched the winter solstice roar into the eastern time zone. Personally, I slept through it. No worries. It’s not like there was anything to see, actually. I’m just happy that tonight is as much darkness as we’re going to see and more and more light will be arriving. And we can use that, especially this year.
Growing up, my Christmas had a lot of the old Yule in it. Yule traditionally begins today and runs through January 1. The twelve days of Christmas traditionally begin December 25 and run through Twelfth Night (Epiphany). Suffice it to say, we had a Yule log, holly, plenty of greenery, and mistletoe (which I avoided). I hope some people are still carrying on these traditions.
However you celebrate the season and decorate your house, I hope you find hope and happiness in spite of the 2020 headlines. I like the older traditions, so if you were to drive by my house, you’ll find my outside decorations up until the night of January 5th. The neighborhood doesn’t mind: they just think I’m lazy.
When my wife and I lived in a townhome in a close-in Atlanta suburb, we bought a live Christmas Tree (spruce, of course). At the end of the season, we planted it in a shady spot and were surprised that the tree liked the place and was taller than the house when we moved ten years later. I hope it’s still there.
It’s nice to think that in spite of the on-going commercialization of the season that some traditions endure.
At some point in my life, giving gifts became a lot more fun than receiving gifts–not that I plan to turn down gifts. I don’t know when it happened. Perhaps, I became less greedy as I got older after left my parents’ household and started my own. Perhaps, my focus was on utilitarian needs that seemed too lame to serve as Christmas gift ideas for those who asked for them. I’m at a loss to explain when it happened.
As for why, that’s easy. Whether one see’s Christmas as “Yule” or Chrismas as a Christian holiday, Spirit takes precedence over getting stuff. We invite Spirit into our homes with wreathes and garlands and trees and lights–and for those of us who recall earlier times–with holly and Yule logs and candles and those twelve days between December 25th and Twelfth Night. Spirit encourages us to see the smiles on loved one’s faces when they open their gifts. And yes, Spirit reminds us to be gracious when we open our own gifts, items others have carefully chosen.
Spirit reminds us how to love each other within the ancient continuity of the changing seasons and their holy days. When we listen to Spirit, we see Christmas and/or Yule as more than a race to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. It’s a series of days, a time of beauty and lights and song, a time of doing for others, a time that shows us how wonderful the world would be if the Spirit of that time stayed overtly with us throughout the year.
I’m not sure Spirit is with us on Black Friday because on that day, excessive consumerism seems to grab us by our throats and propel us toward big dollars and large numbers of presents (often from children’s lengthy Christmas lists) rather than finding that one special gift that will never be forgotten. Okay, if we get it at half price, I guess that’s okay, but not if we have to wrestle a horde of shoppers in multiple store aisles to filch it from the unwashed rabble.
Spirit probably doesn’t mind how we focus our celebrations–Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, Christmas, Kwanza, Yule, Epiphany/Twelfth Night–as long as we conjure that Spirit into our lives and share it with others. Trappings and gifts without Spirit are empty. If you have a favorite movie that helps you step away from the cares of the world into the wonders of this time, Spirit approves whether you prefer White Christmas or A Christmas Carol or Holiday Inn or The Polar Express or It’s a Wonderful Life. No doubt, Spirit loves more songs than we can count.
My intuition tells me Spirit loves eggnog because, as an 1890 article in the Times said, “And what is eggnog? Worcester says, “A drink made up of spirit, milk, sugar, and eggs beaten up together.” I like eggnog almost as much as mulled wine and mince pies and an endless pot of hot chocolate. Since these things are among those that remind me of Spirit, Spirit smiles upon them.
Spirit is not a shelf of booze, though being a little tipsy from time to time might help us notice Spirit because losing ourselves is the only way to find Spirit. The morning hangover reminds us there are better ways to conjure Spirit than getting drunk. Most of us know that, of course. However you celebrate this time of year year, I hope you find the true spirit of your beliefs and share your smiles with those you love.
“Wherever the creative power of desire is, there springs the soil’s own seed. But do not forget to wait.”
– C.G. Jung, The Red Book
If you are not a winter person, Winter requires patience in addition to bracing oneself against the cold and the extended time of darkness.
Some folks welcome the solstice because once the shortest day and longest night have come and gone, they feel like they can begin the happy countdown to Spring. Others–and I am one of them–believe Winter and darkness are part of the natural progression of everything throughout nature. Seeds require Winter, a time of waiting and preparing before flowering and fruiting are even possible.
Humans are like that, too, I think, though I’ll admit that being a Winter person becomes more difficult with age. One discards short sleeved shirts sooner, starts wearing heavier jackets, and copes less well with the cold.
Mentally, more than physically, I still welcome a time of patience, of waiting for ideas to germinate, and noting the temporal and spiritual components of ancient Yule celebrations.
As more and more of us become further separated from farms and their harvest cycles, it’s not easy to maintain ones place in the annual cycle of things. This is a pity, I think, for our mental and spiritual development has so much in common with the natural world’s “great wheel of the year” throughout the seasons.
However you see Winter and the solstice, best wishes and seasons greetings.