It seems like once Halloween passes, the holiday season begins stalking us. In stores there’s hardly a moment between the Halloween and Christmas decorations. Already I can feel the pressure of the holidays breathing down my neck. Each year I vow not to let it get to me, to move through the upcoming season with the kind of joy that’s generally associated with it. I’ve had mixed success with this over the years.
I love the part of the season that invites us to be generous to others, to reach out in new and deeper ways to those less fortunate. I enjoy the extra time with family and friends, the special decorations and music, and, yes, the food. Around the Seed it’s a special time because we hold our all-school Thanksgiving feast and then immediately dive into preparations for one of my favorite Seed traditions, the Celebration of the Winter Solstice. It’s a super busy month of December but the final event is always worth the time and energy that goes into it. There’s another part of this season that helps me navigate all the commercialism and holiday hype; it’s the dance between darkness and light.
The Winter Solstice, which falls on December 22 this year, is the shortest day of the year. It’s when the sun rises latest and sets earliest. It’s the darkest of all days of the year. This season invites us to move inward, to be inside where it’s warm and light, both literally and figuratively. With so many outer distractions, this is often a challenging path.
One of the most significant reminders about the changing light is my morning walk. I generally walk between 6 and 6:30, most of the year along the canal behind our house. The timing is tricky so I’ll have enough time to walk, eat breakfast, and arrive at school on time. Lately I’ve been waiting later and later so it will be light enough to still walk along the canal. This morning I hit the point where I had to walk at my regular time and was forced to walk in our neighborhood. Not that I mind our neighborhood, it’s just more interesting and full of surprises along the canal. This transition is a sign of the season we are now entering. The mornings will be darker and darker for awhile, with only the moon and stars available as sources of light from the natural world.
While I’ll miss my early mornings along the canal, I will embrace the opportunity of the next few months to walk in darkness. It reminds me to reach out toward the light within myself and to the light of those around me. This is a time to look for the good, to be grateful for all the blessings of life, and to be a beacon of light whenever possible. After all, that’s really what this season is about, regardless of one’s particular spiritual path. For this is the season when we remember the miracle of light, particularly when things seem the most hopeless or filled with despair. The shifting arrival time of morning light is a gift I will open early and often as I step forward into the holiday season.