Friday, December 21, 2001
Holiday traditions bring us together
With Hanukkah and Ramadan barely past, those of us who celebrate the Christmas holidays are moving into high gear with only four days left until Christmas Day.
This year as I travel around town at night, I marvel at the numbers of Christmas lights twinkling on trees, on front porches, on roof-tops and in windows. I don't remember another Christmas season in Carlisle where the Christmas lights were in such abundance. Maybe this has something to do with the stressful months we have recently experienced and our need to retreat into the warmth and comfort of our homes. What we also may be saying is no matter what has happened we are determined to celebrate this holiday as we have in the past.
Each family has its own holiday traditions, but here in Carlisle there are certain traditions we can all share together. In early December the First Religious Society holds their Greens Sale in Union Hall. It's the perfect place to pick out a wreath and stop for a delicious lunch at noontime, not to mention the opportunity to run into an acquaintance or two. Then there is the tree-lighting ceremony, a few days later on the Town Green.
In mid-December the Carlisle School Music Department holds its annual winter concerts featuring the school bands and choruses. These have become such popular events for parents with school-age children that seats in Corey Auditorium have been at a premium.
Come Christmas Eve, with Christmas cookies and breads wrapped and ready to give to friends and neighbors, and preparations for the holiday meal well under control, it is time to attend the Christmas Eve services held at the churches in town. Opening their doors to those wishing to attend, The First Religious Society has stated, "Our church is open to all those who wish to join their spiritual journey with ours in a spirit of openness and tolerance."
On Christmas Eve, at 6:30 p.m., under the Christmas tree on the Town Green, there will be caroling to music provided by Carlisle musicians under the direction of long-time Carlisle resident Walter Woodward. We're sure to see students home for the holidays with their families and friends, extended families back together for holiday celebrationsyoungsters and oldsters alike. With the conclusion of "Silent Night," and many a "Merry Christmas" trailing off into the darkness of night, it will be time to head for home.
For those driving down Westford Street, there is one final reminder of the magic and mysteries of this holiday season. Out in the meadow, just beyond Rockland Road, standing alone, is a single fir tree all aglow in its twinkling lights, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a peaceful goodnight.
Fact and fiction this Christmas
I suppose some of us will be able to put up seasonal lights and rush out to buy Quidditch card games and Hermione puzzles and have a "merry little Harry Potter Christmas," but we may have to work at it harder this year. We're told it can be part of our indomitable American spirit to rise phoenix-like from the ashes to show "them" they didn't win, and armed with credit cards, we can fight back.
But it's going to be hard. The events of September 11th stretch and reach long enough to this month and "embrace" our Christmas celebration this year. A "hole has been torn in life," to use a phrase from Alberto Giacometti. At 19 he was shocked by the death of an older friend and was obsessed with that event. In fact, for the next 25 years that loss became a point of reference for his tireless, searching mind, and his work as a sculptor of the fragile and impermanent. We can't live with total disorder or at the mercy of random chance and fear. That means chaos for society and craziness for the individual. We all feel the brevity of life and pressure of our limits, and when our sense of order is "torn," it is life threatening. We must repair the hole . . . but how?
We headlined our interpretation of the events this fall as "absolute evil." This experience in our everyday world pointed us to higher or perhaps deeper realities. The raw, painful, disturbing visual images became "signals of transcendence" (Peter L. Berger's phrase). Permission was given, place was given for prayer and talk of God that was not there on September 10th.
We must repair the hole or discover some new source of order to replace the damaged one. We long for reality to be both more and less than we see. More goodness, less evil would be nice. Maybe Harry Potter will help? After all, he has the power to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort's attacks and to stop him from taking over! Is the power of fiction the best we can experience this holiday season?
Invoking the privilege of diversity, I commend to you the truth claims and "facts" of the Bible. The reality and power of evil are affirmed, and the birth is announced of a real Person who will, in fact, defeat real evil. He claims to be able to repair and mend the holes "torn in our lives." He claims to be the Savior. Fact is stranger than fiction, isn't it?
I wish you so much more than a merry Harry Potter Christmas.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito