Tag Archive 'holiday celebration'

Dec 29 2022

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Reflections on Christmas

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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.

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Dec 19 2018

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Winter Sunrise

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It’s that time of year again. Half of our hours awake take place in the darkness or twilight, and there’s all this talk about being merry. I just roll with it. A friend of mine told me that he thrives on the darkness, so we toasted to that the other day. But I must admit, I don’t quite relate.

I’ve already done a couple hours work in my study by the time the sun comes up. Over breakfast, the eastern sky reddens towards dawn. I visit my favorite weather website to verify what I already know: sunrise just shy of 7:30 and sunset around 4:15. The Winter Solstice is still two days away but we’re pretty much there. Already we’ve seen the earliest sunset, thanks to Earth’s elliptical orbit and other astronomical technicalities. Soon the days will start getting longer again. The latest sunrise takes place shortly after that.

Being neither pagan nor Judeo-Christian, the holidays always feel a little strange to me. That said, I’ve put up a fir tree in my living room and hung some lights outside. The darkest day of the year is about to pass, and that’s something worth celebrating.

Now comes what another friend of mine calls The Long White. We’re already well into it, but there’s a lot more winter ahead. The deep cold comes in January, and we get plenty of snow after that. A good time of year for doing literary work, that’s the upside. All the same, I go for a long walk every other day. It’s important to get outdoors no matter what.

 

 

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