Throughout history and across different cultures, nations and peoples, the bleak midwinter has been a time for celebrations. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christian, Jewish, Pagan or secular, the darkest and coldest parts of the year are full of food, drink and dance. December in particular is lousy with holidays where revelry is expected.
At first glance this seems odd. Springtime is where the fun’s at. It’s warm, it’s bright; and plants, animals, and people are making baby plants, animals and people. True, springtime holds its share of celebrations but nothing compared what happens when the days get shorter and the nights grow longer; where people have little to do but sit around and try to stay warm.
But therein lies the beauty.
Go back a ways, to a time before indoor plumbing and central heating. Back when the word crops was applicable to everyday life. The winter solstice sat smack dab in the middle of a time where people died from a lack of food and a surplus of elements. Yalda, Dongzhi, Modraniht, Saturnalia and others were not just holidays, they were festivals; they were banquets. It’s as if people all over the world wanted to declare in one voice, ‘We’re halfway to springtime and the world hasn’t killed us yet! We’re still here!’
Can there be a better reason to celebrate? A better reason to look at your fellow man, past all the petty differences that separate us and embrace our common humanity?
In this day and age, in this part of the world, we’re not faced with the impending doom on the daily basis that our ancestors were. Because of this, in the forefront of our minds, we recognize tradition more than we celebrate the fact that we’re still here.
This year, in addition to celebrating with your friends and family, the holidays that you love and cherish, I invite you to celebrate with me. Celebrate the simple fact that we’re still here for the simple reason that some of us aren’t. We have lost people this year or we know others who have. We cannot know what next year will bring. So, if you’re able, make room at your table for new friends and for old friends. Be merry, eat good food, drink great wine and dance and sing with a joyful heart.
We’re halfway to springtime and the world hasn’t killed us yet! We’re still here!