You don't have to be religious to enjoy the holiday season.
The malls are buzzing with shoppers racing through the aisles, looking for the perfect gift. The parking lots are filled with eager and tired parents, hoping to find that one last stocking stuffer. Hordes of people are using the Internet to shop from the comfort of their homes. These folks aren't spending all their hard-earned time and money for religious purposes. They're caught up in the "holiday spirit," a feeling of goodwill that seems to radiate from December 1st through the 31st.
If you don't really fall into any sort of faith, do not despair. There's enough holiday spirit drifting through the cool wintery air for you too. So plan to celebrate the holiday season in an old-fashioned manner -- by incorporating some of the symbols of the season into your home.
Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is the oldest of the holidays celebrated in December. For centuries, pagans and witches have recognized this holiday as a time of endings and rebirth. Though the Winter Solstice was later converted into the holiday known as Christmas, many common accoutrements of the season base their origins in the celebration of Yule, including the Yule log, mistletoe and the Christmas tree.
The Yule log reportedly began in ancient Egypt. It was meant to be cut on the eve of the solstice and lighted. It was then burned for 12 hours for good luck. Hundreds of years later, the Yule log became the Yule tree/Christmas tree and Europeans lit the tree by decorating it with candles. This light symbolizes the continuation of life.
Today, it is recommended to use electrical lights on the tree (because of fire hazards) and to replant the tree in a pot until spring or to recycle it, thus continuing the life cycle.
Holly and mistletoe were used by the ancient Druids as symbols of fertility and everlasting life. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe even began with the belief that the plant was actually a magical aphrodisiac.
Then, there's always the wonderful tradition of Santa Claus. Yep, that jolly old guy who wears a red suit and flies from house to house on a toy-laden sleigh driven by flying reindeer.
If you've been bad, expect coal. But if you've been good, on December 24th, he'll come to your house, bebop on down your chimney or through your door, eat your cookies (do leave him some -- he gets hungry on such a long trip) and give you presents and candy in return.
What does he get out of such a massive display of goodwill?
The holiday spirit is a real force, and one that anyone can harness, regardless of faith or location. With each gift we share with loved ones, we also share kindness, charity and cheer.
So take a lesson from the big guy who's always watching you....do a good deed this holiday season. Sing carols. Decorate your home. And share a warm meal with those you love.