January 2014: It’s Magic!
So how is everyone’s New Year starting off? Recuperating from all the festivities that mark the transition from one year to another? As I write this, I am still in anticipation of what is yet to come—which got me thinking about what it all means.
Did your Christmas/Holiday/Winter Solstice Season get run over by Santa and his reindeer? Or trampled by the Magi en route to visit the baby Jesus?
Sometimes it can feel that this holiday season is rather redundant. Where is the significance of the symbols, stories, and traditions? Does this time of year truly mean anything to us? Or is it just repetition—what we do this time of year, year after year?
Not to be a Scrooge or exclaim, “Bah, humbug!” at the site of a Christmas tree. Rather the inverse. I love this time of year. The decorations, the music, the food, the generosity of spirit, the well wishes. It is indeed a bright spot in the dead of wintry whites and grays. For many it is also a time for family which might be neglected throughout the rest of the year, a time of giving, sharing, helping, remembering, rejoicing. For those with religious beliefs, it is also a time of storytelling and celebration. I am not as familiar as I would like to be with the various religious traditions that happen this time of year; but it is significant that nearly every belief system has some sort of festivity in November/December. And with the rise of the Global Village, many new stories, symbols, songs, and significant events are evolving out of the blending of cultures.
This came alive for me by reading another article in the November/December 2013 issue of Spirituality & Health magazine entitled, “Dancing in the Light” by Rivvy Neshama in which she describes “a pilgrimage to the Taos Pueblo for a traditional ceremony [that gives her] a new understanding of Christmas.” Even the ‘traditional’ ceremony described was a blend of native and Catholic themes.
And huddled together around an immense bonfire, the author heard different expressions of the experience: “It’s about the sun returning…It gives us light for the new year.” In her words, “It’s Christmas, it’s native, it’s solstice, it’s magic.”
In my words: Beautiful! What an amazing ceremony to express what this season is all about in its many manifestations! It is a time to celebrate the return of the sun. The shortest day of the year is behind us; and the days will only get longer until the summer solstice. There will be light to guide us into the new year. If we are so inclined, spiritual significance can be superimposed upon the meaning of sun and light in reference to the Christ child (Son and Light). In other religious systems, I’m certain those words can have double meanings as well.
The word that pops into my head: Renewal. The shift in the sun signifies renewal in that it is now time for the earth and its inhabitants to prepare or rest for spring (forthcoming time of rejuvenation and growth). The earth (and people) cannot continue to produce without a season of renewal and rest (in this case, resting is more active than passive). We are not bottomless resources—as much as we may treat our planet and other people as such.
In Christian tradition, the spiritual significance of this season is also renewal (aka redemption). The birth of Christ marks a shift in how God and people relate. Christmas is a time to refresh our relationship with God. In broader terms, regardless of religious affiliation, it is a time to reflect and revisit how we see ourselves as part of the grand scheme of things and how we relate to the Transcendent Other.
As 2014 opens before us, may you experience Light from within and without to renew you for what lies ahead in the new year.