“The holidays.” Stretching from mid-November through the first moments of January, they loom large and fill us with hope or dread or that odd mixture of emotion that marks so many momentous occasions. Regardless of your religious persuasion, I am sure it is near impossible to avoid the sense that time takes on a different texture for a couple of months. On top of the business of life that fills the other 5/6 of the year, we are swept up in the madness of the season. Maybe, just maybe, we realize that there is something more to the giving of thanks and the birth of Christ and the birth of a new year than turkey and presents and schlepping to see the relatives.
If it is hard to truly observe holidays whose meanings get lost in all of the tinsel meant to celebrate it all, how do we find the space to commemorate the special days that get swallowed by the mundane hum of life?
I think about this on the day after an in between sort of day. Halloween has certainly been co-opted by every industry that stands to make money off of orange and black, and it’s easy to get caught up with the excitement of trying on a different identity when we put on a costume, but for most of us it is just a diversion as the leaves begin to fall.
A few years ago, the Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic New Year and the day to honor the dead, was not just a day to overdo it on candy corn for me. It was a day of ritual and remembrance and my friends and I took it seriously (painfully seriously). My perspective on my spirituality has shifted since then, and in addition to remembering those who have passed on, I can also remember fondly the way I (desperately, perhaps) sought magic on the night when the veil between the worlds was the thinnest.
My connection to Samhain is tenuous at best these days. The more I explore different spiritual traditions, the more deities I subtract from my pantheon. Instead of memorizing the traits of various Celtic goddesses, I have been amazed to realize the essential Oneness of the Divine.
Regardless of this renewed perspective, however, I am still seeking ways for my beliefs to inflect my life, to soak into the corners of my day when I am still likely to be caught in the old patterns of selfishness and pettiness and a general lack of inspiration.
That makes me think about preserving the wonder of All Hallow’s Eve and so many other holy days that have been swallowed by the public calendar that makes no room for the days that mark minor miracles. The models have already been connstructed; the Church, for example, has given us countless saints’ days. How can we recreate our own calendars to make a place for all of the traditions and wonders that mark our lives? How can we cultivate just a little more stillness and connect to brilliant mysteries that mark every day, not just the 25th of December?