Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Tradition # 12: Christmas Cards

20
Dec
18

12.20.18 … “be still and know I am God” …

Christmas Tradition #13: Acknowledging the Longest Night

In an earlier post (see below), I noted the connection between the winter solstice and Advent/Christmas. I have always had a love for the Christmas holidays, but as I have reached the end of an era, middle age, I realize that not everyone has wonderful holiday memories, and even if one does, they have experienced sorrow from the loss of a loved one, one lost because of the death or separation, and this loss has darkened the experience. And the darkness of the season often worsens the suffering of people dealing with depression and addiction. In addition many people struggle with faith and religion in their lives, in the church, in their families, in their communities and even in civilization. Add in the long cold dark, it’s no wonder that the “happiest time of the year” for many is the “hardest time of the year” for others.

Many churches, including First Presbyterian Church, now hold A Service of Wholeness and Healing on this night, the longest night. I went a few years back. I’m not really certain why. And I attended again tonight. I want to honor those that need to be acknowledged, those that need remembering and those that I need to remember and to remind myself of the beauty in the community that celebrates joy and giving.

I found this today by Jan Richardson, a Methodist minister:

A blessing for you, for the Winter Solstice. If you are traveling through a season of shadows, or know someone who is, this is for you. (And a blessed Summer Solstice to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere!)

BLESSING FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT

All throughout these months,

as the shadows

have lengthened,

this blessing has been

gathering itself,

making ready,

preparing for

this night.

It has practiced

walking in the dark,

traveling with

its eyes closed,

feeling its way

by memory,

by touch,

by the pull of the moon

even as it wanes.

So believe me

when I tell you

this blessing will

reach you,

even if you

have not light enough

to read it;

it will find you,

even though you cannot

see it coming.

You will know

the moment of its

arriving

by your release

of the breath

you have held

so long;

a loosening

of the clenching

in your hands,

of the clutch

around your heart;

a thinning

of the darkness

that had drawn itself

around you.

This blessing

does not mean

to take the night away,

but it knows

its hidden roads,

knows the resting spots

along the path,

knows what it means

to travel

in the company

of a friend.

So when

this blessing comes,

take its hand.

Get up.

Set out on the road

you cannot see.

This is the night

when you can trust

that any direction

you go,

you will be walking

toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson

from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Afterwards, I went and quickly walked the labyrinth at Myers Park Baptist. It was a dark and stormy night. And I just repeated the Psalm which we communally had said in the First Presbyterian Church’s Service of Wholeness and Healing: “Be still and know that I am God.”

And I am repeating this quoted material from my earlier post on the relation between Advent and pagan festivals celebrating Winter Solstice because I think it significant.

“But when I began to study the ancient Celtic tradition, and its keen awareness of humanity’s deep, inner connections with the rhythms of the natural world, I began to slowly realize how beautifully aligned the symbolism of the Advent season is to the imagery of the natural season leading to the Winter Solstice — the play of light and dark, the waiting, even a kind of deep and prophetic longing.

For the word “advent” literally means “the coming,” and, in this sense, these weeks in December are indeed a time of advent for all of us — whether we consider ourselves religious or not. The light is coming. All of Creation — and we — wait together for that coming.

What a not-to-be-missed treasure the natural season of Advent can be then, when the nascent light inside each of us can turn to, and answer, the promises of light surrounding us everywhere in the December dark: the whisper of candlelight from darkened windows, the blue-black light of dusk against the silhouetted trees of winter.

This is Advent — when as sleepers we awaken to our own light of love deep within us, waiting to be reborn again in the dark stables of our own souls.”

Source: Finding Ancient (Pagan) Meaning in the Darkness of Advent | The On Being Project, https://onbeing.org/blog/finding-ancient-pagan-meaning-in-the-darkness-of-advent/

Again, I repeat, “Be still and know that I am God.”

12.20.18

And here is another blog post I think worthy of your time:

Tomorrow marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Or the longest night. Many churches have “Longest Night” services during Advent, remembering those who grieve a loss during this season.

 It’s not a coincidence that Christmas falls so close to this longest night. We have no idea on which day Jesus was born. In the fourth century, when the calendar of the Roman empire was being Christianized, they picked December 25, which for pagans was the feast of Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun,” which began at this point to rise more forcefully day by day, not defeated by the darkness. Probably a bit of calendar confusion, as for them the 25th was that longest night. Christians linked this idea of ever-lengthening day to Christ.

20
Dec
18

12.20.18 … Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings …)

Christmas Tradition # 12: Christmas Cards

I never thought much about Christmas cards until I had children. Before that, I see in my mind the cards my grandmother would buy at the dime store and send to all her extended relatives. And they usually had poinsettias on the front (which may be why I’m not a huge fan of poinsettias, that and the fact that they are harmful to dogs). If my parents sent them, I don’t remember. I do remember opening them, and I do remember that there was one family that always included “the letter.” One year it was all about the tragic death of a grandmother. Very strange. It was so morbid that it was funny.

After Jack was born in 1990, I entered the fray. And once you are in, you get tons. Some are beautiful and some are funny. And a few of you write really hilarious letters! Most show the current status of the family , including your dogs (and sometimes your cats), new babies, new houses, great vacations, graduations, weddings and now grand babies galore. I don’t care how you say Happy Holidays; be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings; I wish them back to you in my tradition’s words of greeting and goodwill.

I don’t care how you say Happy Holidays; be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Happy New Year, Blessings, I wish them back to you in my tradition’s words of greeting and goodwill.

And what fun it has been to reconnect, even if it was just once per year. But jump forward 28 years. Now the internet lets me glimpse at you and your family, I can send well wishes and condolences daily. And I can say Happy Holidays to you. But it is not the same, so today I ordered a limited amount to be sent to a few, especially those that still enjoy snail mail. I will admit that making the effort to create the card is cathartic. And I cherish everyone I receive. I still put them by my Advent Wreath, a tradition that began while I lived in Chicago, and open them after a daily candle lighting and reading.

So again, I send holiday blessings to all …

Of course I had to research their history after noting that the first Christmas card was sent in 1843, the same year Dickens published “A Christmas Carol”:

A prominent educator and patron of the arts, Henry Cole travelled in the elite, social circles of early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.

During the holiday season of 1843, those friends were causing Cole much anxiety.

The problem were their letters: An old custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.

Now, everybody was sending letters. Sir Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, but he was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.”Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that

Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

It was the first Christmas card

Source: The History of the Christmas Card | History | Smithsonian,

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-christmas-card-180957487/




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