Night Before Christmas
It's Christmas Eve!
It is, perhaps, one of the most important days in the festive calendar - there's anticipation about the big day next day, and a sense of revelry about it that makes every moment memorable.
I'm sure if we try hard, we'll be able to remember each and every Christmas Eve that we've been through in our lives. Alright, maybe not all but certainly won't be hard to remember most Christmas Eves.
I guess, it is also because every year marks a new transition in our life journey - every year adding a new layer to our life experience and shaping us into the person we end up becoming.
These transitions seem more obvious during our childhood years because every year brings with it physiological, psychological and emotional changes.
Then, of course, there is always the excitement and drama that goes with every Christmas celebration. Every year we experience it differently as we get older and hopefully wiser.
It's not just about Santa being a big thing when we are young, and also not about Santa being a bigger thing when we are older and have to take up that role. It's about how memories are made at this time of the year - and how we allow our emotions to be soaked with all that the season has to offer.
In a sense we allow ourselves to be happy - or at least pretend to be. Some might go the whole nine yards with the 'ho ho ho' and others would do the same but in a more subdued manner.
The thing is, Christmas is a time when we want to celebrate with each other. There is that community element that makes fellowship and get-togethers part of the complete experience.
Somehow going to church on Christmas Eve and lighting the candles seems like a necessary thing to do - not just for the devout but also for some who are irreligious. Some may attend church only on this night and may not step inside rest of the year.
There is - again - the same fervour that goes with Christmas meals and parties. The same heartfelt ache to connect with others in a moment of joyful celebration as a community.
Some might think of it as a primal thing that defines us a species - that it somehow underlines how we as social beings want to connect and celebrate. If not Christmas, it could be Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah or just a weekend with friends at a concert or a club. We want to have an excuse to let down our hair (whatever little some of us have) and just indulge in a time of merriment.
Of course, some of the devout might not approve of the secularisation of festivities and might insist that 'Jesus is the reason for the season.' They might feel that the focus on eating and drinking takes away the spotlight on the Christ Child born in Bethlehem.
Now here's what I think. Those of us who are devout must always keep Christ as the centre of our lives - not just during the Christmas season but throughout the year. Our lives should be a reflection of his command to love our neighbors a and enemies, and agape needs to be a lifestyle and not a catchphrase.
But then we need to recognise that something deeper is going on when we see people celebrating together and wanting to greet even complete strangers. We are seeing something positive that needs to be cherished and not shunned. This desire to be merry suggests that at the basic level we as a species can - if we want to - put aside all our differences and just celebrate.
Somehow in recent years identity politics and ideological polarisation have sharpened divisions. We no longer see each other as fellow travellers in the journey of life but as adversaries who need to be stopped in their track before they pollute our minds.
This is the reality of 2020 that even COVID-19 hasn't been able to erase. There is no vaccine for hatred except maybe agape but that would involve being sacrificial and that's the last thing some of us would want to be.
Till then, the least thing we can do is tap into our innate desire to connect and celebrate, and hopefully out of that deep fountain we might find the resources to love our neighbours.