Today – December 2 – is the first day of the Advent for 2018. It’s a time of anticipation and a countdown to the aventus (meaning arrival or coming in Latin). But arrival of what? Its symbology has swirled among our earliest religions, folding in layers and layers of traditions, just like Christmas itself. It’s impossible to untangle its roots.
The “official” currently accepted countdown walks alongside Christianity, and starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. We await the celebration of Christ’s birth. Or, if religion is too dated for your libralism, for a jolly character named Santa to drop gifts down your chimney. I was highly suspicious of that story as a child. For one thing, we didn’t have a chimney. And why did this man give me so much and someone else so little? Wait. He gave that girl on television a pony? I’ve been asking for one all my life. I suspected it was a lie when I questioned why old St. Nick had the same Christmas wrapping paper as the rolls my Mom had purchased.
Whether by design or accident, I was indoctrinated into a “reason for the season”.
You can’t race through the stores without tripping over the dizzying choices of novelty Advent Calendars. You can celebrate each day with tiny gifts, chocolate, alcohol, and a slew of other selections. Trying to find more meaning in the season? There is a calendar for that as well. Each day you can give something away. But what does it all mean?
Pop over to a church and you will discover candles representing the four Sundays in the form of a circle around a fifth candle which represents Christmas Day. I’ve seen various choices for the colours and meanings of those candles, but which story is the <right> one? Replace the word <right> with true, first, correct…
Is there a right story? Or have we perhaps lost the forest in the trees? How does the pagan celebration of the solstice fit in? Worshipping evergreen trees which stand victorious against the dark and cold of winter. Does that not defy dormancy and death?
This December 2 also marks the beginning of the 8-day-long festival of lights … Chanukah.
Each belief system and religion tries to stamp its own brand of spirituality on something as ancient and ethereal as time, space and the natural circle of life. While those of us in the northern hemisphere move into the darkest hour, our friends in the south head into the light. December 22nd is our winter solstice and the shortest day of the year, but it is the opposite in the other half of the planet. December 22 marks their beginning of summer and the longest day of the year. As we breathe in, they breathe out. It is both a beginning and an end.
What if there is no one right way to experience the season? Or that we have completely missed the mark? We insist on calling this day December 2, 2018 in the Julian calendar … but what if it isn’t? Is the label more significant than the event itself? December – dec equals ten in latin – was not the last month in the Roman calendar. March heralded the the beginning of the year.
If you take a step back and remove all the glitter from December, you can feel that it is a special juncture in time. Peace is found on a silent night, while chaos reigns in the parking lots. A time of rebirth hidden among the frantic craziness of the occasion. We are blindly lead to follow this path or that one. Will you really be happier if you can buy your son or daughter this year’s sell-out toy? And for how long?
It’s also a difficult time of the year. It is a season of great love and heavy loneliness. It’s the equinox of inclusion and exclusion. It is steeped rituals. We rush around wishing goodwill towards all humankind, yet we don’t extend that thought beyond our own walls. While someone will wake up with thirty-nine presents on Christmas morning, there is someone who has nothing.
As we prepare to rush head first into the season, not yet caught up in the busy schedule of the holiday, take a step back. Breathe. Feel. Listen. Question.
Stop being told what to think. As our world marches into a more modern era, we have never felt so alone … so scared … so lost … so cut off … so poor … so vulnerable … so insignificant. We numb ourselves with whatever agent is available to feel less. Drugs, alcohol, shopping sprees and giving away piles of crap because it makes us feel better. Sex, lies and twitter feeds. Something must end in order to make space for something new.
The things I want for Christmas can’t be bought. Yet, I am taught to soothe that ache with materials. Are we entirely sure which side we are on?
It takes courage to face the beginnings and the ends. Cut through all of the trappings, labels, wrappings and illusions to really look at what is going on around you. Find the true meaning of aventus. It is magical. It just won’t be found in a box.
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