Making Your Own Peace on Earth For Christmas

 “Peace on Earth.” “Silent Night.” Given how Christmas is portrayed in our culture, these words would seem to be the last ones to apply to this wonderful holiday.

But that’s what I want for Christmas: Silence. Peace. Big gobs of it. I don’t know when, but I intend to give it to myself as a gift, and I’m wondering if you might want to do the same. Or perhaps you already do.

This past weekend, the Quaker Meeting I attend scheduled its annual Silent Retreat. I wrote about it last year–6 1/2 hours of group silence, spent separately and together, bookended by explanations for the new folks, and sharing at the end of the day. I was really looking forward to another Day of Silence this year…till I realized I wasn’t ready for it. Son One is visiting, and I’m in Mom mode, which means cooking, hiking, playing guitar, hanging out, doing work projects…and TALKING. This was not the right time for a silent retreat, however much I longed for it.

So I skipped it. For now. But I’ve promised myself, sometime before the end of January, a good, four-hour chunk of time to sit and think and write, maybe go for a walk without, for once, talking to myself out loud like I do. (Not even embarrassed about that!) Probably I’ll wait till The Mate is out of town, so’s not to feel like a slacker.

Keep in mind–I already lead a pretty damn peaceful life compared to most folks. I live on an island! I’m no longer a classroom teacher, I’m a writer! And yet even I feel the need for more quiet in my life. If that’s true for me–how much more so must it be for, well…maybe you?

Silence means different things to different people at different times. I thought I’d share one of my takes on silence that turned into a song. Here are the lyrics to “Sometimes Silence”:

Sometimes silence is a force

that generates inside;   

sometimes something sets a course

and all you have to do is glide, glide, glide…

 and sometimes nothing moves at all, 

no matter how you try.

 

Sat yourself down just to get something straight,

Mind racing like a horse from the gate.

Need to focus on something profound;

Concentration’s going down, down, down…

So you try, try, try, try…

Sit and listen to the breezes sigh,     

Giving it your best shot–like you have a choice–

Straining to hear that still, small voice.

 

Sometimes silence strikes itself

and lights you like a fuse;            

Sometimes it shows you all too well

how much you have to lose, lose, lose…

And sometimes you’re just sitting there, increasingly confused.

 

Sat yourself down just to get something straight,

Mind racing like a horse from the gate.

Need to focus on something profound;

Concentration’s going down, down, down…

So you try, try, try, try…

Sit and listen to the breezes sigh,     

Giving it your best shot–like you have a choice–

Straining to hear that still, small voice.

I want to hear that still, small voice.

 

 And here’s the live version. NOTE: FAST-FORWARD TO MINUTE 1.33 TO AVOID HAVING TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIENCE SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, AND ME THANKING PEOPLE…and yes, the film quality is terrible but it does get better, and the sound is pretty good.

Did any of this resonate with you? How do you get your silence? Will you be able to gift yourself with some, this crowded, busy holiday season? Please share.

PS–another gift I’m giving myself is a week off from blogging, so…merry Christmas! I’ll pop back in to celebrate the end of 2014 with y’all.

 

 

 

 

Germany Says “Enough!” To Christmas Commercialization Creep; What Do You Say?

How early is too early to hear Christmas carols in a shopping center? Does “Black Friday” ruin the Thanksgiving holiday? Is there something wrong with Christmas lights going up in November?

These are not new questions for us Americans. The tug-of-war between keeping Christmas special and maximizing both its joy and its bottom line has been going on since I can remember, and I’m not what they call “young.”

But I’ve been interested to notice lately, on the edges of the news, stories about Germans pushing back against “Christmas Creep.” There is even talk of regulating when Christmasy treats can begin to be sold! The Christian Science Monitor cites a recent German poll on the subject:

According to the survey, done by the polling institute YouGov for the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 1 in 3 Germans want the government to regulate when stores can start selling Christmas gingerbread cakes and other Christmas goodies. Most of the survey’s 1,000 respondents say that that date should be Nov. 30. Half say the early display of Christmas commercialism erodes the meaning of Christmas.

Yep, that’s right: the government telling stores when they’re allowed to start selling. Can you wrap your head around such an idea even being uttered in America, let alone approved of?

Sigh. Of COURSE I don’t want that kind of regulation in my own country. But. I sure wish consumers and advertisers could get together and make their own “regulation”–i.e., common sense. Respect. Dare I say “honor”–of the meaning of Christmas?

What a hoot. Get a grip, Wing.

Germany and Austria are also apparently waging a war against Santa Claus–bless their hearts. According to the website dw.de, 

Bettina Schade says she doesn’t have anything personal against Santa Claus. In fact, she likes a lot of things about today’s celebrations of Christmas — the lighted trees, the gold ornaments, the silver stars.

But all the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas. She’d like to see things changed, or at least toned down a little.

“The Christian origins of Christmas, like the birth of Jesus, have receded into the background,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more a festival that is reduced to simply worldly gifts and to commerce.”

She is part of a campaign called the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative, founded by a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, Eckhard Bieger. Alarmed by the growing commercialization of Christmas in Germany, he launched the initiative that’s aimed at putting St. Nicholas, a fourth-century monk, back in the Christmas spotlight where he used to be.

The article goes on to point out what all Americans ought to know (though I’m guessing that most don’t), which is that our current image of Jolly Old Saint Nick was created for, and promoted by, the Coca-Cola Company. The “real” St. Nicholas would probably not have sold too many fizzy drinks. Which is kinda the point.

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

I am not intending here a discussion of the so-called “War on Christmas”–you’ll need to go to someone else’s blog for that. But I am interested to hear if my readers have similar ideas on when is a good season for Christmassy “stuff,” and when is not. Perhaps you hate seeing wrapping paper on sale in October, for example, but still enjoy Christmas lights as soon as Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

Can you articulate when you like to begin to see, hear and smell “Christmas,” and when you do not–and why?