Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Original Holiday

Am I the "bah, humbug!" type a friend asked. Oh, yes, indeed I am. I try not to rain on anyone's parade, but Christmas just does not melt my butter. I think the lies about Santa Claus were the beginning of my disaffection, and it grew, as the holiday was an annual disappointment. The music was awful, too.

When my doubts about the existence of the jolly old elf in red led me to ask my parents, they assured me he was real. I launched an energetic defense against my doubting peers, but when I discovered they were right, my parents had lied, and I had born the scorn of my friends for it, Christmas lost it's glow. Years later, my parents resented the grandparents honest answer to my sister, when she asked the same question. I was with the grandparents, because honesty saves embarrassment.

Later, I would discover Santa wasn't the only fraud linked to Christmas. History showed no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was born on that date, or even that time of year. Placing it on the calendar was a political act.

The solstice was the original holiday, and, for me, it is still the true holiday. The ancients studied the heavens, and they knew the movements of the sun and stars, the progression of the seasons and the faces of the moon. Their rituals were linked to those natural cycles.

The winter solstice merges reality and metaphor. It is the turning point of darkness and light. The sun, our primary source of light and warmth, seems to have moved away, and the nights are long. The solstice marks the time when the dark has grown to its greatest point. Now the sun will turn back to the northern hemisphere. Many ancients celebrated the birth or rebirth of their gods at or near that time. Apollo, Baal, and Sol Invictus were all dedicated to the return of the undying sun. The solstice also marked the resurrection of Osiris. Choosing December 25 as Christ's birthday made it easier to convert the worshipers of Mithra, whose birthday was being celebrated on that day, with just a simple name change.

The solstice signifies a turning point in an eternal cycle. It symbolizes revival, renewal, recovery and resurrection. The old is discarded; the new is introduced.

Everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning so that return leads to flowering. Hurry nothing artificially. The flowering of spring is still a distant hope, but we move towards it, and the ripening which will follow.

Ching says return is the stem of character, which leads to self-knowledge, as one turns from the confusion of external things and back towards the inner light. The oracle also says it is always wise to follow the examples of good people. Return leads to success.

I like that bit about turning away from external things. It is a counter-point to the yearly greed fest god's birthday has turned into. As I said, I celebrate the solstice. Darkness has peaked, the sun returns and spring is on the way. It is time to nurture small things and prepare for the new year.

1 comment:

  1. And hopefully that glowing light at the end of the tunnel not only means the coming of spring, but the end of getting up in the middle of the night to put wood in the stove, right?