I love this time of year. Houses ad lawns decorated with lights, visiting with family you don’t get to see often, special snacks and meals that are only served on festive occasions – I love it all! I have often worked Thanksgiving weekend, so the first chance I get after that day is when I put up my Christmas tree. And the Christmas playlist comes out – usually a small collection of cd’s, but sometimes a local radio station.
This year is different. I have seen some neighbors put up lights way before Thanksgiving, some are lighting up their yards for the first time, and there are some who seem they don’t want to bother. It is all okay, and it is all normal. Many will not spend time with relatives and friends this year, and Zoom will continue to be the norm for gatherings. My own house is not exempt.
For the first time in the twenty-plus years I have lived in my house there is no Christmas tree. There are decorations: lights, festive table linens, holiday-scented candles and essential oils. I did place ornaments on my mini-orange tree (that counts, right?). It just felt right to do it different this year.
One of the things that fascinates me about “the Holidays” is that so many of the World’s religions/spiritual traditions have some sort of “light” holiday this time of year. The ones I know of: Kwanzaa (African), Diwali (Hindu), Hanukkah (Jewish), and Christmas (Christian) – I know there are more. And there is so much symbolism surrounding “light” in each of them. Generally speaking, harvest has ended and we are preparing for winter. Long, cold, dark nights await. With a simple lantern or candle, we can dispel some of that darkness. That simple lantern lights our surroundings and illuminates our souls, bringing hope and faith that brighter, warmer days are near.
These are celebrations of Light conquering Dark; or good vs. evil. Literally and figuratively. I refer the interpretation of the Light of Truth prevailing over the Darkness of Ignorance. I believe this to be a very appropriate, perhaps a more literal, interpretation for 2020. Of course there are many, many levels of understanding to this – perhaps I’ll explore these at another time. We, as a collective, have had to face ignorance and seek truth for the majority of this year. Mask or no mask? When and where to wear said mask? Is COVID real or a hoax; is it as bad as they say? Work-from-home or go to the office? Are schools safe for my children? Etc, etc… the questions go on and on. We, as individuals, have been forced to not only find answers to these questions and others, but to also distill the truth. On an existential level (read: spiritual) we have been forced to sit with ourselves in ways we never have before.
Those with a contemplative practice (meditation, yoga for example) may have fared a bit better as they are used to taking time to look inward. With all this time at home alone we begin to look at ourselves, our lives, and wonder: what the f%*# am I doing with my life?!? And this begins the process of unveiling the Light of Truth and banishing the Darkness of our own Ignorance. This is not easy work.* It is a process of revealing that we are sitting in our own darkness, but that we are the candle that will dispel that darkness – we just have to spark the match. I my self, and many colleagues, have struggled with this process at times. 2020 has presented this challenge to me and many others – you are not alone.
However, as these holidays suggest, the Darkness will fade and the Light will shine – literally and figuratively. My make-shift Christmas tree (the orange tree) has only boomed every two-to-three years; with very few flowers and only one fruit since 2009. This year I have seen dozens – DOZENS – of blooms over the past three weeks. My living room is blessed with a sweet citrus scent ever couple days as new flowers open. I see this as a sign of that Light – hope, growth, faith, and truth. We may not be able to celebrate in the ways we have in years past, but we can still celebrate.
I wish you a safe, healthy, happy Holiday Season. May the Light of Truth shine bright in your life, now and always.
*If you are struggling, ask for guidance. Counselors & spiritual teachers are available to help. You can reach out to me, or to any trusted person.*