I wonder what Summer Solstice would be like without the potential jinx of Christmas?
Christmas is a time of very mixed feelings for me, as it appears to be for many of us. Christmas can be summer, high times and happy family gatherings. It can also be a time that feels relentlessly busy and not at all joyful.
In my family of birth we often travelled to family for Christmas and I would arrive feeling car sick and anxious about the tensions that I could feel but couldn’t name.
On the plus side I loved all the carols, the candles at midnight on Christmas Eve and the opening of presents on the day. We were never far from a beach on our holidays so Boxing Day onwards was often blissful with sun, sand and seawater.
Once I had my own family and several marriages I had even more family and tension to spread myself around. Rescue remedy became the order of the day, particularly the years I did Christmas without my children.
Sometimes I would run to the beach and just hide, excusing myself from multiple family gatherings – so a regular tension for me between my love of the season of summer and my up and down feelings about Christmas.
As the first Pohutukawa triumphantly open into glorious crimson flower from mid November onward how can I integrate my understanding of the themes of Summer Solstice and the themes of Christmas so that I don’t feel like a somewhat hysterical, discombobulated banshee?
In part I plan to do this by pausing for the Summer Solstice as a celebration in its own right. If Auckland weather obliges this is a time of brightness, warmth and the sheer joy of being out in nature. I plan to sit out in the weather and let my heart energy and the energy of the sun infuse each other. I love the idea of holding ‘lightness’ as central to this time, of radiance whether in our energy or the beauty of nature around us. I might invite a few people to share this time with me, exchanging achievements and affirming our lives.
Notice I said I plan and might – writing this article has really highlighted for me just how stressful I experience this time of year. So anything I can do to transform this for myself has got to be good for me! Perhaps I can take the light and warmth of the Solstice into Christmas with me.
Coming just before Christmas, as Juliet Batten suggests, “…, summer solstice is the threshold to the holiday season, and by giving thanks for what has been completed, we can let go of the working year and step forward and enjoy the break that lies ahead.”
I do take personal solace each year in the pre-Christmas gatherings with my women friends. At these we share good food, celebrate, bemoan and cry about the year just gone and ‘gift’ each other in the truest sense - often with real gifts and just as likely with laughter, love and listening. I treasure and look forward to these gatherings.
In New Zealand Summer Solstice and Christmas do happen together so my opening question requires an answer that allows both to be a blessing in my life rather than a non-event and a curse.
The answer for me lies in owning up to the fullness of all my feelings, of taking the time to give thanks for the bounty and the gifts I have in my life, of taking the best bits for me of Christmas, the giving and the receiving, and declining to participate in anything that has me feeling disoriented and distressed.
When all else fails poetry reminds and revives me. May it do so for you.
From “Nativity” - Joy Cowley
p.30 “Spirit in a Strange Land: A SELECTION OF NEW ZEALAND SPIRITUAL VERSE”, ed., Paul Morris, Harry Ricketts & Mike Grimshaw, Godwit 2002
“Look now! It is happening again! Love like a high spring
tide is swelling to fullness and overflowing the banks
of our small concerns.
And here again is the star, that white flame of truth blazing
the way for us through a desert of tired ways.
Once more comes the music, angel song that lifts our
hearts and tunes our ears to the harmony of the universe,
making us wonder how we ever could have forgotten.
And now the magi within us gathers up gifts of gold
and myrrh, while that other part of ourselves, the impulsive,
reckless shepherd, runs helter skelter with arms
outstretched to embrace the wonder of it all.
We have no words to contain our praise. We ache with
awe, we tremble with miracle, as once again, in the small
rough stable of our lives, Christ is born.”
Or from Michael Leunig (“The Prayer Tree”, HarperCollinsPublishers, 1990)
“We welcome summer and the glorious
blessing of light. We are rich with light;
we are loved by the sun. Let us empty our
hearts into the brilliance. Let us pour our
darkness into the glorious, forgiving light.
For this loving abundance let us give thanks
and offer our joy.