As many people do, I have almost always looked forward to the holidays. When I was a child, I looked forward to gifts. As a student and teacher, I looked forward to a vacation from school. For most of my life, I looked forward to getting together with family and friends. However, there were years in college and as a teenager that I dreaded the holidays, especially the New Year, if I didn’t have a party to go to or a date.
The holidays have become so commercial that many now dread them. This commercialization is characteristic of our contemporary culture and it buries the deeper meaning of such moments in time. My wife and I ignore gift-giving for ourselves. The only gift we give each other is our presence.But for the children we know and charities⎼ that is a different story.
Humans have celebrated the winter holidays possibly forever. The time is obviously near the solstice and the longest reign of night, at least in the Northern hemisphere where I live. For us northerners, it is the darkest and coldest time. It is traditionally a time to engage in rituals to assure that the sun will come again, that spring will follow winter, renewal follow hibernation, warmth follow cold.
Many holidays have this sacred dimension or shadow that connects us to a depth of history. This history is not just about days of religious significance. These holidays provide workers a break from intense labor. They signify a recognition of shared humanity, however dim that recognition often was in the past and might be so again today.
Every one of us needs time to rest and connect with others. Every one of us needs time to step back and contemplate why we are here on this earth, to renew our selves, our relationships with fellow humans and the earth that sustains us. The fact that we have days of rest is beyond a right; it is a sacred necessity.
Americans, as well as people from most nations, fought in the past for a five-day workweek. They fought against those who would oppress them and were successful. But today, the GOP are giving to the rich and taking from most of us, so we need to fight this same battle once again.
This year, everything is both normal, like always, and yet totally different from any other time. Never have Americans had a President who has threatened so many of our values and institutions, and who brings with him the possibility of a truly frightening future. Yet, day follows night. We wake from sleep. Many things continue as they have.
Much is changing; much is staying relatively the same. It is time to determine exactly what, on the level of our daily lives, might benefit from a change. For many of us, it might be finding ways, each day, we can integrate opposing the President and his cabinet and working for justice and democracy. Or there might be local issues that drive us. We might dedicate ourselves to improving our understanding of history and ourselves.
This time of ritually facing the darkest time of year might remind us that in some ways, this is what nature calls to us to do, to face the darkness so the light will come again.
Have a great holiday season and New Year. Renew, enjoy, and celebrate with friends and family. It is something we all need, deserve, and share. It is a reminder that we do share so much, and that what we need can be fought for and won.