Annual holiday traditions show just how deeply ritual is established in our behavior. As the holiday season rolls around we find our familiar customs to be fun and comforting. I’m not much of a commercialist; for me the end-of-year celebrations are mostly about rest and peace, still a family tradition since settling in the Lehigh Valley is the Christkindlmarkt. Bethlehem, founded on Christmas Eve by Moravians, has attempted to live up to its namesake and celebrate the season well. It’s become an established family tradition to visit the Christkindlmarkt and we wander the tents with artisanal goods, some Christmas-themed, and others more just gift-ideas. We seldom buy much. It’s the spirit of the holidays that seems to come through and we need something to help us get through winter.
Each year things are a little different. Many of the mainstays are similar, however, with the same vendors with the same merchandise. What has changed in the past year is really us. We’re not the only ones who make an annual tradition of this and we’re not the only ones who see the same scarves, sweaters, pillows, and pottery. And ornaments—lots of ornaments. We see new things because we’re different from our selves who’ve wandered through here before. Hopefully we’re better selves. Each time I do this I find myself growing more and more reflective. A celebration of peace and love to all seems to hold, for the most part. There are lots of people—too many for my comfort at this stage of the pandemic, but we’re wearing masks and hopefully most of these people are vaccinated—peace and love for all.
The end of the year has long been a season of festivities. Even ancient peoples, especially in temperate regions, longed for the return of warmth and light. In response to the long hours of darkness around the solstice they instituted holidays. Times for us to get together and work a little less and relax a little more, recharging our spiritual batteries. Yule with its Christmas trees and logs, served to bring the message of light into the darkness. The twinkling of holiday lights is a festive sight, bringing back childhood memories of gifts, special foods, and time off from school. I’m a different person than the one who’s written a blog post about Christkindlmarkt in the past. If you’ve read such posts you’re a different person now too. We all hope that the present person is a better one than the previous as we enter this season of joy and kindness.