Holiday parenting: How the holiday liturgy of light creates a global family

A school principal knows how the holiday liturgy of light can create a global family among diversely religious and irreligious communities.

United Feature Syndicate/Charles M. Schultz/AP
The holiday season embraces our deepest inclination to cherish light and push back darkness; to celebrate family and friends around table and hearth.

As a school principal, I’ve wrestled for years to find a satisfying expression of seasonal joy and inspiration while working in a diverse religious or irreligious community. What tradition can we all embrace at this time of year without making the moment fraught with conflict or overlap or over-sensitivity regarding individual religious tradition?

The school concert last week was “the winter concert,” not even the holiday concert. Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years all blend as “winter vacation.” We balance the songs and music originating in different traditions in order to be inclusive all good. The words of well wishing often catch in the utterance. “Merry Christmas,” said a fourth grader to her Jewish teacher. Ooops! “It’s OK to wish me Merry Christmas,” said her teacher! Language and religious traditions collide; graciousness and understanding trump the inadvertent over-sensitivities. We deal.

But I still seek the language we can all embrace, the words that staunch the hindrance we feel to reach beyond the murky clouds of unshared doctrine, liturgy, or tradition that inhibit our celebration. Where is an ecumenical, civil, secular liturgy and ritual we can all join?  How do we unite in something soulful, beyond the commercialism that also permeates the season?

This is a precious moment in the calendar of the world’s religious traditions, as people and their villages have known and celebrated since the very beginning of settlement and stories. The oldest observance must be the death and birth of the year, the Winter solstice, the celebration of new life. Eventually the imagery came to convey the break through of inspiration and spirituality as exemplified by light.

The season embraces our deepest inclination to cherish light and push back darkness; to celebrate family and friends around table and hearth; to make room for all things new and anticipate the longest day toward which we wend, the summer solstice at the opposite end of the celestial year.

For this season, in our family and in my schools, we have always shared Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day.” It alludes to the revels of this solstice and the global traditions we hail from, and also helps with the anticipation of the next solstice. The possibilities expand for each of us, as we allow them to adhere.

So the shortest day came,

and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries

of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

 

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

 

And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing, behind us — listen!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land;

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

and hope for peace.

 Can we all find ourselves in these lines?

May your family’s holidays and vacation days be filled with this same delight, followed by New Year’s sunshine and revelry. And may we all experience the promise of peace and love and gratitude that the season is bound to awaken in us — regardless of where we as individuals think it comes from.

Todd R. Nelson is Head of School at The School in Rose Valley, PA.                           

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Holiday parenting: How the holiday liturgy of light creates a global family
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2012/1224/Holiday-parenting-How-the-holiday-liturgy-of-light-creates-a-global-family
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe