'What the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple - and some not so simple - joys of life.' The Times of India.
The quotation above is about Diwali, the Indian festival of light. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. It’s almost exactly the same at the mystical root as the Solstice welcoming the new year and Hanukkah, the miracle of the lighting of the menorah in Judaism.
Never is this more important than when we think about Christmas...!
The trouble with Christmas is that it’s a bit like the phrase: 'When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it's easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.'
This time of the year people start complaining about the expense and commerciality of Christmas. This year, with the continuing belief that there is something 'wrong' going on in the world's finances, you may be dreading the expense of Christmas. But to name something is to give it power, and what have we done? We gave the financial situation in the UK a cute, alliterative name – “the credit crunch.” Worldwide it’s 'the recession.' So we have made it real.
Don't doubt for a minute the power of humanity to make thing real - a truth is only a belief held by a certain number of people and passed on to others who, in turn, believe it. By believing it, we make it real.
Yes it may seem tough to change your mind in the face of such widespread external belief but it is possible. It is our choice.
Right now we have to decide whether to give 'the situation' more energy through moaning and complaining and believing what is said on the News or we can choose to look for prosperity, health and joy in the coming of Winter. By looking for the hope and the glory we can change the world from within.
It's not them who controls our lives, whatever we may have thought, it's us.
So perhaps the real secret of Christmas this year is to use the idea of a “recession” for good. To simplify something that has got out of hand ... this is the perfect time to say 'No!' to anything you don't truly want to do at Christmas. Commit instead to something that would have meaning instead of a season of angst and worry.
Only we can reclaim the miracles and mystery that have existed at this time of the year for thousands of years - way longer than Christianity has been in place.
I’ve often wondered whether, without women, Christmas might be a much happier (albeit slimmer and drabber) affair. It is horribly likely that, without the duty and fervour of women, the majority of blokes would probably be happy to pick up whatever’s remotely turkey-like that’s still in the local supermarket freezer on Christmas Eve, some beer and a bag of party poppers.
Maybe they’re right...We seem to run ourselves ragged with all the preparations to the extent that we overspend, over extend ourselves, over-complicate things and try to live up to some incredibly unrealistic standard of hospitality and catering...not to mention the horrors of some members of the family visiting —or events that we long outgrew but are still expected to attend—and make our children attend ‘because it’s traditional.’
Don’t get me wrong, I ‘do’ the whole Christmas thing – there isn’t a single part of the ritual that I don’t love. But it took me years to learn to re-engage with the magic that does make it such a special time of year – whatever your faith.
'But I can't have a simple Christmas because of the children,' you may say.
Perhaps the worst misuse of Christmas is the idea that ‘it’s for the children.’ In a way that’s true but only in the way that we too need to be children again in order to see the miracles and magic of Christmas in us. That saying of Jesus’s about having to become a child again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is the answer. The ‘child’ is the part of us that expects miracles and magic. It’s also the ego – and for most of us, it’s been overwhelmed with ‘duty’ and ‘shoulds’ and other horrors for so long that it simply dreads the word ‘Christmas.’
It is the ego of the child that demands the same presents as everyone else. It's the ego of we adults that thinks that we have to give those presents in order to be 'good' parents. But what about giving an experience of spirit instead?
So what is this Christmas miracle all about? It’s about the rebirth of the real you; the peeling off of the outer layers that hide the gold within; the sloughing off of all the past year that you’d like to leave behind and a commitment towards creating a better, happier life.
You don’t have to be a Christian to see the wonderful, deep inner meaning of the Winter Solstice. Nowadays, we tend to focus more on the New Year as a new start to life (and use that for a guilt trip too!) but, in fact, it’s on December 25th that we have the first, visible evidence that the sun is returning and that spring will come once again.
From the day we first started appreciating the cycles of nature, humanity has celebrated the Solstices. The Winter Solstice heralds the coming of the Light; the return of the Sun—or the birth of the Son—and I believe that there is a deep primal need in our animal soul to celebrate it whether our busy, social, disbelieving selves deem it relevant or not!
The Winter Solstice is a kind of choice between life or death. We may know that the sun returns because it happens every year. But the ancient celebrations are just as much about our willing our own inner source of light to rekindle at this time as they are about the external sun.
The dark days of winter are when the roots go down and consolidate for new growth. One of my sacred rituals this time of year is planting prepared hyacinths which must be kept in the dark and cool for at least a month so that they can develop roots. Then, after Christmas, they will grow and give beautiful colour and scent to herald the often long-awaited new life of spring.
Nearly all the major religions have special symbolism around this time. It’s often said that the birth of Jesus was placed on December 25th because it was the ancient celebration of Saturnalia and that Christianity ‘stole’ a great deal of the pagan symbolism.
Two main theories compete about this - one claims that in A.D. 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian inaugurated December 25th as the pagan "Birth of the Unconquered Sun" celebration, at the calendar point when daylight began to lengthen. Supposedly, Christians then borrowed the date and devised Christmas to compete with paganism.
But William Tighe, a church history specialist at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College, puts forward the exact opposite theory —that Aurelian created a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Tighe says that the pagans-first theory only originated three centuries ago in the writings of Protestant historian Paul Ernst Jablonski and Catholic monk Jean Hardouin. Tighe acknowledged that the first hard evidence of Christmas occurring on Dec. 25 isn't found until A.D. 336 and the date only became a fixed festival in Constantinople in 379.
Whichever it was, there have long been a series of religious festivals going into—and out of—the darkest days and it’s a wonderful reclamation of Christmas to do something personal and spiritual to mark the ending of one year and the resurgence of the light in you for the coming year. Who knows, it might make the rest of the celebrations fun? And, even if you still think Christmas is going to be hell, perhaps one of this year’s resolutions could be to promise yourself that next Christmas you will actually do what you would like to do...
Plan a little time on your own – or with friends if they want to join you. Find something that represents the ‘old you’ of 2011 whether it’s something you’ve grown out of or something that represents a difficult time that you have gone through and then create a little ceremony of release (including burning the symbol if that is possible). Dress up in something you love to wear, light a couple of candles, and take a few deep, connected breaths. As you let go of the object, say something like ‘I release this representation of pain to the Light and move forward to my Higher Good.’
Then take a moment to ask your Higher Self, Guardian Angel or the Source of All to watch over you, protect and guide you to a happier life in the next year.
Fill an atomiser with water containing a few drops of refreshing aromatherapy oils such as lemon or grapefruit plus some Flower Remedies – such as Rescue Remedy, Walnut (protection from outside energies/help with change), Willow (dissolves resentment), Wild Oat (for uncertainty about your path in life) or Holly (anger and hatred) and spray around the whole of your home saying ‘In the name of the Source this room/house and all that is in it, is blessed, cleansed and filled with light.’
Make a prosperity wheel or dream board. This is a montage of all the things, experiences and happy times that you would like to draw to you. Instructions on my website (www.maggywhitehouse.com). This works by reprogramming the subconscious to look for what you want instead of what you don’t want.
Write a letter to a friend the other side of the world (or to someone closer if necessary - but someone with whom you only correspond infrequently - someone without email probably!). Date this letter 20th December 2012 and in it tell them of all the wonderful things that have happened to you throughout 2012. And invent everything you could possibly want from a perfect home, partner or job to living in the Maldives.
Don't worry about seeming grasping or greedy - that fear is probably what has held you back for so long. There is a reason why Luis Vuitton bags are made and houses and cars are built –so that people can enjoy them. And if you are wealthy, you can do SO much more for others. To think that you can't be rich because of the starving poor is an argument full of holes. If you are wealthy you can donate; teach and offer time to ensure that they too learn how to be prosperous like you.
And if you're now saying 'but my friend would hate me if I sent him/her a letter like that' then I’d suggest that you find a friend who wouldn't. And that's probably the best task you could set yourself this year - to be with people who allow you to be prosperous. If there's no one, then plan to send it to me, via Facebook, because I'll be SO happy for you!
The letter will work best if it's full of enthusiasm and acknowledgement of the good in your life. It's great if you can start off with something that you actually know IS going to happen. That gives you confidence.
Will it happen? Well, it's got a better chance of happening if you do write the letter than if you don't. If you put it away somewhere safe and forget all about it, the chances are pretty high that at least 60% of it will either be with you or on its way by the date you put on it. My letter last year came 65% true...no complaints about that!
Wishing you the perfect Christmas time...