Christmas is near and like every year, the time of the year is close when my ambivalent relationship with the Lord, with God, becomes clear. I grew up in a Christian environment as a Protestant Lutheran. When I was 14 years old, I was confirmed. For my spiritual development, it was a significant decision to show the divine being that I believed in it – and still do. I defend the existence of higher energy, or vibration, and I like to call it “love.”
In many situations in my life I feel guided, accompanied or supported by this entity. But to name this energy God, Lord, or God the Father, is too big a step. When I studied literature, I realized that my rebellious attitude towards religion was not directed against the divine being, but the Christian language. Of course, our words, which can lead to enormous misunderstandings even with concrete topics, are nothing more than rough descriptions and simplified sketches of what is so personal, so emotional, so highly spiritual as faith. Or the spiritual experiences.
My idea of God is not a symbolic one. Instead, it’s a feeling. A vibrating, all-encompassing, inspiring and wonderful feeling. Magic. And above all, it is simple. Not something easy, but something simple.
But whenever that feeling, that emotional connection with the higher energy is defined by me as magical, it shows how important it is in my life. This may not always be clear, but its energy spurs me on and moves me. Nevertheless, for me, there is no particular place and no real word in which I find refuge. The Bible is a fascinating book in my eyes. Indeed, there are words of good in it, but its texts were chosen by men who wanted to strengthen their position of power over the Romans and other peoples and over women. I cannot believe in versions in whose name so much blood has been shed. I feel similar with other books like the Bhagavad-gita or the Koran – books that contain words of good but do not speak the language I seek to connect with the deity.
And now there is Christmas. For me it contains so much magic. It takes all of the love and oneness and makes it tangible. In all the years of my life, I have celebrated Christmas in many ways. I have had Christmas with and without gifts, with family and many times with friends, with and without worship, in winter on the northern hemisphere and in summer on the southern hemisphere. And in recent years I have tried to forget that Christmas has a religious connotation.
But this year everything is different. This year my daughter will be two years old at Christmas and I want to celebrate this feast so that she can feel this magic and all of the emotions when the date of Christmas approaches. We will solemnize the holiday in Chile in midsummer, in our home. But what do I want to teach my daughter about the festival? What traditions do I want to follow, what details do I want to share?
During my childhood, I spent all my Christmas holidays in the southern hemisphere, which is why my ideal Christmas is always summery. I have decorated palm trees and golden painted blades of grass, and fir trees with long needle leaves. But I felt – and still feel – the snow imitations as horrible when the T-shirt drips with sweat. I know that Christmas decorations have an essential role to play in magic, so my solution for this year is to hang up flashing chains of lights in the shape of stars in different colors. I have also collected many fir cones, which I will paint in gold and hang up at home. And since I want to involve my daughter in the decoration process, I’m still looking for handicrafts for children of this age.
Following my German roots, I would like to mark the Advent Sundays. In Germany, an Advent wreath is traditionally woven with four candles representing the four Sundays before Christmas. Every Sunday another candle is lit in the wreath. Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house, my mother has given me an Advent calendar, another German tradition, which has 24 small gifts for every day in December until Christmas. Every morning one opens a new gift. It can be candy, or something kitschy. In my mum’s case, gifts must be practical: such as shampoo, but the expensive kind, which I cannot afford. Hand cream, but the special one, of which I do not know where I can get it. Or tooth care sets, since Christmas is such a time of the year, on which one likes to forget the effects that sugar can cause to the teeth.
That’s the practical side of the celebration. Now with all the planning and details covered, I finally come to the core of the question: What is Christmas for me? What do I want to teach my daughter?
In due course, I would like to teach her that Christmas is a Christian event where we commemorate the birth of Jesus. At the same time, I would like to teach her that the celebration on this date is much older than Christianity, that at this time the winter solstice is celebrated in the northern hemisphere. The night of December 24th is already somewhat shorter than the previous one, and the peoples observed that, so they would have more light to hunt or work while the days became longer and longer. However, the essence of the holiday, which goes beyond any religious meaning, is the meeting with our loved ones. That is what, in my opinion, what makes Christmas so accessible, even in non-Christian cultures. To have a date on which the family and friends come together. A time in which love, friendship and loyalty are observed and their affection can be expressed through gifts, and on which magic emerges full of expectations, dreams, hopes, and so many emotions. That’s what I want to teach my daughter. A party with gifts, yes, but only a few – one gift per person. Because the present is not the essence. The essence is the love, the togetherness. I imagine a big, long table, friends and family sitting at it, outside, on the terrace, with lights, simple but delicious food, with lots of snacks and good wine for the adults. For the children there are delicacies made by the grandmothers and aunts. Around the whole table there are for all.
Now the decorations don’t really matter so much anymore. They are simply there to awaken the anticipation of Christmas. But the precious thing is to find yourself with those you love and those who love you and to feel good because you can feel the love between all.
So let us celebrate a feast of love, peace, and traditions that bring joy. This year I will introduce my daughter to this feast, as many other children and new generations will presence the sumptuous repast for the first time. And so we can spread the good news of love, peace, and joy over the world and time.
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Soledad Marquez is German and Chilean; born in Germany, she grew up in Chile and Brazil, studied in Germany and lives now in her homeland of heart, in Chile, at the sea. She studied Spanish, French and Portuguese Literature and loves books. She also likes to go surfing and to collect seashells while walking at the beach with her husband and her daughter.