Thanksgiving is now over. The shopping season is in full swing. For me, the end of Thanksgiving - and the approach of my birthday - marks the start of the holiday season.
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I used to hate it, with all of its commercialism and the almost debilitating optimism oozing out of every Christmas Carol I heard on a constant basis. The older I get, however, the more I seem to enjoy this holiday season. It helps lessen the depression I struggle with throughout the rest of the year. The more I let the positivity of the spirit of the season influence me, the more it helps me to give myself permission to be happy and actually enjoy life. As I become more spiritually aware, it's also a time for me to renew my spiritual practices and reconnect with my spirituality. The eclectic in me has tended, for the last few years, to experiment with spiritual practices and holiday observances during this time of year, as a way to explore my own spirituality and beliefs.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a Menorah and accompanying candles at a local Christian bookstore (my guess is to accommodate the Messianic Jews of the area). As a result, for a couple of years I experimented with celebrating my own interpretation of Hanukkah , as a festival of lights and symbolizing determination. I found, however, that I did not spiritually or emotionally connect with the practice at all, and therefore I now have a Menorah I don't know what to do with. Although, I believe, I do still have my Hanukkah printouts in my Grimoire. Never hurts to have the information.
This year, I will be, of course, celebrating Christmas, and its predecessor, Advent. I love Advent, as it is a time to prepare myself spiritually for Christmas, as well as balancing out the commercialism that can overtake this time of year leading up to Christmas. This year, I will be utilizing Advent readings from my pocket copy of the Book of Common Prayer , used in the Episcopal church, as well as the weekly readings of The Gnosis Archive , an online resources for those like myself who are drawn to Gnosticism and consider themselves Gnostics.
Also, as someone who attempts to engage in nature spirituality and honor nature, I am planning to do something to recognize Yule , which typically falls between December 20-22. I don't know exactly what will be done yet, whether it will be a simple meditation alone outside, or a full-blown ritual, but I plan to somehow recognize the holiday.
Finally, as I get older, and am going back into a contemplative stage, I find myself being drawn back to Unitarian Universalism. I am being active again in their online "congregation" and have enjoyed watching a couple of their archived online services via livestream, as they have begun having online Youtube video style weekly "online church services". I'm still happy with my current United Church of Christ church, but I find this sort of supplements it. In any case, UUs have their own holiday of sorts, which has only taken root in the last few years. It is called Chalica, and it is a 7-day celebration, beginning the first Monday of December. It's sort of a UU equivalent of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. As UUism is guided not by dogma or theology regarding deity, but by their 7 Principles, the idea is for the celebrant to, on each day, light a candle and in some way meditate on and remember that day's principle - i.e. on the day dedicated to the "inherent worth and dignity of every person", find a way to make amends with someone whom you have had difficulty getting along with.
I just hope that it brings some positivity and calm back into my mind. God knows 2013 has been pretty much one of the weirdest, most eventful years I've ever had in my life. I need some balance.