I've had a Christmas tree in my house, every December since I was born. That's what everyone I knew called it when I was growing up anyway. So this year when my husband, Bruce, was not in the mood to get one, because he was, “not feeling the Christmas Spirit.” I insisted. “We can’t wait to feel it, we have to create it. Even if others won’t be here to see it, we need this for ourselves.”
I realize now, of course, that Christmas is a religious term and, since there are varied religious beliefs, it is limited and not universally applicable, but the term "Christmas Spirit" means something to me about the feeling that I, and others, get during this time of year, and that, for many, seems to be missing. People have been saying their own version of this such as, “I don’t feel like celebrating Hanukah” or “I’m just not in the Holiday mood.” And, I get it. I was feeling a bit like that too, but I want to share something that I think might be useful.
First, as I said to Bruce, "You can't wait to ‘feel’ it. You have to create it." I know life is harder than ever right now, money may be scarce, lockdowns are happening, politics are divisive, and fear of the virus is ubiquitous, but you can bring some enchantment to yourself and/or your loved ones by finding a way to create a bit of the seasonal spirit in meaningful, small, but noticeable ways.
One thing you can do is turn to nature. The celebrations that happen during this season originally came from celebrating the winter solstice…sol (sun), stice (stands still). This is when we go from having shorter and shorter daylight hours and increasingly longer winter nights, to a turn around where the daylight hours steadily increase. The Solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, which, in the northern hemisphere will be happening on December 21st. In ancient times people celebrated this turning point because sun begins to come back for longer periods of time providing additional warmth and light each day. (Lots more is going on Astronomically on Dec21st this year as well, but getting into that will take us way off track, just go look it up if you don’t already know.)
Anyway,…what also happened centuries ago during the winter was that as people watched trees losing their leaves they realized that this was not true of evergreen trees (such as pine trees). Evergreens maintained their color, strength and beauty during the long, cold, dark, winters, demonstrating great life force and perseverance. As a way of honoring this resilience in nature, people would bring a piece of evergreen into the house and place a bough on the mantle or make a wreath. The Druids would adorn their temples with evergreen branches. Eventually whole trees were brought into the house. The current ritual of decorating and lighting a tree is a long, complicated, story, but began with popcorn, fruit and nuts. Bringing small pieces of evergreen branches or perhaps a tree into your house is a way to celebrate this season by paying attention to nature and this season's lesson of patience, resilience and hope.
It’s close to Dec 25th so getting a tree might not make sense unless you get a small one that is living, I don’t mean cut, I mean alive. Getting a live tree means you can re-use it for a few years, or plant it, or donate it to a family or school, or park that could use a nice tree. But let’s say a tree is not the right thing for you, then I suggest looking for pine branches by going for a walk in the neighborhood, visiting a local park or even asking for old branches at a Christmas tree lot. (Some gladly give them, others don’t, but many places usually make wreaths or boughs you can buy. Social distancing and masking, of course). I cut tiny bits of branches from neighborhood pines that are now in vases (old food jars work well) in my bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. Seeing them each day is a reminder for what this time of year represents and brings me a bit of that spirit I was missing.
As for our tree, decorating it each year is a full on ritual, one of many I have, that replace all the unhealthy rituals I had during my eating disorder. Bruce added lights and we got out and hung our ornaments, like old friends. I give him a horse for the tree every year, another ritual that for sure I enjoy far more than he does, but I'm ok with that. After adding a few other items around the house, like pine cones, and reindeer, our home is now full of that spirit which was missing just a few days ago.
So...for anyone who wants to try, I suggest turning to nature this season, bring a bit of it indoors, to help you with awe and appreciation for what Im sure is some much needed resilience and see if it helps you make a shift.