We love this time of year, and the commingling of memories both personal and ancestral. No one knows how many centuries humans waited anxiously during the darkening days until the sun reversed its course on the Winter Solstice. The spirit of western civilization huddles by the fire in the long dark nights of countless northern winters long ago, but our soul looks south and east. So it is that about this time every December, we join snowflakes and Christmas trees to a manger at the edge of a desert in a land holy to three great Faiths.
Some would pick apart our celebrations, our devotions and our decorations, our shopping sprees, office parties and school vacations and say “too commercial.” Others might debate the merits of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” There’s a war on, we hear.
But there have been no casualties in this family. The Yule log warms our feet as we remember the birth of Christ. We welcome Chanukah, and the festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the epic defeat of the Seleucids.
Bring on Kwanzaa, a newcomer to our holiday season, created in 1966 in response to the commercialization of Christmas. Kwanzaa is not an “African” holiday, as many believe; it is purely American, and it honors the cultures of the African diaspora in America and other lands. Kwanzaa celebrates unity, self-determination, community, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
We will even tip our hat to those who observe “Festivus,” a farcical celebration lampooning all of our holidays, with fictional feats of strength and the airing of grievances (a year round observance for some). Festivus was created entirely by humor for humor’s sake, and there is always room for that. Is it any less arbitrary than starting the new year on January 1st in the dead of winter?
In truth, the holiday season for many of us begins with Thanksgiving and extends all the way through the 12th day of Christmas, for it is during Thanksgiving that we are reminded of an essential element to carry with us through the holidays and into the new year: gratitude.
We are grateful for all our reasons to celebrate, and for the ability to do so. We are grateful for family and friends, the ones who are with us still, and the ones who have gone on ahead. We’re grateful for our long suffering readers in a beautiful and special place where some of the best people we have ever known make their homes.