First of all, merry Christmas. I have no problem with saying or hearing that phrase. I like Christmas fine, despite having a limited childhood history with it. If you're Jewish, like my father's ancestors apparently, happy Hanukkah (though it ended three weeks ago). Happy New Year, or, if you come from these traditions, may you enjoy a blessed Diwali, Eid, or Kwanzaa. If you're a Grinchy atheist, happy solstice or Tuesday or hey, whatever you're into. It makes no difference to me. I just think today and tomorrow would be good days on which to be happy.
See, we all know Jesus wasn't born on December 25th. Santa isn't really the Turkish St. Nicholas, he's a merry manifestation of Coca-Cola and a jolly face reflecting the pure wide-eyed greed of Western children. And that's okay! It's still a great time, with all those colorful twinkling lights and Nat King Cole and Linus Van Pelt on the telly. If you have kids, it's worth all those Target card migraines to see their eyes light up like those battery-heavy toys they'll soon break. If you don't, it's a gentle time to curl up with a hot cup of cocoa and watch Ralphie Parker angle for that Red Ryder carbine-action, two-hundred-shot Range Model air rifle all over again. We each have our own holiday traditions, and we revel in the joy of our comforting annual routine.
For me, of course, there's not much that's holy, per se, about the last week of December, yet I've always tried to make it a point of updating this blog on or just before Christmas Eve. I like to put my best foot forward in this entry, as one of my traditions is to remind you that for all my contentious contrarianism, I really do care about all you close ones as an actual, normal human being might do. This may be an agnostic blog, but I know what I know, and one of those facts is that ultimately, life and humanity are worth celebrating, especially in unison.
Christians like to talk about "the reason for the season." Well, listen, Jesus may be the reason for a whole lot of things, but he's not the reason for this particular season. Christians moved Christmas to late December in order to occupy territory once owned proudly by the winter solstice. That's the reason for this season, and it's a great one--not because the sun god holds any sway over us, but because the sun does. Every one of us is susceptible, at least to some degree, to seasonal affective disorder. As days get shorter, our moods darken, too. As we tear pages away from the calendar, we're reminded of all we've failed to accomplish. Some of us, it pains to me to say, had a lousy 2013. Some folks didn't make it to the end. But I'm not trying to bum anyone out; quite the opposite. Because we, Gentle Reader, you and me? We're still here. We hung on. The days are lengthening again, so now it's time to look ahead to all the possibilities inherent in a brand new year.
There's a great holiday song by Imogen Heap called "Just for Now," that exhorts us to "leave all our hopelessnesses aside, if just for a little while." And that's what these holidays mean to me. They're a time to celebrate survival and rejuvenation. If someone broke your heart this year, it will soon have happened last year, and from there it will fade in your memory. If your fortunes or health took a beating, those bruises will heal. As you sit around the tree, handing out gifts and enjoying favorite treats, know it's all about to change. That evergreen covered in lights doesn't represent our pie-in-the-sky dreams of a heavenly reward, nor even global peace among men (and women) of goodwill. It symbolizes survival in the face of freezing cold. Every apple-cheeked Christ child in a Bethlehem creche means our world is being born again even as we speak.
So shalom, my friends. We made it. Here comes the sun, and I say: it's all right.