Myth, Ritual and the Holidays
An end of the year reflection
In this interim between the winter holidays and New Year’s, there is an opportunity to reflect. We may have a moment or two between social obligations to consider who we are, where we are, what we are grateful for, why we are here and how we are going to get where we want to go.
If we look at the rituals and myths we have set up as markers to navigate time, it will give us a greater understanding and insight to these questions.
The intensity of Christmas, for instance, is marked not only by the celebration, but an utter clinging to the myth of Santa Claus. This Christmas Eve, the weatherman on the evening news, had a radar screen that showed where St. Nick’s sled currently was. There is almost a militant adherence to the upholding of this myth. At the heart of it, is not an avarice or anticipation of material gain, but a cheerful magic that comes to remind us of our own benevolent nature and capacity for giving love.
The lighting of candles on Hanukkah at this time of year is a ritual that is based on a myth. The candles represent one can of oil, meant to last one day that burned for eight nights. The significance of this ritual and myth symbolize the courage of the human spirit as it stands up to the seeming dominance of tyranny. Every night of the holiday, more candles are added to increase the light. Each kindled flame represents the presence of a collective determination to uphold personal freedom. The honor of lighting these candles is a personal reminder to uphold the freedom of our collective humanity.
The ball that falls in Times Square at midnight at the end of the year, is an illuminated symbol of our collective adherence to linear time with all of its nostalgia and unknown possibility. The ritual of celebrating with friends and even strangers, in a friendly, spill over the side of our comfort zone manner, goes beyond the tiny bubbles in our glass. It is an anticipated prolonged moment that makes us consciously aware of the present. In its own way, it offers us a portal to transcend time, our body, our routine and environment to recognize that we can change our hard-wired reality into something we equate with hope.
We can fly through the years on automatic pilot, and celebrate holidays and rituals perfunctorily, or we can use them to usher us into the present, savor our interactions and enter into a space where the person we long to be and the world we hope to belong to, raise a glass to us.
Happy New Years!
“We’ll take a cup of kindness yet”- Robert Burns
Originally published at www.streamoflightblog.com on December 29, 2017.