Tag Archive 'Christmas'

Dec 29 2022

Profile Image of Walt

Reflections on Christmas

Filed under Blog Post

Usually, I don’t make any public statement about the Christian holiday that rolls around this time of year, but it seems disingenuous for me as a philosopher to ignore the elephant in the living room – in this case, the Christmas tree. Yes, Judy and I have one even though we are not Christians in any traditional sense of the word. We call it a memory tree, decorated as it is with ornaments that remind us of loved ones who have passed away along with those still living. We have lights up on our house, as well, and there are other holiday decorations inside our home. We “celebrate” this time of year the best we can. But it isn’t easy.

The West, including the United States, is a predominantly Christian culture. For over a month we are immersed in a frenzied build-up to Christmas whether we like it or not. With pagan-like tolerance, I can reclaim this time of year by celebrating the Winter Solstice. But I am not a pagan so that too seems disingenuous. I am deeply religious, but not in a way that makes sense to most people. No matter. Christmas is thrust upon me regardless of what I think or believe.

Raised Catholic, my feelings about this time of year are complicated by childhood memories. Then there is my mother, who was very much a Christian and loved this time of year when she was alive. I keep a Santa Claus on my bookshelf year-round in memory of her. Santa Claus, hmm… That confuses the matter, as do all the secular icons – the Grinch, Rudolph, elves, etc. – that have little or nothing to do with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth over two thousand years ago. Jesus Christ, he is usually called, because he is the God/man who came into this world to save us from ourselves. That is what the Christmas holiday is all about, despite the huge influx of retail sales. Oh yeah, this holiday is complicated for all of us. Very complicated, indeed.

Afflicted by Seasonal Affected Disorder, I am relieved to be on the other side of the Winter Solstice, with the prospect of daylight increasing with every passing day for the next six months. That alone is reason for me to celebrate the season. I look forward to the days ahead despite frigid temps. I especially look forward to turning the page on the calendar and beginning a new year. Nature, it seems to me, is reclaiming the world.

While chatting with a store clerk right after the holiday, I asked how her Christmas went. She said she was glad it’s over. No surprise there. Then she added: “It’s too much.” I have been pondering that for days. Yes, it is too much. It’s completely over the top for reasons that have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It’s as if the entire Western world goes a little crazy this time of year. And most of us are glad to be on the other side of it. Go figure.

No responses yet

Dec 09 2014

Profile Image of Walt

Lighting the Darkness

Filed under Blog Post

xmas lightsI used to be one of those people who complained about the crass commercialization of Christmas. Then I spent decades being annoyed by the cheap sentimentality and unrealistic expectations of it all. Interspersed through the years, of course, were occasional moments of true joy in the company of family and friends, but I chose to downplay that. Or simply take those moments for granted. I focused instead on the Winter Solstice, the interplay of darkness and light, which is what the ancients celebrated this time of year, long before there was any talk of a coming Messiah.

When I was a child, I basked in the wonder and mystery of Christmas. That evolved into the wonder and mystery of nature when I became an adult. Not quite the same thing, really, but closer than one might think. There is something about the world that defies reason, that goes beyond words – something rooted in unknowing, that is. Something mysterious. And it has been with us since the dawn of human consciousness.

Nowadays, when this season rolls around, I see things a little differently. I pick through the rituals, choosing those that mean something to me, while trying to show a little compassion towards those doing what they can to muddle through the dark season. It isn’t an easy time of year for anyone except children, who haven’t had time enough to accumulate all the emotional baggage that we adults carry around.

A couple days ago, I nailed lights to my house. Then my wife Judy and I put up a tree in our living room and decorated it. Yessir, we’re doing our part to light up the darkness despite the apparent frivolity of it all. And why not? The darkness is real. The sun is close to being as low on the horizon as it can get. The nights are long indeed. And the memories of Christmases past haunt us whether we like it or not. After all, we are only human.

 

One response so far