The end-of-year holiday season is upon us, whether we like it or not. I grew up in a Baptist family that celebrated Christmas. My Jewish friend, Jane, and her family observed Hanukkah. I enjoyed the lighting of the menorah when I visited her family. She came to my house to help decorate our Christmas tree. I was enamored with the bright, colorful lights on trees, bushes, rooftops, and cars. I was scared of Santa.
Those were the traditions I knew existed. Now, I’m aware of Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, St. Lucia Day, St. Nicolas Day, as well as New Year’s Day, and others. Everyone seems to want to celebrate any spark of light during these dark days of winter.
As I reflect on my family’s traditions, my first thought is that they haven’t changed much. We still go to the Moravian Lovefeast at Messiah Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, where we hold up candles at the end of the service as the church lights are dimmed. We still ride around my hometown and look at lights while singing off-key to the familiar Christmas music playing on the radio. We still read “A Visit from St. Nicolas” by Clement Clarke Moore before going to our respective beds, although our ages range from 30 to 66 years.
Yet, everything has changed. Our family size has changed due to marriages, divorces, deaths, and births. The big news is that we now we have a five-month-old baby boy in our midst. My grandnephew, Davis, was born on my birthday, July 23, to my niece, Kathryn, and her husband, Jake. I love that he is as enamored with lights as I am. Although Davis probably won’t remember his first Christmas, he is a part of the Dollar family tradition, whether he likes it or not.
Although we still gather together, the meeting location changes yearly. The Christmas Eve supper has evolved from soup and crackers to nachos and now to a sous vide meal that we have yet to taste or understand.
Looking back over what I’ve written, I realize how much the lights of the season affect me. The outdoor lights remind me of our inner light and the love it represents to me. Even on days when I feel cranky, I remember that the light is there in each of us. Sometimes it’s covered up by stress or anger. That will dissipate. The love and light shine continue to shine. I can see it when I stop and look.
Love remains constant. Love, not affection or attraction. Pure love. When all the change is said and done, what remains is the love and light of the season of life. One phrase that I’ve heard is this: We are light wrapped up in love experiencing itself through life.
May you have a bright, healthy, and joyful holiday season.