Monday, December 14, 2009

Seasonal Thoughts

"When are you going to put up your seasonal decorations?" I'd gone outside to pick up the mail, and a passing neighbor noticed the dead ferns filling my front porch planters. "These ARE my seasonal decorations," I told her, explaining that these were appropriate symbols of what this season remains for me -- that is, the Advent season, a time of waiting quietly during the darkest time of year, when everything seems cold and dead, awaiting the turning of the year when the light comes back to us. And for me as a Christian, waiting to celebrate the birth of "the Light that shone in the darkness," as John the Evangelist wrote. I think she thought I was crazy. Didn't I know the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving?

I realize that's when Christmas starts for most folks. The evidence is everywhere: even before the first of December, the neighbors' houses are strung with lights, the streets downtown are hung with garlands, and every store I enter resounds with carols. The schools put on their holiday concerts and companies throw their office parties. The excitement builds to a big crescendo, the advertisements scream Buy! Buy! Buy! Hurry, hurry it's not too late! Then the day after Christmas arrives, and Bam! the holiday's over. There I stand ready to celebrate, but everyone else has done it. Makes me wonder what exactly it is that others celebrate at Christmas.

I know that's the way it has to be in our capitalistic system. Can't be helped. Apparently, our nation's economy depends on this pre-Christmas frenzy, of focusing on Christmas as gift-buying time. I certainly wish my local merchants well, especially the ones who know me by name and support community causes. And, sure, I buy some presents. But oh how I wish that commerce wasn't the center of Christmas in our culture. I wish we could all hold off on the parties and carols and feasting until the day itself arrived and THEN burst forth with lights and music and joy, the festivities continuing through the New Year. That would seem so much more in tune with the natural world, as well as the spiritual, whether we're celebrating Jesus' birth or marking the winter solstice.

Me, I celebrate both. But only in due time.


Lindsey said...

Oh how I hear you. I was just saying today that I absolutely dislike 'Christmas' as it is in modern society. I hate how it's expected of you to go into debt to prove to others that you care about them by buying overpriced, cheaply made crap. I hate the fake cheer and fake niceness that will turn to extremely nasty attitudes right after Christmas ends.

I tend to celebrate the solstice and the months after anyway, the short days really make me miserable so the coming longer days and eventual spring makes me a bit joyous. I'm happier around the Chinese New Year.

suep said...

Jackie - You describe very well the "Day After Christmas" phenomenon - when those frenzied activities come to a screeching halt !
Here's to a happy Solstice and the turning of the year.
Hope they never figure out how to commercialize THAT.

Ellen Rathbone said...

How true, how true and how. I used to like all the lights and decorations, but these days they seem to have gone from tasteful to tacky (especially those horrid inflated things). In a way, I'm glad it's all over on the 26th - by then we're all rather sick of it.

When I was a kid, the decorations usually went up around my b'day (21 Dec) and came down around my sister's (8 Jan) - so it was Christmas for us for about two weeks. That was enough, usually.

So, enjoy your ferns. Me, I'll enjoy my houseplants, which are about the only decorated things in my home. And we can all enjoy the snow, which is, in the end, the perfect decoration!

Jens Zorn said...

I'm right with you Jackie... I get discouraged by the social pressures to act in a holiday mood according to a calendar. I much prefer year-round, one-on-one (or with Fran, two-on-one or two-on-two} opportunities to share the joy of life with friends.