When I was small, our family observed St. Nick’s Day on December 6. We children made our “Pig Lists” on that day, a letter to Santa listing the presents we wanted. It was especially exciting the next morning to find the letters gone, the glass of milk emptied, the plate of cookies bare but for a few crumbs. Perhaps we’d actually receive those gifts, come Christmas!
We’re entering again, as we do each year, into the season of wanting. The mid-winter holidays are essentially about the identification of wants: what we want for ourselves and what others want that we can give them.
Even the original seed of the celebration, the recognition of a light that divides the surrounding darkness, caters to our wants, our yearning for delivery from present circumstances, our passionate desire for a new life. In the spring, we celebrate the actual arrival of new life; in the summer, we are proud to mark existential and material success; in the fall, we reflect on our abundance. But at mid-winter, whether we’re Christian, Jewish, pagan, atheist, or anything else, the holiday is about what we don’t have. We mark this time with gifts that we hope will fulfill others’ wants and with plans for our own deep wishes. [Read more...]