by Lesley Sudders
There’s something in December that makes people pause. We love our rituals, but none so much as those that occur as the year winds down.
Ages ago, sages of many cultures figured out the winter solstice, the shortest day. The world is full of intriguing ancient structures used to calculate this occurrence. The winter solstice has captivated me since I learned about it. It has fascinated the world. In the weeks around it, seven major religions mark about 29 observances. Christmas is just one of them.
The summer solstice isn’t celebrated as much as the winter solstice. In December, we lose the precious light of the sun with accompanying cold or freeze and longer and longer nights. It is impossible to avoid taking notice.
But then, the very next day after the worst of this season, things begin to change, ever so slightly. As the moments of sun and warmth increase, hope is reborn. In cozy halls, throughout time and the world, people gather to mark this return. And, to indulge in reflection on what has passed. It is the precursor to spring and new growth of living things. It is truly a time to celebrate.
The two faces of the Roman god Janus allow him to look back and ahead,
marking transitions. We do the same on January 1. Most of us spend a moment or more musing on what went right or could have been better in the past year. We make well intentioned if oft-ignored resolutions. We raise a toast to the past and to the future. If we are lucky, we spend some of these days surrounded by family and friends, or at least the memory of happy days in company of those we love. We anticipate a wonderful year ahead of us.
Raised as a cultural Christian, I was always excited about the beautiful tree and even better – presents! But most especially, I enjoyed the family coming together. As I grew older, I decided that Santa Claus existed in our desire to reach out to others and offer a word of cheer, a wish for peace – no matter which, if any, religion one practiced. I loved the entire holiday season.
This year, holiday messages in social media reflect the fear and hatred that has arisen in our country. I am saddened and at times annoyed by the often bellicose tone of Facebook posts, daring one and all to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or some less specific greeting, ignoring numerous adherents of other traditions who celebrate in their own ways. I don’t get it.
Everyone should say what they want. I have no idea why the “Merry Christmas” crowd, a few of them, at least, feel threatened. Is a figure from mythology or the Thought Police stalking their nightmares and threatening bodily harm? Where did this come from? Are we all about to gag on the term politically correct? Where is the love and joy and peace?
I will still enjoy the holiday season in the best way I can, and I hope others do the same. Or, conversely, willfully decide to ignore the whole thing. Which is merely another way to observe it.
Wishing you all peace.
Lesley Sudders has published a mystery, The Brodick Affair, writing as Les Brierfield, and is at work on her next novel and several short stories. A Colorado native, she lives in Arizona with her husband and writing collaborator Eduardo Cervino (E.C. Brierfield). Follow her blog: Les Brierfield, Author. Lesley welcomes contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.