Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Does Santa skip Newtown this year?

    I've been considering for days what the topic should be for this post.  I thought about regurgitating the story of when I met the real Santa Claus and how that dusty stranger should remind us how to act regardless of the season.  I gave consideration to poking a little fun at C & E Christians to support the notion that we should keep our Spiritual lives active year-round.  I was also trying to figure a way to talk about family gatherings and how important they are with those present now, and in remembrance of those who are gone.
    And then last Friday, a manifestation of evil made its way to the Sandy Hook Elementary School and ruined Christmas for so many families.
    I have been struggling in the wake of such a tragedy with not only how to write, but how to act in this Happiest Season of All.  Little by little, with the help of others, I am beginning to see that the joy of gift giving, the celebration of the Nativity and the fellowship of friends and family is NOT disrespectful to those in mourning, and the Christmas feelings exist in defiance of evil.
Once a year we revive the myth of a supernatural elfin reindeer herder who, within those few short hours of darkness, visits every house on Earth to selflessly leave a cache of toys for children.  We do this because we love the look on their faces and because we love the feeling of sacrificial gift giving.  Knowing full well that there are scores of presents that will remain unopened, you must wonder, “Does Santa skip Newtown this year?” 
    Mr. Rogers helped me find Santa.  He said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.” You saw the real Santa Claus in the faces of all of those who ran to help and are still there helping.
    In the aftermath of last Friday, the news, Internet and social networks have been flooded with sympathetic well-wishers offering to include those who died and those left behind in their prayers.  I have to wonder how many of those people really did say a prayer, and more importantly, when was the last time they called out to God.  We should not wait until we suffer some misfortune or witness some catastrophe (or for Christmas and Easter) to remember our Faith.  I hope you did say a prayer for those 26 souls and for all of those they left behind, but I hope, too, that you’ll say a prayer tomorrow and the next day.
    And lastly don’t postpone the opportunities to be with and cherish your friends and family.  Most of us, I’m sure, have an empty seat in our heart for those who will not be joining our holiday meal.  I know some of you have said goodbye to a loved one in this past year, and this Christmas will be your first without…   In that darkness of mourning, there is always the light of hope.  The news doesn't report all of the planes that land safely, or the road trips made without incident, or faces and names of all those precious little boys and girls who WILL get tucked in by a parent tonight.  So whether it is your child, niece or nephew, your brother or sister, mother or father, friend or lover, rejoice in the time you have and recognize that each and every one of them is yet another miracle.  And don’t ever allow yourself to be in the position of regretting not parting with a hug and a kiss, or not saying goodbye, I’m sorry or I love you.
    Please for the sake of all of those around you and especially for those innocent lives lost in Connecticut, prove that the evil did not win and have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


   Just a brief post about rescue dogs.  We lost our Cavalier King Charles, Baxter, to a congenital heart disease a couple of months back.  It was a hard good-bye.  He and his little sister Betsy, a mixed terrier, were both rescued.  
   Yesterday the time was right.  Sarge's Animal Rescue in Waynesville called with a rescued terrier in need of a loving home.  Sebastian is contently asleep on my lap as I am typing.
   Please support your local shelter; if you can't foster, adopt, or volunteer, any monetary contribution will help save precious dogs like my Baxter, Betsy and Sebastian.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter Solstice

Ah, winter has arrived! (Well, close enough.)  Tis the season of parties, parties, and parties!  The solstice is coming and whether that event is a reminder to get your garlic planted so that it matures in time to pair with next summer’s tomatoes, or is your time for a Feast of Juul in tribute to Thor (didn’t he just star in a movie?) and the return of the sun’s cycle of life, light and warmth; it is a time of anticipation, sharing, fellowship and celebration. 
Yes, we honor the shortest day/longest night of the year in many different traditions.  The Inuits have their Quviasukvik or winter feast where everyone brings some meat and drink, and all is shared by everyone simultaneously while contemplating their favored deity (Bless this food, Father), later exchanging gifts in quiet family gatherings (sounds like my house). 
Western Europeans burn a Yule log and scatter the ashes on their farm fields as fertilizer each day until the Twelfth Day (my true love gave to me… Ashes?).
Our Wiccan friends celebrate twelve days of the Lesser Sabbat known as Alban Arthan (12 days again?), or the rebirth of the sun god (Son of God). 
The Romans had their feast of Saturnalia where all grudges and arguments were temporarily forgotten, warring armies issued a cease-fire (peace on Earth, goodwill toward men), slaves became the masters, and all businesses, schools and government offices were closed.  This eventually degenerated (as only the Romans could do) into an annual period of debauchery, gluttony and greed (Hmm? Mall shopping?
The Mayans came to celebrate the solstice with polo voladore (or Flying Pole Dance).  They climb a fifty foot pole while playing a drum or flute, then tie a rope around one ankle and jump off.  To land on their feet is considered a sign of good luck -- well, duh!  (I have no idea what that has to do with modern traditions, but it sounds like fun, huh?)  It’s no wonder why their calendar stops right before the solstice this year -- it’s not the end of the world, they’re just tired of bungee jumping. 
I don’t mean to shortchange the celebrants of Hanukkah, Brumalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Jól, Chaomos, Gody, Kwanza, Festivist or the Norse Boar’s Head Feast (nothing to do with the lunchmeat), but there are only so many parties I can get to.
You can see how this all ties in.  It wasn’t until 354 AD that the Church fathers realized that the birth of the Christ Child was an important event to be remembered in worship and praise.  With little historic or Biblical guidance, they set December 25th as the date of the Nativity of the Savior.  It did, and I’m sure not by accident, coincide with the winter solstice and the myriad of long-held traditions that existed worldwide and allowed for an easy conversion and transition for those of us who came to believe.
This snidbit of anthropological history is not meant to debase any ancient or modern tradition or belief, but the next time you hear, “Tis the season,” whether you share my religious beliefs or not, I hope you’ll understand that it IS, and always HAS BEEN, the season; the coming of the Son and the coming of the sun. 
However you celebrate, may Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, or the Holy Spirit of God grant you and yours, a Very Merry Christmas.