The culture clash between winter solstice and Christmas is battling for my allegiance. On the one hand, the sun will set on the winter solstice today in Seattle at 4:20 p.m. This time of year, I am ready to pack up the day and begin my long winter’s nap by 7:00. On the other hand, that seems laughable. Who has time to go to bed at 7:00? This is the frenetic holiday season. Too much to do! Not enough time! Additionally, I find myself fighting the darkness. I sit in front of my light box as I work. In the evenings, I turn on all the lights and crank up the music to fend off a desire to hibernate while I push forward in accomplishing the items on my to-do list.
Yet my body refuses to be ignored. It is allying against me and siding with circadian rhythms that dictate darkness = rest. The busyness our culture calls us to now is diabolically opposed to what nature calls us to.
Every year I feel this same clash. In an effort to reduce the busyness, I consider the tasks and activities that are most meaningful to me during the holidays, prioritize them and cut out everything else. Decorate the house beyond a Christmas tree? Nope. Send out holiday cards? Gave that up a decade ago. Limit my kids to one present each plus stocking stuffers? My bank account thanks me. Bake Christmas cookies? A wholehearted yes! Even with being conscientious about what I spend my time on, I still find myself depleted and resenting the few “essentials” of the holiday season.
Last night, I succumbed to the darkness. It was about time. I turned my back on the to-do list, turned off the lights and music, and sat in front of the Christmas tree. Just sat and soaked up the beauty of tiny lights twinkling on fragrant evergreen boughs. I reflected on the tree’s meaning of everlasting life, symbolism that reaches as far back as ancient civilizations. I recognized my connection to the whole of the universe. It was the most peaceful, energizing thing I have done all week. Not only did it allow my body to rest, the quiet moments of contemplation filled a longing in my soul. It shifted my perspective to what is truly important—love. Love for ourselves, our families, neighbors, the web of humanity, nature and the divine. That love is far more satisfying than my beloved Christmas cookies.
On this winter solstice night, I will again let nature have its way and sink into the rest and peace of darkness, knowing this is what fills me with light and life, and brings joy to the tasks of the holiday season. May you also be filled with the gifts of this season.