It seems that December is the month of parties. The red ink on our refrigerator calendar makes it look like it was attacked by Vikings; the blood is everywhere. Sometimes the parties are in honor of an overweight, red-suited guy pushing a small production company that has a world-wide appeal and a great public relations department. Or there are parties that honor an older aspect, dealing with a wandering family traveling to beat a delivery date, and where a tiny tot touches the willing heart. Even if you are a non-believer, you cannot doubt nor deny the miracle of the season. People come together to share stories, songs, and great food. No one wants to be labeled Scrooge, and in the end he becomes a last-minute convert to the Joy of the Season.
Speaking of miracles, let us not forget the miracle of the temple dedication that the little tot probably celebrated in His youth. A lamp lit to celebrate the retaking of the temple from a very mean ruler named Antiochus, who was defeated by a great warrior named Judah and his followers, the Maccabees. When they retook the temple and cleaned it of the Pagan statue of Zeus, they found there was only enough oil to keep the temple light lit for one night. But, a miracle took place for religious freedom and wisdom. The light burned for eight nights and the Jewish Festival of Lights—Hanukkah—was begun in about 165 B.C. or BCE. Like many other winter parties there are special food, games and songs. If you have not eaten ‘sufganiyot,’ a deep-fried doughnut filled with jam or jelly and sprinkled with sugar, you are missing out.
Last night, instead of putting up Christmas lights and getting out the winter recipes, Bill and I ate supper at 4:45 p.m. Then after checking the dark outside, I walked into bed at 6:30 p.m.
It had not been an extra long day, I wasn’t sick. I just got caught in the winter blues of dark. It was so bad that I watched Jeopardy yelling out the answers to no one. Ahhhh misery. It’s dark, it’s cold. I want to eat worms, no one loves me. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Then my inner storyteller got mad. “Get up you lazy lummocks, stop being lazy and get busy. Have a party of Enlightenment.” So, I did. Bill turned 73 the next day and I called friends, and ordered pizza from Dion’s since the party was at my brother Arch’s house. I called and told him. I ordered a cake from Smith’s. It was delicious and we celebrated, not just a birthday but, we put more light on a drab winter day. You try to light 73 candles—it sent global warming up another degree.
People all over the world fight to stop winter blues. In India, they also have a Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali. They celebrate good over evil and light over darkness, but no little ole fat guy with reindeer takes part. In late fall, a beautiful goddess named Lakshmi comes and brings wealth and gifts. The people decorate with lights and oil lamps that they float on the Ganges river.
Then there is Chinese or Asian New Year in late January or early February. Fireworks, dragons, red envelopes with money in them. What’s not to like? And for each festival there are special foods. Now I am not one to cast a pall on Christmas, but fruitcake, really? If you get a chance enlighten yourself and try the dishes of these different festivals. We are fortunate in New Mexico, we have wonderful restaurants that serve the entire world to us. I am happy to hear the Christmas carols on the radio the day after Thanksgiving, because it is easy to be defeated by a gloomy time of year.
Make your own festival if you don’t want to piggyback onto the traditional ones. We got tired of the usual 35 years ago and started celebrating Dec. 21 and Christmas. We made up our own celebration. The 21st is the longest night of the year, the winter solstice. Our Viking ancestors ate really bad fish, sharpened their battle axes and sat around bonfires telling stories of how they were going to enlighten the British when the ice thawed.
But that is a story for another column. Roaring Mouse, lighting candles… out.