Northwest December darkness may yield the most recognized religious holidays celebrated than any other month; at least that’s my impression. I knew about Christmas (Dec. 25) and Hanukkah (Dec. 6-13), but had to do a bit more research to give weight to my theory. Here’s what I found.
I discovered that Bodhi Day is Dec. 8 and celebrates the day Buddha became enlightened. Yule occurs this year on Dec. 22 and is celebrated by Wicca/Pagan followers as the day the sun is reborn.
December likely includes a celebration of Mohammad’s birthday; the actual date depends on the Islamic calendar which is lunar. Mohammad had two celebrations in 2015; one occurred on Jan. 3 and another will on Dec. 23.
Dec. 26, anniversary of the death of Zarathustra, is celebrated in Zoroastrianism — origin ancient Persia — the oldest monastic religion in the world so says the source. Once the most powerful religion, it is now the world’s smallest with fewer than 190,000 followers.
Some have thought of Kwanza, celebrated in December as a religious holiday, but it is more a festival intended to honor African heritage in African-American culture.
I have long thought that all these significant events were conveniently placed in December to help folks get through hours of darkness, bitter cold and often dreary daylight.
This theory of mine does nothing to explain the same holidays celebrated in the southern hemisphere and how the people apparently manage to get through their June winters just fine.
Still and despite broken theory, we are living in Sequim, one of the most northern parts of the continental USA so I’m sticking with the having joy in darkness theme. I love being surrounded by holiday lights and enjoying wood stove fires.
I also love the colors of winter, something I never saw until I became semi-working. Many spend the darkest winter months driving to and from employment in the dark like I did and don’t stop to look at the scenery while catching up on chores and doing indoor family things on days off.
Typical winter scene photos show snow-covered landscape with evergreens and barren brown trees and may or may not include a cottage with lights in the window and smoke coming out the chimney.
Once having the opportunity, I discovered a very different Northwest beauty among our towering evergreens. On close look muted auras of sepia and rose hues blend into what at first glance appeared to be dead bushes and ground cover. It seems to me the blanket of subtle colors protects the life waiting below and asks us to be patient.
Lately, our patience through miserably stormy days has been rewarded with wonderful photogenic rainbows and skies of puffy clouds that seem to reflect the same sepia tones and as the sun rises or sets, the same rose hues. I’ve seen the same skies over and over in the oil paintings of the Old Masters.
’Tis the season of all the seasons that pulls us into reflection and gratitude. Of course I can say that because I am old and a long way past the little girl that wanted to open every Christmas card, put the tinsel on the tree, see all the decorated store windows and shook packages under the tree when no one was looking.
’Twas the season of all the seasons and my family put aside the acrimony if only for one evening or one day until the season they no longer could or would. By then I was growing up and within a few years I was in my own home watching the gradual disillusion of pretense in my childhood family until the final twig of decoration was left at Goodwill along with the tree stand.
I am not alone in that kind of memory and not the only one among us who is old enough to have gone through the disillusion and rebirth, if you will, of a new meaning of the “season.”
I may have taken longer because I have never been good at separating from things I cherish, no matter how false or how necessary. Still, it got me along with many of you to this place where I could see the true beauty of the season whether the subtle beauty of earth and sky or the joy and simplicity of being alive each day.
Over time and piece by piece the trappings have gone the way of the Christmas tree stand and Christmas cards replaced by e-mails or Facebook. Family is separated by distance and enjoying their warm holiday traditions. We, now elders, have given into the problem of night driving and stressful holiday dinners by avoiding them. We turn more to each other and enjoy our lights, wood stove, favorite decorations, good food and good company.
The season turns into many days and months in which we celebrate each day as a beautiful day when I wake and husband brings me coffee. One day one of us won’t. We know and are much too wise to think otherwise. We’ve had many changing seasons. ’Tis our winter season and life is good.
Season’s Greetings to you!
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.