Sunday, December 28, 2008

Getting back into synch

The frenzy of Christmas used to bother me. I found it stressful. That was until I to some extent unplugged the Christmas machine, or at least tamed it to a tolerable level.

Some years ago a book about mythology explained to me why the North American Christmas is over the top.

Apparently winter used to be a quiet time in Northern Europe. The long hours of darkness and the cold weather naturally lent themselves to a more restful period. According to the book about mythology, that was reflected in the winter holidays of the Norse people.

The Romans, on the other hand, were just the opposite. They commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn on December 17th. They called the holiday Saturnalia, and it evolved into a playful week-long celebration that had much in common with the North American Christmas of today. There were school vacations, feasts, exchanges of gifts, pranks, etc.

When one considers that Southern Europe has a milder winter than Northern Europe, one can understand why the Romans were less constrained by the weather than the Norse people were.

It seems to me that cheap energy in the second half of the twentieth century allowed us North Americans to override the climate in which we lived. If we still were hunter-gatherers or even farmers, we in Canada and the Northern Tier states of the USA would be forced to celebrate a much quieter Christmas. Even my mother, who grew up in Hungary before and during the Second World War, reports that it was a big deal to find a fresh orange in her Christmas stocking.

When I started simplifying my Christmas celebrations some years ago, I did not retreat into a cave. Certainly I do enjoy having Christmas Dinner with family and friends. I also enjoy buying gifts for a very few close family members and friends. (I generally buy gifts way ahead of time, in order to keep December as stress-free as possible.) Now that I'm trying to be even more eco-friendly than before, I probably will make many of my Christmas gifts in future.

This year the unusual weather on Vancouver Island forced many of us to simplify even more than we might have wanted to do. If Peak Oil comes to pass, I wonder what Christmas (and the rest of our lives) will look like. I suspect there is the potential for Voluntary Simplicity to turn into Involuntary Simplicity.

Be that as it may, I like to relax during these days between Christmas and New Year. I like to feel the rhythm of winter.

Last night I played some haunting Celtic music that my son in Calgary had told me about by e-mail that afternoon. I turned off all the lights in my townhouse, lit a single tea light, turned the volume of the music down low, sank into the couch, and felt my body melting into the supportive atmosphere.

This morning I feel refreshed and ever so grateful to have had the chance to chill out.

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