Thursday, December 25, 2008

Simply Christmas

I'll admit it right up front: I love Christmas. Not for the piles of presents—I like receiving gifts as much as anyone else, but honestly, what I love about this holiday of lights is not the accumulation of more stuff.

Nor do I love the commercial-ization of what once was an especially spiritual and giving time of year but has now become the season of shopping, during which every advertisement encourages us to buy, buy, buy.

No, what I love about this winter holiday is its green and joyous roots, which come through no matter how over-commercialized, over-consumptive, and simply stressful Christmas has become.

I love the lights, the joyful music, the spicy smell of sap from evergreen trees and wreaths, the opportunity to practice generosity and the warmth of fellowship, and the quiet time to reflect on the year soon ending.

The holiday that we call Christmas began for all that. Long before Black Friday and super-special discounts that encourage mob behavior, Christmas was a celebration of light and the miracle of renewed life in the darkest, coldest days of winter.

In those days before central heating guaranteed warmth and electricity stretched daytime deep into winter's nights, and before the technology of fossil fuels transported people and goods from continent to continent, winter was a season that took concerted effort to survive.

When the solstice came and the sun rose and set far to the south, appearing to hesitate before finally, gradually turning back toward longer days and shorter nights, celebration was most definitely in order.

Hence the lights, including the tradition of the Yule log, a massive log that would burn through hours of darkness, and the Hannukkah candles, symbols of survival through the most difficult of times.

And the evergreens, brought inside as reminders that life continues even when the soil itself freezes and snow mantles the earth. The music and feasting to warm bodies and lift spirits depressed by the cold and lack of daylight.

And just as important, the stories told specially for this time of year to remind us that even when times seem bleak as the weather, we are capable of miracles as bright and promising as the shimmering stars that guide us, tales that hold out hope that our best selves will lead us into a new year and new life.

If you look past the advertising, the sales, the exhortations to buy more and bigger and fancier stuff, Christmas is still there.

It's in the unexpected and genuine smiles, the sound of voices raised in joyful song, the heartfelt giving of gifts, the acts of sudden generosity like shoveling someone else's sidewalk, the invitations to gather over festive food and drink, the moments of quiet when we remember why we are here, and the lights, both those twinkling from houses and the eternal, ever-changing show in the heavens overhead.

It's in the darkness and the blessing of dawn, but most of all, Christmas is the spirit that burns within us all, every day.

This post comes from my weekly newspaper and radio commentary, which is also available in audio version as a podcast on my web site,

I'm taking next week off for the holidays, and will return to blogging early in the new year, with some changes and some great news. May the new year bring you all a richer connection to your community, and great joy! Blessings, Susan


eduardo said...

I was about to agree with you regarding how commercialized, and frenzied, the Solstice/Hannukah/Christmas/Kawaanza season has become--how we wind up doing the opposite of coming together in a contented sigh of blessings with family and friends.
But then you signed off, saying it'd be until next year that you'd post again, "with some changes and some good news."
Now, I don't feel like waiting, like being patient. So much for my seasonal temperment, huh? ;-)
(Of course we'll wait. And gladly, patiently.)
Brightest of blessings until you blog again,

Susan J Tweit said...

Patience is a virtue, they say! Not that it's one I'm overly blessed with. But in this case, I think it'll be worth the wait. I'm refining, redesigning, honing my public face with this blog and my web site. More in the New Year....
And brightest blessings to you. Go write!

Heidi said...

Lovely. I too love the lights, the scents and the hope of this season.

Happy New Year.

turtlewoman said...

What a beautiful post - as all of yours are. Thank you for the uplifting thoughts as to what makes
Christmas special. Often it is difficult to overlook and get past the commercialization because it is so "in-your-face".

I do hope you will be able to enjoy your time off. I too am looking forward, albeit impatiently :), to your good news. :-D


PS - We enjoyed the pic. of the luminarias in front (?) of your house and "S"/"Tenderfoot"/"Christmas" Mountain in the background.

Susan J Tweit said...

Thanks, Heidi! This is the season of hope, isn't it? We almost hold our breaths, waiting for renewal.

Lindy, I'm touched by your praise. (And I want to toe the ground and say, "Aw, gee, shucks, ma'am!")

I think the key thing to remember when something is as "in our face" as the commercialization of a season that should be about reflection and rejoicing is that we can always turn our heads, literally and metaphorically, and look another way. For instance, I live without television, so I don't "have to" see all the commercials. But those who choose to have television can simply turn it off, or only watch selected things. The same is true for the other media.... To a great extent, we choose what we see. That's especially important at this time of year I think.

Blessings to you both! Susan

Susan Tomlinson said...

Again, amen to all that.

I hope your time off from blogging is productive and joyful. Come back soon--with the good news!

Susan J Tweit said...

Thanks, Susan! And warm holiday wishes to you. I'm looking forward to some quiet time after we take my folks home to Denver tomorrow. I've got thoughts bouncing around in my head begging to be written....

Other Susan

Susan GT said...

Once again, your words aim straight to the heart. Have a wonderful holiday rest and I look forward to hearing your good news in the new year!
Susan Gallacher-Turner

Mary Moss said...

Susan, hope you enjoyed the holidays. This is a lovely post and I really enjoyed learning the history of many of our traditions.

Susan J Tweit said...

I did enjoy the holidays, Mary--thank you! I'm looking forward to a year of new connections and new audiences. Challenging times like these also bring new opportunities as we're forced to reconsider all we do.

Susan G-T, Happy New Year to you! I always appreciate your words. Stay tuned for news coming soon....


©Hotbutton Press said...

Oh, sure leave us dangling in anticipation. LOL. Happy New Year and all the best to you and Richard.



Maria said...

I LOVE the wreath, especially the incorporation of blue juniper berries! It sounds like you are busy with the next piece of your writing life. I was just on Story Circle Network and saw that you will be a writing mentor. Wonderful. Maria

Susan J Tweit said...

Love that photo, Dani! And thanks for those good wishes. Surely 2009 will be a better year for us all, if the political and economic change reach into the rural West. I'm sending warm wishes to you down the Arkansas! Susan

Maria, my wreath designer (Rob Porco) is a talented fiber artist, and he and I share a love of wreaths made with local materials. He always puts a bit of sagebrush in my wreaths too, because he knows it's my "totem" plant. Happy New Year to your end of the valley! Susan