Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Midwinter - the Festival

I don't know how one can do the Christmas thing in the southern hemisphere. I hear about opening presents and pulling crackers on the beach, Santas and reindeer flashing through hot and steamy nights. Or it is somewhat adapted to suit a midsummer festival, which Christmas is simply not. It is a midwinter festival and, as such, necessary to us. I realise this is making a pronouncement on behalf of absolutely everyone but I'm not talking about the Christian festival, which Christmas really isn't, not for most peeps at any rate. Or the Christian element does its thing somewhere on the margins, or vibrating inconspicuously as metaphor: extraordinary light and possibility in the darkest and most inauspicious of times and circumstances. We need the darkness, you could say, for this to be doing its work, for us to carry it into the realm of the human condition. You could say that all the tat surrounding the season is part of the darkness, but we're only human and what, in any case are we meant to do, those of us who are not ascetic contemplatives living in some remote or hidden place? We have to live as we find, and I find a certain gleeful hallelujah moment in the truly dreadful blue flashing lights that beam annually into the bedroom from the house opposite, come advent. God with us, prepare and make straight his paths. Actually, this last really belongs to the feast of St. John (remember that one?) which is a midsummer thing. Some might argue (and actually some do) that southern hemisphere should have their Christmas in June and do something else in December, but it would make life complicated and the card and flashing light industries probably wouldn't stand for it.

Meanwhile, on we go with our difficult lives and circumstances, and this time I feel confident about pronouncing for everyone because I can't think of anyone who is treading an easy path or going fishing "with the sail set fair and an understanding crew," and if they say they are then they are either on drugs or have gone completely wrong and we should be praying for their souls. Ever since we were thrown out of the garden (and thank you, Blake, for taking issue with this), we earn our bread with difficulty, are hurt, violated, misunderstood and at war with each other. (Digression: I am sitting at the window of Brighton flat looking at a parking official who is nosing around trying to find someone to nick, very easy here if you don't have resident's permits, and we are still waiting for ours. I have a temporary voucher perched on the inside of my windscreen but am running out of those. So anyway, he has nicked some other poor sod and is writing out a ticket.) Yes, at war with each other, e'en within our own families, communities and friendship groups - e'en in our relationships with goddam Shrinks! The betrayal of trust and innocence (I am not talking about the parking official, he just doing his job) goes on everywhere and is hardest to bear when closest to home, to the heart. It is enough to extinguish even the most persistent flame, if one did not take care to strike the match and keep it lit, or to notice that - actually - it does not really go out and is there, even by virtue of our need and wish for it. I need this midwinter festival.

On a more mundane note: I am nowhere near making a dent in my Christmas "preparations." I have ordered a goose. I am leafing through vegetarian alternatives for me and the daughter's boyf who is veggie but prefers not to have nut roast. I will probably have a bit of the goose anyway. In terms of available energy, there are very few hours in the day available to me and weather news has it that the intense cold cometh back again. Mr. Signs is in Romania and returns late tomorrow night. Son is planning to look in on Friday and play cello in his old childhood orchestra for their annual carol concert. Daughter is thinking of writing a blog next year, and her friend is doing (for the love of it) a Christmas blog. It's all good.


Cusp said...

Oh hectic times Signsie. Same here with decorating...of the paint and wallpaper kind --- concerts, food ordering (thank God for Tesco online) and all manner of postings to friends and relations.

BUT what I think is that we DO need the darkness except that were supposed to be resting in the darkness and hunkering down over a fire and eating root vegetables with just a bit more energy expended around the time of Crimbo....instead everyone is working (well some of them !...the ESA will get me I'm sure ) and buying and planning and making and chatting and consuming and onandonandonandonandon until we are all dizzy and fall in a heap on Crimbo Day. 's'not right, is it ?

Zhoen said...

This is what I've come around to, I need the twinkling lights, the illusion of green tree inside, a certain amount of busyness to keep me sinking too far into myself.

Not all countries do evergreen trees, this article illustrates.

Reading the Signs said...

Not me, Cuspie - I've avoided hectic so far, so musn't grumble. And I'm getting my spiced red cabbage ready-made and going to pretend I did it myself. Here's hoping you get shot of the decorating very soon.

Zhoen, I love the scent you get from a real evergreen tree and my strongest associations come from the sight and smell of that - and the German lebkuchen. Thanks for that link.

Fire Bird said...

yes, light in the darkest time, a celebration of plenty in lean times, of our survival in the cold... the only sense it makes to me, and for this - the light, the feasting, the celebration of human resourcefulness, I love it still. The consumer fest just sickens me.

Janis said...

howlovely. I do so love to read your wriitng. It puts the broken world back to wholeness again. There is so much rushing and madness and even when snow stops us we rant and complain (we - the mass voice I often hear and am oft part of) and then you still it with wisdom and quiet. I love it. the moon is full and we touch into this most dark time of the year yet when I tookthe dog out I have never experienced such a light night. white under foot. white in the sky. bless us all, eh?