#300 – Dick Bernard: The "War" of the Season
Today is the Winter Solstice, this one especially unique because of the total lunar eclipse which last happened on this solstice in 1638, three years after my first French-Canadian ancestors, Jean Cote and Anne Martin, married at Quebec City November 15, 1635. One can wonder if they watched that eclipse, and wondered what it meant….
Fast forward 372 years, this morning at my coffee spot the every Tuesday Bible Study group at the next table was chatting about this and that, and the resident old guy at the table got into the Christmas Cheer topic: “if someone wishes me Happy Holidays, I wish them a Blessed Christmas back“, he loudly said.
None of this “Happy Holidays” stuff.
We are a pluralistic society, which is troubling to some who seem to have the desire to take over the Meaning of Christmas as solely a Christian observance, and more specifically, a Christian observance as interpreted by their own denomination.
It can get rather confusing.
At the local post office, I could buy, this year, seven varieties of ‘holiday’ stamps: Evergreen (representing the natural world, I suppose); Angel with Lute; miscellaneous holiday – snowman and such; Madonna and Child; Kwanzaa, Eid, Hanukkah. When I got around to buying stamps they were down to Evergreen and Angel with Lute, so that’s what I got. I was planning to buy a book of each. I am sure someone is analyzing the statistics of how many of each were purchased this year; and I am sure there have been numerous and earnest committee meetings within the post office, and assorted other interests, to lobby to get rid of certain designs, or to add others. In its way the U.S. Postal Service accurately defines This Season In Which We Are Now In The Midst.
All of the observances represented by those stamps are clumped around the winter solstice for a reason. The history of each can be easily researched.
I happen to have spent my entire life within one Christian denomination, so the Christian observance of Christmas is my tradition. But many, perhaps most, of the people I know do not share my specific tradition, and they deserve equal respect for their own view of this time of year.
A recent New York Times column, and the responses to it, frame the issues pretty well: here and here. Prepare for a long and interesting read.
I close with a winter solstice poem sent to me by someone I know as a Christian….
THE SHORTEST DAY
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
As Tiny Tim so immortally says in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone“.