Kage Baker was a fervent advocate of Christmas lights. We had a strict schedule – they went up on December 1st, in all colours; then the similarly-lit tree went up on December 15th. The tree came down on January 1st, but the lights stayed up until Epiphany: January 6th, which is the actual last of the 12 days of traditional Christmas. And for the first week of January, the lights went to just blue and white: frost, you know.
Here, Kimberly and I keep appropriate lights up on the porch all year. So the frost lights will take over for all of January, and in the meantime the yard and fence and porch and house and mulberry tree are adorned like Solomon in all his glory – only glowing. The full-sized tree is up, too, and my nephew Michael has gone nuts decorating every edge and surface in the living room. There are lights on the mantle, on my enormous oak desk, on my brother-in-law the physicist’s sleek modern one; there’s a colour-changing little tree plugged into my UBC drive, casting psychedelic hues all over The Best of Kage Baker.
The little orange cat is sitting dazed amid all the glory, her huge eyes like enormous refracting diamonds, reflecting faerie lights . The little black cat – much older and wiser – has retreated to her private lair, which is her cat carrier. It’s under the tree now, draped in a tartan blanket, so she can be a present. The dog doesn’t care, as long as the occasional gingerbread dog biscuit comes his way.
Domestic bliss rules part of this festival. It’s a sacrament to be warm and safe with your loved ones, celebrating our little, little circles of life. We need to mirror the world-wide circle out under the dark skies. We need to remind the sun to come back, with promises of cake and ale and the heat of blood. Winter is hard and the world is savage, and the long night of winter settles over all of us like ice over the living water of a lake.
But I am filled with joy! There is always the promise of hope and redemption, and ways for us all to make it happen. Lights in the dark, colour in the black heart of winter – cold fire and frozen blossoms, but in all the hues of life, invoking the eventual return of the sun! That’s the point of all the winter holy days, no matter what your religion or lack thereof. A night’s worth of oil burns for 8 days. A Child is born. Even the grimmest gods feast when the nights are long.
We’ve been welcoming the Risen Hero since before Indra slew the Dragon or Mithras the Bull. All those Boys born at Midwinter come with life in their hands and healing in their wings.
Eloi, eloi, Kyrie!
I love your family traditions so much. And your last couple of paragraphs make a point I have been making for many years, if not so well. They are all festivals of Light. It’s all real.
That’s something that becomes more important to me, as the world and I grow older and colder. It’s getting hard to scramble up on the soap box these days – but I can still do it …
Beautifully written. You paint a much needed portrait of warmth and color. Merry Christmas!
And a Happy Christmas to you, Marc.
I checked, a little while ago. The actual turning point, here on the West coast of our land mass, is 8:49 pm, on Monday night, the 21st. I always like to pay attention to the moment of turning.