It's a peaceful day. Significant holidays can often feel peaceful, at least in one's own universe and despite the larger contradictions and points of trouble around the world. It is fulfilling to be able to rest; a holiday is a respite for many. The underpinnings of the global and local economies remain, and some machines are still grinding; not everyone gets a holiday or can afford to take a day off. Nevertheless, the underlying ideals of a religion- or/ and tradition- based day or season of remembrance, positive values, solidarity, and celebration make one pause, whatever their situation, to reflect and breathe.
This is my first Christmas as a resettled Canadian. I missed it for nine of the ten years away in Asia, in a land where there is some deep, sedate religious meaning for maybe 20 per cent of the population, where it was a national day off yet not a big time of general celebration. I missed some of the feeling and ritual, though I could see and hear a few low-key signs of Christmas in cafes and on the face of churches. In the university semester system in South Korea, we were not supposed to travel around Christmas--the semester and school year were wrapping up and there was usually some grading and paper work to complete. As well, winter programs were just starting. (I know one or two colleagues who secretly sneaked away to return to their homelands in time for Christmas, though.) The teachers in public schools still had to be at work, many preparing winter "camp" classes to be held in January. Teachers at the after-school academies for children sometimes got five days off between Christmas and New Year, which was not much time if one wanted to escape to the US, Oceania or Europe. While I was teaching kids, I did not get time off around Christmas. No, the traveling had to wait, and it often wasn't until around Lunar New Year that the opportunity would come--not a substitute for an occasion as significant as Christmas.
Today, however, I have recaptured some of the feeling. I have been participating in the seasonal socials, doing some related errands, saying "Merry Christmas" or "happy holidays" a lot, and indulging in some of the festive food and drink. It is especially gratifying and restful not to have any visiting or shopping to do today. There is some editing waiting, but it can wait some more.
It is the day of Christmas Eve, which has fallen on a Sunday this year. I can enjoy the luxury of staying home and doing nothing in particular. No bus trip to get to the usual choir practice; the choir is taking a couple of weeks off. I have done housekeeping tasks, of course, and cooked up a batch of homemade pancakes and one of spaghetti sauce, tasks which do not seem like big chores but are rather relaxing to me. Anyway, it is only the noon-hour here and I can hold off from other chores today.
I have been thinking about dropping by a local United Church because that can be a nice experience on Christmas Eve, even though I am not an active Christian and generally have doubts and reservations about formal religious institutions. If you have been following my blog, you'll realize that I am somewhat of a spiritual with some belief in a greater power of the universe and other dimensions of existence. I have an appreciation for the symbolism and some of the lessons of religion, and see merits in prayer and meditation. I have some appreciation of the texts, which I largely see as educational and semi-historical mythology, and problematic at the same time.
Interesting. I just paused and turned on the TV while on a break from blogging. I happened to catch the end of a documentary segment on the History Channel called, "Finding Jesus". Historians trace the real context and figures of the story of the Bible and try to render a more substantiated interpretation of the story of Jesus. Just when I turned it on, his segment of the series happened to be addressing the efforts to institutionalize Christianity, which was very controversial. Many followers of Jesus Christ did not want it. They were suspicious of the aims and politics and ownership that the new institution might take on. This portion of the documentary serious was concluding with a summary of the story of Judas. Portrayed as a complicated character tormented by inner conflict, the man who betrayed Jesus and got him captured, flogged and paraded as a public example by the Roman authorities. The viewer can infer the significance of Judas' story when historians claim that the book of Matthew describe how he ended up: regretting having betrayed Jesus but still lacking faith, he hanged himself. It is a lesson on the importance in and life-affirming force of having faith, perhaps faith in the values that Jesus taught and demonstrated, and faith in God, or some greater goodness.
I have been more mindful of having faith in recent years, and that is partly what this blogging project is about. Faith in what? Call it goodness, the power of life, positive energy--having faith can largely mean believing that improvement will happen, that goodness is there, that negative or life-threatening and defying energies or forces can be vanquished, that there is a higher (collective) consciousness trying to guide humanity to make wise choices and defend the good or life. Those are my interpretations, and I do waver or neglect allowing myself to work it all out in my mind. I do not think there is a final answer; rather, I think there are signs, there is a feeling, there is evidence of success in making positive change and happiness happen. That evidence, those signs make me calm or make me smile at time, whatever someone is saying to me or whatever local and world events are going on.
I holiday can be a good time to reflect and affirm one's belief in the positive, however it is construed. A holiday is a moment of solidarity in this general kind of belief.