Written with my Tuesday group with the prompt: traditions that become oppressive!
Long ago, in the pagan cultures of the far north, work and travel were severely limited by cold and snow as days grew shorter. Farmers and their families would remove a wheel from their carts as a sign of surrender to the great winter deities. They decorated the wheel with evergreen boughs, holly and candles. They prayed to the gods, bargaining really, pointing out that they were sacrificing their mobility as an offering to the Powers that Be, and in exchange all they asked is for the Light to return. And hey, guess what: it always worked. The Earth would turn, Solstice would dawn, and slowly the days would grow longer.
The irony is that here we are in our modern absurdity, rushing around in gloves and scarves and heavy overcoats, plowing through shopping malls and restaurants, partying like crazy, traveling by plane, train and automobile in dicey weather, willing to brave risks of raging downpours and blizzards, ostensibly to celebrate the birth of the Light of the World. The original pre-Christian reason for marking the season has been forgotten: to rest, to surrender, to take time for soft voices, for quiet, for prayer and meditation. Doesn’t the sky itself, the chill factor, the gathering clouds, offer us a clue?
A few years back, I read a book in which the author joked that it might be most meaningful if we removed a tire (just one) from our Toyotas and Hondas, our SUV’s and minivans, and decorate that as our advent wreath. Wouldn’t that bring the message home?
Seriously, I don’t mind the tackiness of the season, not too much. What I mind is when I get caught up in a vortex of my own perfectionism, wanting to make sure I’ve got something for everybody, that’s I’ve taken care of this and this and this. The baking, the decorating, the cans of nuts and homemade cookies for co-workers who helped me with my students, for my hairdresser, my mow and blow gardener, for the cat’s acupuncturist and her staff. This year maybe I’m finally letting it all go. I’ve lost enough loved ones in recent years to make it all seem meaningless. Sure, I could remove a wheel from my car, but I still need to get to the grocery store to buy bread and milk. So I guess if I let it collapse, I’ll see what rises up next year. But right now, I’ll be happy with a long winter’s nap.
Happy Holidays, dear readers and friends!