2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s: Honoring Light in a Dark Season

Photo credits: Ceile Hartleib

In the midst of decorating my home for Christmas this weekend, I easily empathized with those described in Jan Hoffman’s NY Times article, The Holidays Downsized: No Job and Fewer Gifts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and friends have not been untouched by the global financial crisis.

Several among my acquaintances have lost their jobs in recent months, even before the nation’s leaders acknowledged we’d slipped into a recession. Others have had their hours cut or pensions reduced due to the plummeting stock market.

Hoffman’s article in the Times begins:

“SUSAN McCABE liked to go all out for Christmas. Presents for friends and 17 relatives: high-end cameras for adults, Nintendo Wii for the children. On Christmas Eve, she proudly treated the immediate family to dinner at romantic white tablecloth restaurants in Manhattan. Sticker shock? Ms. McCabe, who sold eco-friendly technology, wouldn’t blink twice.

“But in September, the start-up company she worked for went belly up. “A restaurant dinner? All those presents?

‘“Out of the question,” said Ms. McCabe, who is scrambling to make the rent on her Manhattan apartment. “And that really bothers me.”’

As dire as the above sounds, Hoffman interweaves an uplifting spiritual motif throughout the stories she tells of how people like the McCabes are coping with adversity this holiday season. The spiritual shines through in a family’s decision to return to the customs of a previous generation or simply refocusing on the deeper meaning of symbols related to Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or the celebration of New Year’s, all of which, as Hoffman points out, “honor light in a dark season.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m finding my own spiritual nourishment lately through a revised early morning routine at my kitchen table that includes journaling, reading a chapter or two of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Going Home: Jesus and Buddha Are Brothers, and meditating for a few minutes.

Thich Nhat Hanh is A Vietnamese Buddhist who practices meditation in Plum Village, a retreat center in southwestern France. Here’s an excerpt from today’s reading:

“This evening, December twenty-fourth, we shall practice sitting meditation together. The sitting today is very special because after fifteen minutes we will begin to hear the sound of the church bells in northern Russia. We will sit very silently and we will listen to the bells of an Orthodox Church in northern Russia for about twenty minutes. We shall be sitting together silently, solidly like a mountain and free like the air. We will allow the sound of the church bell to touch the seeds of solidity and joy within us. If you do well, the seeds of joy, of love, and peace will begin to bloom like flowers in the fields of your hearts. You may have a chance to discover the true nature of the bell."

Thich Nhat Hanh continues:

“The sound of the bell in the Buddhist temple, the sound of the bell in an Orthodox Church, in a Catholic Church, and in a Protestant Church, their nature is the same.”

Peace be with you this evening, my friends, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances.
If you'd like to share how you and your family are coping with adversity this holiday season, please leave a comment below.

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