The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Little lights in the darkness

Over the years, my taste in holiday lighting decorations has changed.

When I was a child, I loved all different kinds of lights. The simple, elegant "gingerbread" houses. The gaudy, tacky "as many lights as possible" houses. The trees and candy canes on lamp posts. The oversized toyland decorations in the shopping malls. Christmas was wondrous and magical to me. I wanted it to last every day.

This childlike wonder lasted through high school, but throughout my college years I became disenchanted. Christmas Day with my family was suddenly something more to be endured than cherished. I was all at the same time depressed, and establishing myself as a person separate from my family, and realizing that I didn't really care for my grandparents all that much. Holiday decorating lost its charm. Christmas became empty and commercial. I wasn't even a Christian anymore, and the "festive" displays seemed more like a desperate ploy to distract people from the hopelessness of their everyday lives.

Goodwill shouldn't just be seasonal, should it? And why spend so much time and money on decorating trees and houses and wrapping presents if it's all just taken down or wripped apart and thrown away later anyway? What's the point?

At the same time, though, I learned of other, older holidays. The ones the idea of Christmas is based on. There's a common thread of a celebration in the wintertime, and of a birth (or rebirth) of a "god-type person." The ones I know of are Mithras, and the sun itself. I'm sure there are more.

"Christmas" with my family has gotten better. We meet my grandparents for dinner the night before, and I've come to appreciate the time I spend with my parents and brother. And I've always loved gift giving. And wrapping presents is something fun and creative to do. We always play little "guessing games" with some of the tags we put on our presents. It's cute.

But a lot of the "magic" is still absent for me. All-day Christmas music-a-thons on the radio just aren't my taste. And "Jesus is the reason for the season?" *sigh* Actually, Jesus wasn't born in December, it was a ploy by the catholic church to stop the "pagan" festivities that the people in England insisted on having. Before they made it official, the church really wasn't into an all out bash to celebrate the birth of the messiah.

So I went out to run some errands last night, and I drove by city hall (or what I'm fairly certain is city hall. It's the building that the infamous "giant asparagus" is in front of). All of the trees in the plaza were lit with cheerful, white lights. In the lobby of the building, which you can see through huge plate glass windows, was a giant tree just as tastefully lit and decorated. The entire scene looked so warm and inviting. And it hit me.

People need to celebrate in the winter. The days just keep getting darker, colder. Whether it's religious, spiritual, natural...whatever explanation you want, that's what's happening. And on one specific day, the darkest day, it all reverses. The sun is "born" again, and we all know everything's going to be alright.

But in those dark, lonely nights, when the world is dying for a time, we need light. We need people, good cheer, and hope. Some people get that through the Jesus connection. Some people get it through some other spiritual means. Some people choose to ignore it altogether. (And interestingly enough, Chanukah is apparently the least important Jewish holiday, and is mainly celebrated so that the Jewish kids don't feel left out when their goyish counterparts are a partying.)

But I think that there's a common, subconscious thread.

Or maybe just that all those Western Europeans got it right. It's dark, it's fucking cold, why not? And although I still don't go for the tacky displays as much, or the crass manipulation of the emotional reasons behind giving of gifts and family togetherness, I feel a little bit warmer inside. For me, there's a light in the darkness. There's always hope that the sun will come back. Everything's going to be alright.

So I say unto you: light your lights, your luminary bags, your gaudy blinkers, your candles! Let's celebrate.

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