December is a time for holidays. It seems like every religion celebrates some kind of coming of light in the dark of winter, in or around this time of year. The liturgical/religious calendars I follow have two sets of holidays:
- the Gnostic calendar, as laid out in the book Living Gnosticism, includes Christmas. As a further Christian extension of this, I also celebrate Advent, which began this year on November 28th. There are Advent meditations for each Sunday listed in The Gnosis Archive, as well as a daily Advent devotional I printed out from The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship,
- The Pagan/Druidic Calendar lists December 21 as Yule, or the Pagan equivalent of Christmas. It is the official first day of winter, and anticipates the return of spring and warmth.
In addition, on occasion I may feel drawn to a holiday of another religion that I may want to experiment with. It is in this vein that I celebrate my inner eclectic/Unitarian Universalist, and experiment with such holidays for approximately 3 years. My logic is that if I feel drawn to it to the point of feeling compelled to experiment with it, then 3 years will give me enough time to celebrate it, research the meaning behind it and various customs for it, and decide if I can relate to it enough to continue on and make it part of my "official" religious calendar. This year, I have two:
- Chalica = a recently invented (as in, around 2005ish) Unitarian-Universalist specific holiday. Modeled after Hannukah and Kwanzaa, it is a seven day long celebration. On each day the celebrant lights a candle honoring each of the 7 Principles of Unitarian-Universalism. It begins on the first Monday of December. For example, Monday will honor the first Principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person), Tuesday the 2nd Principle, etc. This is my 2nd year experimenting with Chalica. So far, I feel that I relate to it quite well. Many of its' practices so far include giving some kind of gift to someone that represents that day's principle, and I don't really have anyone to give gifts to, and right now I also have inadequate time to be more creative in other external expressions of the holiday. So, I light the candle for the day, and try to keep that Principle in mind when I go about the day's activities. Today was particularly difficult, as my caseload at the internship was shifted around so much I don't really know who my caseload is at this point, and on top of that, they did all this the day before my technical last day with them until January. The positive thing about this holiday is that in typical UU fashion, there is no official way to celebrate it, or even any requirement to celebrate it. It is growing in popularity among UUs and the closest to an 'official' holiday they've ever had. Many UUs are celebrating it along with whatever other religion-specific holidays they may practice. As such, if I feel compelled to celebrate it in some way, how I do so is completely up to me. In any case, so far it looks as though this will become an official holiday for me.
- Hannukah - a couple of years ago, while in a Christian bookstore Christmas shopping for family, I came across a menorah. I felt drawn to it, as I'm interested in Jewish culture and at the time I was briefly looking more into Kabbalah (which I will look into again once I get to that section of my reading list and have more time), so I bought it. This is also my 2nd year experimenting with this one. On a small level, I feel I can relate to the overall message of the holiday - celebrating light in the darkness; miracles when you feel you're at the end of your resources and have done all you can; overcoming oppression. However, ways to celebrate it are so cultural specific, and I'm not a Jew (and the last Jew I dated was a cultural, rather than practicing, Jew), so I feel that I may not be able to relate to it in a way that I feel I would need to in order to keep it in my list of practices. So, I will continue the rest of this year, and next year, to complete my "3 year rule", but if I don't feel any different after that, I will acknowledge and appreciate it for the beautiful holiday that it is, and say goodbye to it.
To finish, here is a picture of my new seasonal altar. In the center is my Advent wreath. To the right, of course, is the menorah. And to the left, a chalice candleholder with a tealight candle inside, for Chalica. Under it is a meditation board, tarot deck, and oracle card deck.
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