Christmas was a light in the cold dark boredom of winter. We cleaned and baked and decorated, looked for the best gifts, wrapped them carefully and hid them away in our most secret hiding places. The beautiful once-in-a-year music, the smells of all the Christmas cookies my Mom would have ready by Christmas Eve, the festive quiet of advent… were my favorite part of the year.
Then I grew up and moved to large, crowded cities where the air never turned fresh and crispy. In advent time, the streets would fill up with tourists and retail slogans and I struggled to find the festive peace in all the human noise. And yet, ever since I lost Christmas, I have longed for this noisy madness every single year.
How does one lose Christmas, you ask? Easily. One loves to explore the world’s cultures, falls in love with a man, and moves with him to non-Christian lands, leaving all of her family, friends and Christmases behind.
Festivals of Lights
In many, if not most cultures and religions of the northern hemisphere, there is a significant festival around the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year. Pagans have celebrated Yule, there is Hanukkah in Judaism, and of course, the birth of Jesus in Christianity. They are stories of light, stories about the birth of hope for life’s continuation, just as the sun starts returning and bringing light and hope back to us. Coming with numerous rituals and cultural particularities, these festivals get engraved deep into our minds, as pillars of certainty towering tall and strong at the end of every year.
And so, when December comes and my pillar of certainty packed in a Christmas-magic wrapping is nowhere to be found, it is, quite plainly, sad. No matter how many Christmas carols I play (and sing, to the horror of my neighbors), no matter how intensely my home smells of gingerbread, no matter how much I fill our little place with Christmas, the magic ends once I walk out.
On & Off
Dear reader, if this year’s holidays feel a bit overwhelming right now, let me suggest something to you. It’s ok to turn the volume of the festive world down, close the blinds, and create one’s own rituals. Decorate or don’t, shop or don’t, indulge in the holidays’ sensory pleasures or don’t. And if you get caught in the noisy holiday overload wishing you had a switch to make it all disappear, remember there is one little person in a far-away land wishing she had that switch for the exact opposite reason.
All is kind, all is bright. In darkness, we have hope there will be light again. Happy and peaceful holidays to us all!