Tuesday, December 11, 2012

how do you feel ...

 ... about THE HOLIDAYS?

depending on how old you are, you either remember, or you do not, these quintessential things that marked the winter calendar days in red: school winter break; ice skating; baking soft pretzels and sprinkling them with big chunks of salt; practicing carols; buying the tree; watching black-and-white bing crosby - fred astaire movies; of course, it's a wonderful life (also black-and-white); decorating the tree; drinking too much hot chocolate and licking the cookie batter spoons before they were washed; coralling the carolers and caroling everybody you knew, some you didn't; getting your fill of spiced cider and home-baked treats at every house you stopped to carol; going to bed early, saying special prayers, including a prayer for this night to pass quickly; getting up before the crack of dawn to see if Santa passed by your house; going to church, all dressed up, greeting everybody you knew and singing wholeheartedly for the joy of the world.

the red calendar days used to be marked thusly and, by the way, this is still an accurate fact: around the 21st of december, the sun, our source of warmth and light, stops traveling further and further south, as it has for the past several months. it just seems to stop. solstice is the name for this, linking together the latin words for sun, "sol" and standing, "stice." for three days, it rises and sets in the same place, far to the south, until the 25th of december, when it rises a little northward on the horizon.

the beginning of the return of the light.

ancient people tracked this movement, and those who used a calendar based on the sun often suspended time for those three days, holding feasts and religious rituals to honor the return of the light.

wikipedia says that the word holiday is a derivative of "Holy Day." we know this. or, if we don't, we intuit it. wikipedia further explains that it "... gradually evolved to its current form. the word originally referred only to special religious days. in modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school."

i have significant trouble with this derivation. i feel rebellious and nostalgic, desirous for some things to be preserved in their original incarnation. Holy Days, for example.

for if we were to have left these red calendar days ... alone, unmarred by the falsely-created need for "new and improved," "bigger, better, more, modern," we may well have avoided an observable increase in "holiday" crankiness, higher rates of depression, frantic drivers, morose sales persons, post-"holiday" blahs, disappointed children, significant dents in our budgets, inexplicable feelings of malcontent and alienation.

had we preserved the Holy Days, we may well have been warmed simply by a cup of mulled wine, singing old tunes, rejoicing with friends and family, a lit candle, and a string of lights.

what keeps us, collectively, from a return to red-letter Holy Days?

only ourselves.

christmas lights.jpg
Sometimes Christmas is as simple as a string of lights. -- LH

i wish you all a very merry season of peacefulness, joy, warmth, and good cheer!


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