Savoring the light in these dark days of winter

December 14, 2018

These hectic last days of the holidays can reduce what should be a sacred season of anticipation — or for nonbelievers, a joy-filled opportunity to reconnect with friends and families or the natural world — to a jumble of to-do lists, hectic shopping trips and other frantic attempts to get it all done.

By the New Year, the entire nation is near collapse, too full of sweets and savories, stuffed on football and fires, and likely to have overspent the budget. Never again, we cry!

But before we reach the point of exhaustion over enjoyment, take a moment to savor this season of light, the moment when the world is darkest before hope returns. It is common in all cultures, this belief that light will pierce the blackness. It is the human condition, whatever your faith or lack thereof.

In the United States, with our emphasis on Christmas — by this, we mean the frantic season of buying, not the humble anticipation of the birth of a savior — we can lose the joy of the quiet winter season.

Here, it is cold. It can snow unexpectedly (witness Thursday morning and icy roads on the way to work). Ice on sidewalks is a danger if we don’t take care in snow removal. Gloves are a must. By necessity, we need to slow down. Otherwise, a slip is just a step away.

But if we welcome the slowness, the stillness, these winter months help prepare us not just for the moment of light, but for the reawakening of the natural world in spring and summer.

And nowhere in the world is this contrast of darkness of light as majestic as in New Mexico. Yes, we know that’s a big statement, but bear with us. We have a mixture of old and new that is truly unique.

Whether with the ancient rituals at area pueblos, with their combination of the old religion and newer Christianity and the ever-present fires of night, or with the Hispanic Christian traditions — again, watch for fire in the luminarias (bonfires) and farolitos (little brown bags) — we celebrate this season in New Mexico like no other place in the world. Globalization, where we become more alike, has not transformed the celebration in Northern New Mexico.

On Monday, it will be a week before Christmas Eve. As you make your biscochitos, mix up the meat for empanaditas, or gather the family to make tamales, finish shopping (Winter Indian Market is this weekend at La Fonda) and otherwise prepare for Christmas, take time to slow down.

If you’re not enjoying the holidays, all the activity has little point. Light, after all, is meant to be savored, not squandered.

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