Every year the darkness of winter hurts me more. The icy winds, the black mornings, the monochrome of brown green outside. From October 30 until December 21st I tell myself how many mornings there are until I can hope again, until I can look forward to a little more light. And I feel this enormous empathy for the pagans, for the local people on this completely miserable island past and present, who kick it up a notch in December, who drag trees into their houses, and string up lights, and busy themselves in contact with others. These nativity plays and parties and travelling to relatives, all this stuff is really just about people banding together with good will. Truly this is the death of the year, and humans where I live now have banded together to survive this death with song and wine and comfort for each other, having a month of being the best humans we can be.
The traditions that make Christmas special for me, that make it work to protect me from this cold foretaste of my own demise actually have very little to do with Christianity. Decorating a tree (pagan), caroling (ancient pagan tradition of singing in the round), presents, parties, Ebeneezer Scrooge, mince pies, banana bread, Champagne at 11:00 (I do give Christianity credit for Champagne, having been invented by monks), Bill Murray as Scrooge, the original Grinch Cartoon, It's A Wonderful Life - let's face it, these are pretty unrelated to the birth of Christ, but I am comforted intensely by the ritual of revisiting them, and I am trying to pass on that comfort to my children. To me Christmas demonstrates this need for all humans to come together and support each other, this need so richly rewarded and so frequently ignored. If we didn't do it during these dark months, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any human life on this island. It's too dismal.
In the coming together we enjoy each other. I propose we come together, not only as a meek Christian who only gets to worship (rather limited activity), but just for now as humans, who many believe are made in God's image anyway. Humans who are fully all the parts of all the stories. In each of us there is a Tiny Tim who who desperately need love. In each of us there is a Grinch who delights in inflicting pain on others. In each of us there is a George Bailey desperately drunk in a bar wondering why the living fuck his life turned out the way it did. In each of us there is a Bob Cratchett who faithfully gets up and goes to work every day to provide for his family. Each of us is Clarence who sees so clearly the suffering of others. Each of us longs to fit in like Rudolph and his dentist friend.
So fellow humans, art tells us about ourselves, and I find this telling heals me of the wounds of this life. I love these stories, and I love Bruce Springsteen playing Santa Clause is Coming to Town. That one especially makes me happy every time I hear it even as I am telling myself -Grinch that I fucking AM - that it can't possibly do it again. Humans need the December hit of eating some yummy food, getting some love and feeling good. Christmas is enlightening for everyone. I find it enlightening - literally, against the darkness, enlightening.
Whether or not you are a Christian, the winter darkness is unavoidable, whether it is in the seasons of the years of our lives (unless you live in California, which is increasingly looking like the best option, frankly) or - importantly in our souls, part of our human nature. I think practicing pure Christianity mostly has too many concepts that blind you to your own darkness. That is why I really do not buy it anymore.
But I do love the story and I can lay claim to that. So here is my take:
We are all Roman Soldiers capable of genocide, we are all King Herod abusing our power, we are all Mary, and Joseph, naive and young, bewildered by bureaucracy and fleeced by an innkeeper. We are all the wise Kings watching and the cold shepherds laboring. We are all that hunted defenseless baby. You. You. You. You are the baby. You are the star.
So merry Christmas, entire world (really my 9 blog readers). Let us love and protect each other, let us give ourselves what we need, and guard against cruelty and the abuse of power, wherever it is found. Let us band together against the darkness by coming together under the light of a star.