Something I often hear people worrying about in the weeks leading up to Christmas is the way in which Christmas is losing its meaning, and becoming focused on consumerism. But what is the meaning of this time of year?
The winter festival predates all organized religions by millennia; we celebrate Christmas when we do because it aligns with the cycles of nature and of our lives. At the end of the year, when all seems so dark and lacking in life, the solstice finally passes and the natural world is reborn in light.
The true spiritual meaning of the winter festival has always been vested in the relationships we have. It is the time to come together and reflect on the meaning we have in each other’s lives. With the days starting to lengthen and our focus being drawn towards Christmas preparations, we need to remember to pause, reflect on the year just past, and consider what the year ahead holds for us. In terms of our goals and aspirations, what is our vision for the coming year?
Christmas is meant to be an enjoyable and uplifting time of year, yet a recent study of 3,000 people in the UK has revealed that 65% find Christmas stressful, making it the sixth most stressful life event — up there with divorce! One reason for this might be the speed of modern life. Many of us may feel we don’t have the time to explore our spirituality, don’t have the time to "do Christmas" properly with real meaning.
Just slowing down and thinking about the true meaning of the winter festival can remind us of the importance of community that the festival has always revolved around. Other people give our lives meaning, and so often we don’t take the time to express our feelings in a positive way or even feel insecure about letting people know how much they mean to us. Christmas isn’t just a time for family; it’s a time to meditate on all of our relationships, including the relationship we have with ourselves.
To have a good relationship with others, our relationship with ourselves has to come first: we must first take care of ourselves. If we are not at peace with ourselves how can we be a source of joy to others? By taking the solstice as an opportunity to think about the sort of life we each live, we can gain a sense of self-acceptance and peace that is necessary in order to openly express our feelings to others.
The winter festival is far more than observing tradition; it is a time for new beginnings, a time for looking at how we can enrich our relationships with friends and relations to be aware of others on our planet who are suffering, people we do not even know. Use the next few weeks leading up to the year’s end to look at what changes need to be made in our lives to bring us closer to the people who matter most to us, not just around a pile of presents on 25th December with a fire crackling away in the background, but throughout the year, with each of us bringing warmth to enrich each other’s lives and the life of our global community.
Michael Kenton is a commentator on interfaith, global peace and harmony and the founder of Sacred Music Radio. For more details or to listen live visit sacredmusicradio.org