Why do people put up the lights at Christmas? Certainly they give a festive sparkle to the home and public places; but is there a deeper significance? Christmas falls at the end of the year when the Sun is at its nadir in the Northern Hemisphere. This, the time of the Winter Solstice, had a sacred significance for ancient cultures when it was the custom to offer gifts in honour of the Sun, the light of the Earth. As time progressed, the year’s end was more of a celebratory occasion as Saturnalia, the popular term for an extended period of merrymaking that has no bounds.
The tradition for this end of year blow-out was firmly established by the time the Christian religion became the dominant influence in western civilisation. Unable to eradicate entirely the more sensual pleasures of the festive season, the church rebooted the Saturnalia theme around the supposed birth of Jesus. This was a huge PR success. We could now get intoxicated and stuffed up with tucker, secure in the knowledge that it was all for a good cause! It’s all delusion, but it suits most people not to question things for fear of being a killjoy and dampening the Christmas spirit. However, when the dream of Santa is shattered, I wonder what child has not been psychologically scarred in some way by the deception.
When a child looks into the lights of a Christmas tree, it’s not uncommon for them to connect with the origin of light deep within the psyche. I can recall being mesmerised by the shimmering tones that flickered with a wonderful symmetry and beauty. I now know that what I perceived as a child was an aspect of eternity and the Father of Lights. Lights are extremely significant in the spiritual sense because, in that other place, we’re all gathering lights. The overall effect of Christmas (and there’s nothing wrong in enjoying this time of year) is that it induces in people an artificial illumination that replicates the inner light of the spirit. Children are quick to pick up on this and, especially where there’s normally emotional tension between family members, there can be a sense of heavenly relief in the seasonal goodwill within the home. Unfortunately this only lasts until the lights begin to fade – which is usually soon after Christmas dinner!
The Christmas lights are a symbol of consciousness and the inner state of higher knowledge. It’s because of the shadow of human ignorance that the inner light rarely glows at its full luminosity and brilliance. The main reason for this is the way that the family lights interact in everyday life throughout the year. It seems to me that the purpose of any family or group is to raise the consciousness of each member so that, in time, they may enlighten their own group of lights. The light of consciousness intensifies in radiance in an environment of love, which reaffirms the original state of being. Love begins with honesty, the rarest thing in relationships and family life. As a substitute for honesty, love is degraded to personal attachment and sentimentality; and, like the Christmas lights, a pale replica of the authentic enlightenment within.
Christmas comes but once a year; but it’s the veil of forgetfulness that obscures the tension and drama of previous years when all that was really wanted was a bit of peace and quiet, offload the relatives and get back to some normality. A mass psychosis starts to take over earlier every year, with shop displays alerting us in August that we should be stocking up the cupboards for the ‘Big Day’ in December! The giving of gifts and the gathering of loved ones at Christmas has its place of course, but mostly as a palliative to the human condition of unhappiness. For the children it can indeed be a magical time; but would there be less sadness and depression in the aftermath if love were a conscious presence throughout the year? We can all enjoy the lights on the tree; but when we take them down, what can we do? We can keep the negativity out to connect with the radiant light within. And that’s a gift for life – and not just for Christmas.
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