ACCORDING TO LIZ - Christmas is coming and our goose may be cooked… or maybe not.
In this season of delighting in the excesses of consumerism, let us not forget that 5:02 am on December 21st marks the 2022 Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere.
Celebration of the solstice is one of the world’s oldest observances, pre-dating Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah and the pyramids, and is embraced by many cultures as they rejoice in the return of the sun and the days begin to lengthen.
Christians, take note that the designation of December 25th to celebrate the birth of Christ had very practical considerations since Jesus was born in April when the shepherds were abiding in the fields during lambing season.
It was far safer to put up their synthetic Christmas trees and open gifts from Amazon in Ancient Rome when the toga-wearers were more likely to be drunk as skunks during the festival of Saturnalia. And less likely to be looking for lion chow.
Christianity also has a long history of co-opting local traditions to sell itself to the natives – the Wiccan Yule, Odin’s magical flying horse dropping gifts in children’s boots. And the solstice sun hitting the altar in midwinter is a characteristic of some churches built by Catholic missionaries in early California.
And how come, while most other holidays span a number of days Christmas lasts just the one day? Christ was born on a single day, true. So would adopting the 12 days of sales-ebrating beforehand count?
Nah. Although it may be good for Amazon.
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st this season, Hanukkah from December 18th to the 26th, Saturnalia ran for seven days, while the Wiccan Yule ran for twelve. Advent, not a holiday but a liturgical season, is of 22 to 40 days duration, depending on the denomination, ecclesiastic preparation for the designated birthday of the Christ-child.
Rather than prayer and fasting, or counting up the loot this winter season and planning New Year’s soon-to-be-abandoned resolutions, why not research and celebrate the many and varied traditions of your ancestors?
Better yet, inaugurate some new traditions. Ones that clean up the planet, fight against global warming and promote world peace.
Invite someone living alone for Christmas dinner or to share any meal. Ask them over for coffee, or an evening playing board games.
Help feed the homeless, perhaps invite one for a meal at IHOP or Mickey D’s and listen to their concerns.
Collect gifts for the poor, bake cookies.
Take a drive to the mountains with children who have never seen snow; teach them to build a snowman or start a snowball fight.
Go for a walk on the beach; throw a stick for a dog. If you don’t have one, volunteer to take shelter dogs for walks.
Join a choir, teach someone something new.
Call a friend you had a falling out with, talk about the good times. Don’t try to analyze what went wrong.
Offer to stay with an invalid for an afternoon so his or her caregivers can take a few hours off.
Take some kids to the park for the morning, so their parents can have some me-time together.
Chauffeur a senior or handicapped person to church, or take them Christmas shopping.
For a special outing, drive a shut-in to a place in the city that is special for them. Listen to their stories.
It’s your time to celebrate…
Let’s wish wassail to the return of longer days and shorter nights starting next week.
May the coming year bring health and contentment to all, and renewal and peace to our planet.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)