Saturday, November 23, 2013

A New Idea for the Holidays

...because inclusiveness doesn't seem to be working. And yes, I said "Holidays." I said "Holidays" not because I am ignoring Christmas or "waging war" on Christmas, but because Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice.  Over the past several years I've gotten very used to saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" for a number of reasons; I worked retail for many years, and retail establishments cringe at the thought of alienating customers, especially during the biggest shopping season of the year; as mentioned previously, Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice, and what's so wrong with being inclusive, anyway?; and, as a non-Christian, I don't actually celebrate Christmas myself. I am a Pagan, and I celebrate the Yuletide. However, it does seem that the more people like me try to embrace holiday inclusiveness, the angrier certain other people become because they feel we are trying to exclude Christmas. We're not, we're simply trying to acknowledge all the other holidays (including our own, in many cases) that tend to get pushed aside by the Christmas juggernaut every year. But obviously, we need to look at this differently.

So I had an idea today. Let's forget all about "Happy Holidays" and inclusiveness. Let's celebrate our spiritual and religious differences, but let's do so in a neighborly way by celebrating the one thing that all our different holidays have in common.


Think about it: Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates the miracle of the oil during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Pagan Yuletide is a celebration of light returning to the world in the form of the Sun after the autumnal months of darkness and the promise of the coming spring. On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they call The Light of the World. Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting candles that represent the Seven Principles of African Heritage.

But what does light represent? Well, think about this: slightly earlier in the autumn, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, uses lamps and lanterns to celebrate the inner light of spirituality and higher knowledge that all human beings possess. To quote Wikipedia: "Central to Hindu philosophy is the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings ananda (joy or peace)."
Light, the element that is common to all these different religious and spiritual celebrations, is nothing more or less than the human soul. That's pretty deep. What's more, it is the human soul that is seeking connection: to other souls, to universal love, to the Divine Spirit. We may look different, and speak different languages, and worship different forms of the Divine Spirit, and eat different foods, but essentially we are all the same. You're a shining star, no matter who you are.

So this holiday season, go ahead and wish people whatever you want. My Christian friends can wish me a Merry Christmas, my Jewish friends can wish me a Happy Hanukkah, and I'll wish everyone a Blessed Yuletide. But whatever you choose to say, why not acknowledge everyone's humanity by following it up with "And may your days be merry and bright."

I think this could work.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Howling at the Moon

I recently removed the curtains from the windows in my "yellow room" (so called because of the hideous yellow shag rug) so I could hang a plant in the window. (The yellow room is a combination of library and office: it's where I have my computer and my ever-growing collection of books.) I discovered, much to my delight, that by removing the curtains I can now see the moon rise:

The picture certainly doesn't do it justice (I really need to get a better camera). The moon was approaching full the night I took this. The week before, it was approaching first quarter, and it totally reminded me of this:

 Eventually, probably after the holidays, I'm going to have to make a Cheshire Cat fleecie.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Me and My Monkeys

Harold and Maude
I love monkeys. They're silly, they're funny, and they're one of my favorite animals. One year for Yule (a.k.a. "Christmas"), I bought monkeys with long arms and Velcro hands and wrapped one around each family member's stocking. A few years ago, when I learned to crochet, I found a freebie pattern for a crocheted monkey. I made him and named him Harold. The next year, my sister gave me The Sock Monkey and Friends Kit, from which I made Maude. And from there the floodgates opened. I had never been much of a sewer previously: I could just about sew straight lines on the sewing machine, I was really good at replacing buttons, and I could cross-stitch. But I certainly took to sewing sock monkeys like the proverbial duck to water; I even have an Etsy shop where you can buy them. And while monkeys are by no means the only sock creatures I have made, I've certainly made more monkeys than any other creature. Here's a few of them:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Third Time's the Charm (Maybe?)

Once upon a time, oh, about five years ago, I started a blog. The original purpose of my blog was to track my progress as I (once again) attempted to lose some weight and get healthier. Eventually it fell by the wayside for two reasons: 1. As often happens, eventually I lost momentum and focus on losing weight and getting healthier, and 2. Even if I hadn't lost momentum and focus, I discovered that, while trying to lose weight and get healthy is definitely a worthwhile pursuit, it's pretty boring to blog about exclusively. So I renamed and repurposed my blog to widen its scope. It ended up becoming mostly rants and recipes, with an occasional musing on spirituality and the meaning of life. Now, I like posting the recipes I develop so I can share them with my friends easily. I also like posting pics of the things I make. So it seems like the best answer is to once again repurpose my blog as a place to share what I create, whether it's food, sock creatures, jewelry, papercrafts, or silly drawings. Yes, there will probably be random musings about life in general, and I'm sure there will be the occasional rant as well, but I'm feeling pretty good about the direction this is going right now. We'll see.