“On The Ninth Day Of Christmas…”

Happy New Year —- and Merry “Little Christmas”!  The Christmas season isn’t quite over; the twelve days of Christmas do extend to Twelfth Night, on January 6th, so this is the ninth day.  Some call that twelfth day, “Little Christmas.”  It has been a lovely Christmastide.   Our sons and families came for dinner, and several were here for a few days thereafter.  We always enjoy the company and the conversation.  I saw something recently about getting together with grown children being the greatest of joys and that’s true.  I like who they’ve grown to be. I’ve generally liked the friends they’ve had through the years, and I love the partners they’ve chosen not to mention being delighted with our charming granddaughters.  

This December has been less stressful than those of other years.   For the past 25 or so years, we have given a gala 12th Night party.  We filled our not-so-spacious house with a large number of people, so that we could enjoy as many friends as possible and also to celebrate the traditions of Epiphany.  This year, we’ve retired!  That removed considerable stress—- good stress, but stress, nonetheless.    Our inner batteries were running out!  However this change will just bring new ways to celebrate.  Saturday our church is throwing a 12th Night party with games, music and stories.  Everyone is welcome; I’ll still be baking cookies — just not quite as many: Five PM on Saturday, January 5th at Spencer Presbyterian church — downstairs.  Bring whatever goodies/dinner foods you’d like to bring and prepare to find warmth, music and laughter to mark the end of Christmastide.

Moving on to the New Year —-to what do you look forward with pleasure?   Making resolutions for a new year most often result in lists of things we think we must do or ought to do.  Unless we realize how important hope, joy and fun are to living well and in good health, we generally don’t make lists of pleasures.   There’s an old Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures” —- I assume for most any ills. Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to regard pleasurable activities as self-indulgent. Research has shown that having fun improves mental health, physical health, and our very outlook on life. Some pleasures I’m hoping for are: a) a good-weather gardening year( of course), b) fun times with family and friends, c) a visit to the Cornell Plantations — haven’t been there since they renovated everything, and d) ability to refrain from being harried and hurried.  Life can change very quickly; I do not want to waste any opportunities for being with people I enjoy nor do I want to miss the little, wonderful things around me because I zip by too fast. As often as possible I will not allow other people’s schedules to negatively impact mine.  This is part of my very own 2019 bill of rights.

There has been much discussion over the last few years about the actual document – our Constitution and its attachments — and what constitutes personal liberty.  The Bill of Rights is frequently quoted as support for quite opposite views: by those for and against total free speech, by those for and against gun control, by those for and against mandated health care.  It is very much like what people do with the Bible — pick a verse here and there to support personal philosophies of what “ought to be”, but neglect the whole context.  Any Body of Law (secular or theological) when lacking the spirit in which it was written, seldom achieves its purpose.   It engenders neither happiness nor justice.  I recently came upon a quotation that speaks about one person’s ideas regarding liberty.  Liberty is the daughter of authority properly understood.  For to be free is not to do{only} what one pleases; it is to be the master of oneself, it is to know how to act within reason and to do one’s duty.” Emile Durkheim, Education and Sociology.*   

People can be very verbal about their rights and yet are offended when they receive criticism for what they’ve said or done.  This attitude may begin early; one of the things we tend to do with our kids is to protect them too much from the consequences of their actions.  I’m sure that I did that several times.  It’s a fine line between shielding them from severe pain and letting them learn from experience.  It is important to understand that even when our actions or words are quite legal, there may be negative consequences.  I think that is what Emile was trying to say.  Responsibility and caring about the whole must accompany freedoms of any kind.  Our feral feline population definitely supports free speech, especially when I’m a tad late with their dinner.  They meow at the window and scratch the screens — expressing their opinions of my dilatory behavior very clearly.  And they don’t like the consequences: my very loud disapproval of screen-scratching and no petting when I go outside.  Of course, being cats, they don’t care for very long!

As we look to the winter ahead, it is SO tempting to complain about cold, snow, grapple (a new weather term), and sleet.  Looking forward with hope for spring is a very good thing; looking ahead and wishing the winter time away is quite different.   Epicurus, a long-ago Greek philosopher says it well: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”**   Winter can be a marvelous restoration time — and I’ve been craving one.  We stay so scheduled that seldom is there a week with an unencumbered three days in a row.  In winter, it seems easier to slow down, giving us the opportunity for more leisurely projects like checking out the tracks outside after a fresh snow; they might be deer — rabbits —- raccoon —- a foolish possum — or just the cats prowling around.  And inside, during this January and February I am determined to clean out files and reorganize!!!  I need uninterrupted quiet and space for doing that.  Maybe I’ll just pretend that I’ve gone on a long trip somewhere and not emerge from the house until March.   

With no 12th Night party, we are leaving the tree up longer this year — until 12th night probably.   Other years, we needed the space for party-goers.  I’m sort of glad for the extra time; it puts off one of the things I agreed to do at the end of the Christmas season; sorting and repacking all of the Christmas gear.  We need to get rid of some things and re-label the remainder so that we can find things more easily next December.  This year, things seemed to be in a jumble.  So during this last week of Christmas, I’m storing up strength and enthusiasm for that formidable task.  

And for the days ahead in this fresh, new year, I can’t think of a better goal/resolution than one I saw on a friend’s FaceBook page; to focus on family, friends and neighbors—neighbors, of course, being defined as in Scripture; pretty much anyone and everyone who crosses our paths in any way.  The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom, is rooted in one’s capacity to love…..in care, respect, responsibility and knowledge.”  Erich Fromm***   Many problems would be solved if we all resolved to do this.  

I hope, in these ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth days of Christmas, that you are still feeling both celebratory and content; that the love, special feelings and Light that bathe the world at this time, continue to fill your soul.  Welcome to January 2019!!

Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net. 

 

*Emile Durkheim- French sociologist, who with two others is considered “fathers of modern sociology”.  1858-1917

**Epicurus-Greek philosopher.  341BC – 270BC

***Erich Fromm- German-born American sociologist and psychoanalyst.  1900-1980

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