“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” (Bob Dylan)
Whatever your personal belief system, everyone acknowledges that, at this time of year, many folk are gearing up for celebrations of some sort or other in about four weeks’ time. These might relate to Christmas, they might relate to the Midwinter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere), they might relate to nothing in particular: celebrations of birth and rebirth, or just for the hell of it, to bring light to the darkest time of year.
And, increasingly, it does feel like we are heading for dark times. Though many of us, in our nests of cosy privilege, might not feel the economic pinch of the current political times in which we live as keenly as do some of our fellow compatriots, nevertheless the ever-looming background of an increasingly right-wing political environment in the west is unsettling. It creeps up on you when you least expect it, and only then do you realise it was always there, causing worry and stress, rotting at the back of your mind.
Worse is knowing how many who walk among us are actually celebrating the discord that has been sown because they (ironically, given the background of many of the ringleaders) want to shake up what they see as a faceless and entitled autocratic juggernaut of an establishment. In some instances, those supporting the upheaval include some of the most privileged of all, whose personal circumstances mean they will never be affected by an economic earthquake; in others, this includes a raft of those apparently ignorant to the fact that even the slightest economic tremors will deeply hurt them or many of those they know. And that is without considering the rhetoric used by such people: without analysing the hurt that is done, the divisions which are encouraged and driven through communities, the baseless fear and hatred of the other.
Yet, through all this, the season offers hope and a chance to focus on the good of the world: on giving and sharing, and on respect and love for one another, regardless of background or belief. As we head towards the shortest day of the year, and the world seems to slip further into darkness, there is hope and the promise of light. Not just around the corner, but right now, among us: we just need to keep reminding ourselves to look for it.
It’s one reason why – even if decorating early is not for me, personally – I’ll never criticise someone for putting up their tree and trimmings several weeks before Christmas. Or for sneakily listening to carols before the end of November, or for wrapping presents or writing cards early. Especially in these darkening times, there is something so delightfully innocent and refreshing about celebrations – whatever they may be – which are predominantly based on selflessness and are focussed on peace and new beginnings.
I don’t disagree with the many who believe the commercial aspect of this time of year is off-putting: it is, certainly. But commercialism is simply a crass symptom of a cause which is much more pure. An inevitable capitalist consequence of our twenty-first century society.
So, whatever reason for joy you’re celebrating over the coming weeks, feel free to do so loud and proud. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the grumblers. Enjoy sharing the tidings of the season. Let yourself feel the hope and promise of good things to come. Because we need to believe – and I truly do believe – that this dark time will pass. We just need to allow ourselves to unashamedly celebrate the strength and power of humanity at its best.