Lights, Sound, Action! I wonder why only a few say, “Silence and Solitude.” The Great Winter Carnival in the U.S. of A. officially began with Halloween and will continue through the greatest of all sports’ orgies, the Super Bowl 1 Feb 15. Thanksgiving, a national holiday in America with religious overtones and underpinnings was celebrated 27 Nov., this year. Also in that period, Muslims observe Day of Ashura, 3 Nov 14, Milad un Nabi (Shia), 3 Jan 15 and Milad un Nabi (Shia), 8 Jan 15. Jews celebrate Hanukkah 16-24 Dec 14. Christians celebrate Advent 30 Nov—24 Dec 14, Christmas 25 Dec 14, Christmas Tide 26 Dec 14—5 Jan 15 and Epiphany 6 Jan—17 Feb 15. Hindus have thirteen religious festivals during that time, beginning with Kala Bhairavashtami, 15 Nov 14 and ending with Vasant Panchami, 24 Jan 15. Buddhists observe ten major festivals throughout the year and on it goes with other religions. But I digress.
Obviously, most people in the world have occasion to celebrate and/or pay attention to the growing of their souls. Those who do not practice a particular religion tend to get in on the act with patriotic and/or culture festivals. But you knew all that—at least if you follow Wikipedia.
Festivals frequently begin as religious events and then culture, through the years, changes them as does the religion(s) itself. In some cases, a religion will borrow another religion or culture’s holiday as was the case of early Christians using the Roman holiday of the winter solstice (see Wikipedia, et. al.) to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. What’s that about?
IMHO, “It’s” about getting out of the mundane, ho hum of life and, initially, trying to pay attention to one’s relationship with the universe. It is about recognizing each of us is much more than and a part of, that which we cannot grasp in toto. It is a yearning to overcome the existential loneliness of life. The problem is, as culture and/or religion embellishes on the original practice the reasons for doing it in the first place are drastically changed if not abolished.
What are we to do??? I am so glad you asked, because I happen to have a few quick thoughts on the matter. First, it might help to do a little light research (pun intended) on the holiday one is to celebrate. What was its original purpose? In the case of one like Christmas, it may be helpful to consult your favorite online source of information to discover what the winter solstice was about and why Christians felt there was some commonality—if in fact there was. Second, consult your own wisdom and that of persons you admire because of their awareness of their spirituality. Third, identify what you like best about the holiday, especially the things that help you grow your soul. Practice those things more and ignore the detractors. BTW, no one ever died or got cancer because they didn’t get the “perfect” gift. Fourth, spend as little time as possible with toxic people, even if they are relatives. And some of yours are! So are mine. Fifth, spend time with those who enable you to be attentive to your spirituality. Sixth, and very importantly, if what you are doing is stressful, quit doing it. Your soul and your family will thank you.
May you have a wonderful time of reflection and shalom in this festive time.