Christmas is officially over. In all my years of being a Waldorf mom, student of Anthroposophy, and member of The Christian Community, this is the first time I’ve been able to commit to an entire practice for both Advent and the Twelve Holy Nights. I feel both accomplished and strengthened.
It feels like a completion and a beginning. My Santiago is eighteen after all and is soon to leave home. I was grateful for his willingness to participate in our Advent and Christmas rituals this year, touched each time he read aloud from our Advent story book (yes, we were still at it) and sang along, bored as he was. Time has done its work and we are once again at a portal of transition.
This year he asked if his girlfriend could trim the tree with us. I was thrilled. Though my boys often participate grudgingly and abandon me before the tree is done, his request suggested that something in this ritual speaks to him. It didn’t happen, of course. They always found something else more pressing to do. But that he even asked told me that our simple traditions have touched him.
When I shifted from “mainstream” to mindful celebrations, the glitter fell away. I got rid of shiny ornaments, eye-catching as they were. I wanted homegrown, made, given, real–each object bearing a story of us: the crochet ball Andres managed to craft all on his own, the yellow star ornament Santiago made in kindergarten, a few angels made by their teachers, some by me, a sprinkling from individuals who for a time were a fixture in our lives but have since passed through. There are happy and sad tales around the tree which, over the years, have made it more truly a family tree.
A conscious celebration of the festivals becomes spiritual substance. Anything that you take, work with, cultivate and strive to make your own is. I feel it every year, and I have felt this substance grow between and around us over time. The key is attention and genuine interest, finding authentic meaning in the rituals you create. It doesn’t give much if you’re merely going through the motions without cultivating a personal practice. If there isn’t a burning desire to meet what is coming out of the season, then it can very well feel barren.
I have seen and felt this in places where everything is done on the side as an afterthought, or mere compliance of something as yet abstract and external. There is an energy of haphazardness and mild disinterest. But I’ve also experienced celebrations where the very air is charged with interest, inquiry and care, where the simple nativity scenes are awash with attention! There is color, living plants, loving touches, warmth and a palpable longing to connect with what is arriving. Nothing is ignored, left to wither and die, because there is an understanding of the mysteries of life and higher forces coming through.
I spent a lot of time alone this holiday season, but it felt full. I did not feel emptiness nor loneliness. I learned that time is what you give to it. I committed to my nightly practice and meditation, declining any invitation that would take me away from the space. So I had a new experience of time as being expansive, generous and wonderfully slow.
It’s taken me all these years to get a glimpse of the hidden jewels of the season, and I suspect that what I planted there will continue to bloom and surprise me this year. It’s no wonder the end of the Christmas season is called Epiphany!
That is what I wish for everyone this year, that everything we planted and tilled in 2015–our learnings from both positive and difficult experiences–bloom and blossom in unexpected ways. And I hope that we slow things down so that we can better appreciate all the subtle treasures that only inner silence can reveal.