It’s Holiday Season as I write this (Dear Fox News: New Year’s Day is part of this time of year, regardless of race or creed. HOLIDAY Season. Christmas doesn’t get a solo). I have products to sell that make good Christmas (or Kwanzaa or Feast of the Epiphany) gifts (use the Buy Now link at the top of this page). That’s beside my point, though.
Ask anyone who knows me well enough, I freakin’ hate snow with a passion hot enough to melt the stuff. Has to do with car crashes that I walked away from, skiing injuries to tailbone and left breast (part of the impetus of “These Foolish Things” and “At Last”) and my delicate skin getting chapped to bleeding from the cold, dry air of New England.
Jimmy Buffett, who was born on Christmas Day, has no problem with Christmas in the Caribbean and neither do I. This little girl, also born on Christmas Day 1983 named herself Buffett. She didn’t like winter and cold, either.
Wasn’t she beautiful? Sweetest little thing on four paws.
We’re hearing a lot right now about the meaning of Christmas, the commercialization of Christmas, the origins of Christmas, when Jesus of Nazareth was actually born and on and on. My friends are telling me about the stresses they’re experiencing getting ready for Christmas, some of it happy and fun, some of it, well, stressful. There are those of us with financial stress going on (that’s why I’m pushing the books with both hands) and it’s hard to feel excluded from the festivities because you don’t have the resources to “do it up” as you’d like (I have a pinkie swear with a dear friend that next will be MUCH better, even if we have to mug Santa). We’re hearing about income inequality in the US, debating the effects of raising the minimum wage, and whether unemployment benefits should be extended. We have arguments going over whether the Christian version of Christmas is getting left in the dust in favor of being inclusive of all holidays. I’m feeling anxiety from the people around me when I go out.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been a classic and TV holiday staple since 1965 for examining the true meaning of Christmas.
We have the Winter Solstice coming upon us on December 21. It’s the longest night of the year and Christmas was placed over the spot previously occupied by Saturnalia, a Roman festival of light centered on the Solstice. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Light celebrating the miracle of a one-day supply of lamp oil lasting eight nights, falls within the November-December time frame.
As I see it, one of the biggest connectors of these holidays, besides the calendar, is what they celebrate at their cores:
In the darkest part of the year, we gather (and have gathered for millenia) to celebrate hope. Whether it’s in the form of a divine Child or enough oil to keep the temple’s lamp going or the return of sunlight that will eventually grow crops , we human beings are hope junkies. As a kid, I was always a bigger fan of Christmas Eve than Christmas. There was the feeling that something wonderful was coming (I was a kid; I had access to the Sears Wish Book, I had hopes of stuff from that catalog coming). From the first Christmas lights going up around the neighborhood to hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve, it all stoked the anticipation. Something great was going to happen.
As I grew, the joyous anticipation of loot fell away in favor of hope that the gifts and other offerings I’d bring to the family celebration would be received with joy. I looked forward to the Boston Pops’ Christmas concerts and the Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet. Magic.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” shows a man who looks to lose everything he values but gets a fresh injection of hope for his life. “A Christmas Carol” speaks to the hope for redemption of even the meanest soul. And “A Christmas Story” is about the hope of getting an official “”Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” Even one of the minor stories is The Old Man winning his “Major Award” and joyously speculating on what it would be.
“Frah Gee Lay.” Must be Italian.
Santa Claus is the personification of hope. And Megyn Kelly? He, like God, is every color because Santa, like God, is made of our collective belief in him and what he stands for. He stands for hope. Hope is not limited to one skin color or belief or expression of faith. Hope is hope, no matter who has it.
If we weren’t all addicted to hope, we humans wouldn’t acknowledge December 25th, let alone write songs about it. Run the lyrics to some of the most classic of Christmas carols in your head. How often does hope come up? A lot.
Mostly, when I hear people speak of hope this particular season, it’s the hope that 2014 will be a better year than 2013 was (Red Sox winning the World Series being a bright spot for me). There have been tough losses this year among my friends and me: husbands, parents, beloved pets, jobs. People have rituals to ensure good luck in the New Year, mostly centered around foods (black eyed peas, lentils, pork, pink peppermint pigs…the 12 grapes in the 12 seconds leading to midnight is a tough one and a choking hazard. I suggest rehearsing it before the big day).
So, as we go forward and the squabbles over ____ arise, don’t forget the real meaning of the season: