A number of years ago, in the midst of deep struggle, I found myself having to reimagine the holidays. The standard Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s movement was filled with painful memories and consequently a sense of trauma. The American Christian Christmas had become unrecognizable from the Christ’s Mass the word once meant, and the focus upon the nuclear family inherent to the advertising beast it had become left me only with the dynamics of loss and hyper-expectation.
It was in that year, I embraced - not for the first time, but more deeply than I had before - the Winter Solstice.
I am not one to flee dark memories and pretend they do not exist. Some would say that my stepping back from Christmas was exactly that - fleeing. But, I saw it differently. By acting out the expected responses to our American Christmas, one had to pretend - pretend everything was okay - pretend I was moving on from that dark past with its betrayal and loss. I found myself in a position so many people in our world must find themselves in: simultaneously being told that I needed to deal with the past, and being told I needed to move on. The platitudes of those who feel like they know what they are talking about, and in their know-it-allness babbling rather than listening is always like this, it is filled with empty contradictions.
So, I embraced the darkness of the Winter Solstice a little deeper. At the end of the day as the sun was setting, and the shortest day was coming to an end, a group of friends both Christian and Pagan gathered at our little church on Essex Street, and we remembered and spoke of the depth of darkness and the transition to a coming light and warmth - still a long way off.
I do not celebrate and remember this dark solstice in the same manner as my Pagan friends. Mine is filled with identification to the death and burial of Jesus. It envisions redemption in both a temporary experience of deliverance from my troubles while still on earth, and in its eschatological momentum toward judgment and final reconciliation. In some sense, I felt as though this celebrated the Christ's Mass in its truest and original meaning. But, this one thing was true then, and remains true today: my Pagan friends helped walk with me through my deepest, darkest times. They understood silence and darkness and struggle better than many so-called Christian leaders I know. So, today is the Winter Solstice once again. I wish I were at Stonehenge on this night, as I have been during the Summer Solstice over the last four years, but one thing I can do, and will do…I give out a shout to my Pagan friends all over the globe - thank you. I owe you my life.
Merry Meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet Again,