Gratitude and Remembrance

Christmas-TreeTomorrow is January 6th, Little Christmas or Epiphany. It is also Christmas Day in the Orthodox calendar. In many traditions, most Christmas decorations are taken down by the end of the day tomorrow, although the season continues through February 2nd, Candlemass. Even as we put away the trappings of the season, the spirits and Ancestors remain close.

Last evening we invited neighbors over for an end of the Holidays party. We ate heartily, enjoyed the fire in the wood stove, and talked late into the evening. There was a general sense of gratitude for one final opportunity to enjoy the passing season together, to have spaciousness after the hectic weeks that are just past.

This afternoon we took down our inside decorations, including the tree. (Our outside lights will remain up for a while to brighten the cold evenings.) I often feel deep sadness when both setting up and taking down the tree. Today was no different.

As the outside temperature rose above the freezing point for the first time in a week, we carefully placed each ornament in a box or wrapping, then into tubs for storage. We bought an artificial tree a few years ago, as several family members are allergic to live trees. We took it apart and stored it in its nook in the basement.

Holding them in our hands we were reminded that many of the ornaments carry stories. Some were created by children who are now adults, others by beloved great-grandparents now gone. Other ornaments were gifted to us, individually or collectively. Still others were purchased by us in unique circumstances, markers of life events or transitions, or our relationship with spirits or aspects of Nature.

Although the spirits and Ancestors are understood to remain nearby for a few more weeks, the close of the Christmas season marks a shift in the ceremonial calendar. Generations ago relative quiet descended on the community in January. Hunting might be limited by cold and deep snow, and sugaring and the planting of crops were months away.There was time to share the big stories and attend to the spirits.  Now, in our time, we quickly return to our often overly busy daily lives. It is less that the spirits retreat than we are too distracted and overworked to foster contact with them.

“Putting away Christmas” offers us another opportunity to acknowledge the Creator, Father Sun and Mother Earth, Grandfather Fire and Grandmother Moon, the spirits and Ancestors, and the Elements.  We are invited to remember the gift of life they have bestowed on us, and to be thankful.

This week, how will you make space for gratitude and remembrance?

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5 thoughts on “Gratitude and Remembrance

  1. Michael, I couldn’t agree more that we too quickly return to our overly busy daily lives. This year especially I felt reluctant to let go the calm Christmas days that were full with kind and soft talks, sharing and contemplation. We need the old 12 days of Christmas.

  2. When I was a child we celebrated into early February and “little Christmas” was a bigger deal than the 25th. My grandmother was Maronite, my grandfather was Melchite, and my father was Greek Orthodox from Turkey. We were slower to pack up Christmas and much more aware of the blessings and an appropriate sense of gratitude to honor the season. I don’t remember so much as there is now. I remember a sense of letting go and letting peace.

    This is a lovely post, as yours always are without fail.

    • Jamie, perhaps the entire season is, as you note, about letting go and letting peace. Underneath the consumerism and frantic pace of the commercial holiday lies ancient wisdom, and perhaps an animal response to the season. Perhaps our deep knowing awakens us and we remember.

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