I mentioned to a friend that I think of myself as a Blues writer without the music, he just looked at me and said I was a Blues writer, the music is just the sound of the emotions I convey from my experiences. I am not really sure what that all means or where it leads except down a memory lane filled with potholes, branches reaching out from the side of narrow streets and too many blind corners to count ; all of this occurring in the middle of a rain shower at dusk, while the headlights are dim and the wipers need replacing.
It is of course nostalgia for times past seen only through the tears of today. The source of pain is too close to wipe away the tears and expect to see sunshine, and so we set about preparing for a season in which our joy has been tempered at least, and fun sucked to a dry raisin of the bountiful goodness that is supposed to fill this otherwise miserable time of the year. For a moment, let me drag each of you in the Northern hemisphere into my own personal understanding of wintertime and its relationship to the holidays.
First let us presume that Chanukah and Kwanza are cultural rebellions against the previously dominant themes of Christianity and the arrival of the Christ child to save all humanity from itself. That Chanukah is at best a minor holy holiday in the Jewish Faith, and that Kwanza is a time of remembrance of the roots of origin (West African Diaspora) initiated in 1966 for the African American community in the United States.
Let us also presume to acknowledge the obvious reality that Christmas is a far greater commercial celebration that a religious one; and many in the Christian community rail with the cry, “Christ is the reason for the season!” I am throwing the big, yellow, BS flag on that play. This season of partying was initiated by animistic cultures across the Northern hemisphere in deference to the shortest amount of daylight in a given day during the year, the Winter Solstice.
As ‘civilization’ recognized that beverages left to their own devices will ferment, alcohol was added to the mix and hearts and bellies were warmed as noses got colder. All the signs of life that would come in the Spring were feted and celebrated by one and all, especially those plants that were ever-green because they never stopped showing the signs of life. But why celebrate the shortest day? Why all the hullabaloo? Because everyone, except the few immune to the effects, suffered from late Fall to early Spring. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not just some creation of psychologists and psychiatrists of the 21st century.
If you had to sit around a campfire to fend off the cold wet weather of the Northern latitudes through long winter nights, how would you feel? If sunshine did not bring warmth but a foreboding that the night was to be colder than the brass bra of local witch, you would not consider happy to be one of your normal states of existence.
And so some bright eyed person got it in their head to have a celebration of the shortest day because that would be the foreshadowing of the warmth of spring and all the nature joy and happiness that green grass, pretty flowers and warm rains. And how did people 2000 years ago celebrate: Music, Food, and Adult Beverages. For a brief moment, the reality that there was limited shelter, that the term ‘not having a pot to pee in” meant you had to brave the winter storms to relieve yourself outside, that weather proof was not a term yet invented; would all have been forgotten.
Animists/Heathens/Pagans or anyone not associated with the religion of the authorities celebrated because there were no constraints. Christian leaders sensing that animists would get the upper hand for a time of the year decided to hijack the holiday by conjuring a date for the birth of Christ in close proximity to the pagan time of worship. This is a thing to be celebrated – see music, food and appropriate amounts of grog, et al., and the symbols of the coming life of spring were ‘clearly’ pointing to the everlasting life to be found in Christ.
So now that I have had a chance to drop a cold shovel full of wet Michigan snow on your parade for joy and happy times at this season; let me share the concept of nostalgia. The look back in time to the ‘good-ol-days’ of yore through misty glasses or frost tinted windows is not always a happy affair. I am not referencing the looks and sensation of contemplation of an Ebenezer Scrooge upon his meeting with the Ghost of Christmas Past. I am talking about the sense of standing on the cliff of an abyss that seems as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon but without the light or color. It is just a great big black maw of a hole that threatens to reach up and grab you by the throat and pull you in.
We are not alone at this time, and this feeling is singularly not single, but universal for all those people who have to look back to the happy times in the presence of companions who are no longer here. Whether it is mother or father, dog or cat, husband or wife, or in our case the empty chair at a table or a holiday stocking that will have no recipient this year. The mist and frost of pains of glass looking from the warmth of today onto warmer years in the past is replaced with the tears of pain as we each try to huddle through the emotional winter of this year.
Do not hold your celebration on account of this rendering, life does continue and the necessity of celebrating the future Springs in our lives is essential for getting through the winter. But when the chance arises be there to lend a compassionate ear, donate a shoulder to cry upon, and perhaps encourage another’s life with your presence and not your words.
As always, many blessings to your day.