Something for Everyone this Holiday Season?
As we get move swiftly into the Holiday season, I see more and more people on social media who, instead of looking for the commonalities that make us one human family under a Divinity that cannot be put into a little box, seek to point out our differences at every possible turn. It is no wonder at all why people nowadays are depressed more than ever before, why they feel alone in a world more "connected" than ever before, and why an annual cycle of Rebirth and Light is replaced instead with feelings of resentment, sadness, and indifference towards our fellow man.
Not how a post about the Holidays would start, you were thinking? Well, it's true. People who can text, video-chat, or email others from across an ocean in real time have never, EVER, felt more solitary and alone than they do right now. How can that be? Are we really "connected," or has the instantaneous nature of our communication with one another replaced the interpersonal bonds and deep feelings of union that kept us together as a species for millennia?
So, instead of continuing to point out that we are segregated and solitary more than ever before, lets point out a few of the things that unite us as a people, no matter where we come from, or what we celebrate.
The Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) coincides, or was the progenitor, for many other celebrations commemorating a time of rebirth in the World. By definition, the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the current calendrical Year, and normally occurs on the 21st or 22nd of December. A literal time of the year when the World shifts from darkness to Light (no pun intended), the Winter Solstice marks the time when the Sun produces the least amount of daylight, and follows with an ever increasing amount of daylight until its peak at the Summer Solstice, in June.
So how do many people celebrate this time of birth, rebirth, or renewal of the cycle of life on Earth? One of the biggest, Christmas, has been celebrated on December 25th for most of the Common Era. This coincides with many of the celebrations already established during the spread of the Roman Empire, such as Yule and Midwinter, which were celebrated for millennia into the realm of prehistory.
This was the start of traditions being shared and absorbed amongst various peoples, creating new ways to celebrate the time of renewal. To say it again for those that simply gloss over things: traditions were SHARED and ABSORBED among a wide range of peoples, becoming the current form and manner that these Holidays are celebrated today.
Let's start with those celebrations that likely shaped many of the other future events in different parts of the World, but are no longer the standard. The Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was phased away when the Roman Empire combined many traditions into our modern-day Holiday festivals, celebrated the end of the harvest and ultimately culminated in the shortest day of the year, or the Winter Solstice. Millennia before that, the neolithic peoples of ancient Britannia constructed the most popular structure built to honor the solstices: Stonehenge.
Makar Sankranti, celebrated by many of the Hindu faith and other cultures, marks the time of the season for new harvest and renewal. Depending on where you live, it is celebrated in different ways, with many traditions involving gift giving, lamp lighting, and songs and folk dancing.
Our friends in Iran celebrate the Persian festival of Shab-e Yalda, or Yalda Night, which honors the longest, and darkest, night of the year. Persians celebrate this Holiday with coming together as families (often in large groups), eating, drinking, and merriment including the reading of poetry. More interestingly, fruits such as watermelon and pomegranate are especially consumed during this festival, commemorating the red hues of the rising sun, after the night with the most darkness.
The Yule celebration, always occurring during the Midwinter season, celebrated the birth of the Sun, and as time went on, transformed into a Christmas tradition, where a tree (or Yule log) was burnt over the 12 days of Christmas to celebrate. This became, hundreds of years later, the music-filled video of a roaring fireplace that plays on your televisions on Christmas Day.
Speaking of trees and Christmas, the Christmas tree, adorned and inside the home (and not on fire) was popularized centuries ago by those who wished to be reminded that the Evergreen symbolized life eternal, especially through the gray and dreary months of darkness and Winter.
Going to skip all the other ways that many of our traditions and Holidays share a common spark, and just say this: Our human race, once sprung forth from a common ancestor, spread over the course of a few millennia to all corners of the planet. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, our ancestors chose, through distance and time, to codify the celebrating of different parts of the year. Many of these traditions coincide with significant religious events, which again highlights the differences in which people honored their Creator.
With all these differences, some beautiful and serene, while others damaging and segregational, we have all but forgotten that, as Graham Hancock so perfectly puts it:
"...across the ages, regardless of geography, in everything that really matters...we are all members of a SINGLE human family, a family of intrepid adventurers, who have been exploring the world...for the best part of a million years." And "in the course of this long odyssey, we have moved so far apart, across oceans...that we forgotten how closely related we in fact, ARE."
Remember that this Holiday season, as you open presents, light a candle, carve a Holiday roast, or sit and ponder your place in the World; no matter what color your wrapping paper is, or who (or what) you commemorate, we all share a single common, human, experience, and that is the most amazing miracle of all.
~~ FDTL ~~