Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Heidi Garrett: Christmas For Authors

The Last Week of the Year

December is one of my favorite months of the year. It wasn’t always that way. There were often times when I dreaded “the holidays.” However, when I became more proactive, that began to change.

I started small.

I was loosely raised in a traditional religion, and though I never found my spiritual home there, I’ve always had a strong faith/belief in some sort of overarching intelligence that permeates the universe. Always seeking truth, I found myself intrigued during a certain point in my life with goddess religions. And though I never converted—I seem loathe to ascribe to any spiritual dogma—I loved learning about the roots of some of the religious celebrations that persist today.

One of my favorite discoveries surrounded Christmas Day. Prior to Emperor Constantine adopting Christianity for political purposes, Pagan Rome celebrated Saturnalia, along with the birth of the sun god, Mithras, and Pagan Egypt revered the Mother and Child. If not on the exact day Christian’s celebrate Christmas, then at the same time of the year. With political brilliance, Constantine subsumed these popular
pagan celebrations into one for the birth of Christ, and thus Christmas Day was born.

I, personally, don’t have a problem with any of this. That’s how humanity and culture evolve. What’s fascinating to me, is the universal popularity, and perhaps need, for ritual contemplation and bonding as the days become shorter, the weather becomes harsher, and the calendar year comes to a close.

Perhaps there is a fundamental human need to pause, and consider, life and it’s meaning, in community and in solitude.

My first new tradition was to take the last week of each year off—I was fortunate that, at the time, I had enough vacation time that I could do so!—to create a pause. I also decided to forego all present buying. I would instead, spend that last week of the year in contemplation. How had the past year gone down? How had I grown? How had I succeeded? How had I failed? I also began to engage more actively in whatever
community festivities I felt moved to participate in. Finally, at the end of the week, I began sending Happy New Year cards. I love New Years. It’s one of my favorite holidays, I suppose because I love new beginnings. And after a week of pausing, affirming the hope of the New Year with those that I love and care for, felt like a wonderful tradition to instate.

Those simple traditions held me in good stead for many years…
And then came Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Now, my husband and I watch the extended versions of those movies during the last week of every year. We began the first year, going to the theater to watch The Fellowship of the Ring. Each year since then, we’ve added a movie, and with The Desolation of Smaug just released, you can imagine it’s become quite an ordeal. But it’s one that I love and look forward to. Watching that epic battle between Good and Evil, always leaves me feeling hopeful and inspired… and ready to face a New Year.

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