At this time of year we’re well into the season of all the various Festivals of Light which are celebrated around the globe at different times over the months of November, December and early January. Festivals of Light have their roots in ancient customs and rituals and mostly have a common theme of Light overcoming Darkness, or Good triumphing over Evil. There are many of these festivals but the best known are the Hindu Festival of Diwali, the Jewish Festival of Hanukah and our own celebration of Christmas.
Christmas celebrations, as many of you know, have pagan origins and are connected to rituals focussed on the return of the Light which happens after Winter Solstice on December 21st. This is when the earth tilts on its axis and the sun begins its steady ascent above the horizon till it reaches its highest point at Mid-Summer on June 21st.
The Ancients who observed these customs lived close to the land and were wholly reliant upon it for food and nourishment. They recognised that in winter, the earth needs to sleep and replenish her energies after all her efforts in the previous seasons in order to make herself ready for the planting in spring. They knew how important a part the Sun played in this cycle, and the Winter Solstice on December 21st was therefore a most auspicious time for it meant that the Sun had overcome the darkness of winter and was being re-born. So our Festival of Light is very much to do with re-birth, and it’s no coincidence that the Christian Church chose this time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus (the new-born SON rather than the new-born SUN!)
The Christmas traditions of merrymaking, feasting, the giving of gifts and the coming together of friends and family all stem from those joyful celebrations of the Return of the Sun. People lit many candles and lamps to symbolise the coming of lighter days and all were encouraged to remember the importance of kindness and generosity (especially to those less fortunate than them); and to remind themselves of their kinship with all beings and to practice compassion for their fellow man. It was also an important time for renewing their reverence for the Gods/the Divine/the Source as a wellspring of solace, strength and inspiration and to give thanks for deliverance and protection from the shadowy darkness of winter that symbolised natural perils (like floods, pestilence and famine) as well as their own fears of the unknown.
These days, most people are only too well aware of how our Christmas has lost its true significance, submerged as it is beneath the mass orgy of consumer spending that’s encouraged at this time of year. My feeling is that this is a great loss to us all, for the Spirit of Christmas gives us a golden opportunity to tune into warmth, compassion and open-heartedness; to re-ignite (however temporarily) that flame of childish joy that can burst into an explosion of excitement at the magic of twinkling lights in trees; and to remember our connection to the earth and the Source of All that Is.
I personally love this time of year and try to tune into the true essence of what this season is all about. And there are many strands to help me to do this. I can look back to ancient times and remember how it was once completely the norm for all humans to have a reverence for the Earth. This reminds me how good it feels to be in touch with what’s happening in Nature. Right now, we’re at the end of autumn, the time when the fallen leaves rest upon the rain-soaked earth where they moulder and turn into compost for future growth. And this prompts me to move with the energies of autumn, the season of change, as it merges into wintery rest and reflection and to ask myself: “Where in your life have you let go of your ‘leaves’ this year or where have they loosed their hold on you?” I see that some of the things I relinquished felt like a graceful letting go whilst others felt more like a tug-of-war!! It’s not very comfortable to be nudged into releasing certain aspects of one’s life or ways of being! But this can be countered by the fact that the ‘leaves’ shed are now becoming nourishment for future growth. Finding the deeper meaning of times of change gives one a wider view and helps to develop the ability to become more flexible and philosophical. Autumn teaches us to allow the energy of change to move through us and make way for the new – whatever that may be.
Contemplating the velvet darkness of a night sky filled with stars can bring a sense of awe and wonder. Imagine how extraordinary it might have been for those shepherds watching their flocks to behold a solitary star hanging so high and bright in the heavens. I see this as a metaphor for inspiration, for when a fleeting shaft of understanding has penetrated my thinking processes and opened me up to newer, clearer thoughts, I, too, have followed my star – as you can yours.
The child that we once were still lives inside us at a deep level, and we all remain capable of having moments in our adult lives when we enjoy the experience of that childish thrill and delight for the simple things. I’ve heard many people say Christmas is “just for the kids”. Well, don’t forget that hidden child within! Have fun! Play! Let Christmas be a portal to get back in touch with a sense of inner freedom and space which isn’t encumbered by all the baggage of doubts and fears which we so easily accrue in adult life.
Coming together with family and friends can be a joy and a wonderful thing to do. But let’s not forget the importance of coming together with ONESELF! I find if I can let go of the head-stuff and open up to the heart stuff, it’s easier to allow more spontaneity into my life and it’s a wonderful way of getting in touch with one’s own energy! All the stresses of our modern world can easily block our ability to flow. It helps to remember that the nature of energy is to MOVE!!
And finally, feeling a sense of connection with the Natural world brings a realisation that we’re all a part of everything and that everything is a part of us. Being connected dispels feelings of isolation and gloom. It also opens us up to the Source, the Essence of all things, Mother-Father God, the Divine, God, Allah (or however you wish to describe the One) and gives us uplift.
The energies of this time of Light are tremendously powerful and beneficial and we can let them fill us and heal us simply through our wish and intention to do so. There’s no need to let the Light be obscured by the veils of commercialism and hype. Just jingle those bells and let them ding dong merrily on high! Tune into the Essence of Christmas and let your heart lift!