Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

We've been obsessing lately about the end of things --- of the economy as we've known it, of summer, of war, of autumn's long and gentle drift to snow (which is falling here this morning). In doing that, it's easy to lose track of beginnings, of new years and fresh starts, and hope.

I got to thinking about that yesterday after walking into a room that had been filled with conflict earlier in the day related to nothing more than bad temper related to the weight of the world on various shoulders. I'm grateful not to have been there for it.

The start of a new year now nearing on our western Gregorian calendar, Anno Domini 2009, is one way we we use to break the old off from the new and try to leave the debris behind, usually without much luck. That will be a Christian calculation, of sorts, but by no means a religious celebration on 31 December/1 January.

Of course it's not the only new year observance out there. Jews marked the start of year 5769 on Rosh Hashanah, observed from sunset on 29 September until nightfall on 1 October.

The pagans among us (and Christians, too, since we've never been shy about adapting pagen rites and turning them to our own uses) are entitled to celebrate at 6:04 a.m. Central Standard Time on 21 December, the winter solstice --- sun at its greatest distance from those of us in the northern hemisphere, shortest day of the year, longest night, beginning of winter --- but the turning point toward spring.

Come 26 January, the Chinese (or lunar) new year, called Tet in Vietnam where I once celebrated it.

But I prefer the beginning of Advent, which occurred on Sunday, the end of what sometimes seems the endless season of Pentecost and the start of a new church year and of the season of expectant waiting that will end with another new beginning on Christmas Eve.

Advent especially, because it begins with the lighting of a single candle around the world against the physical darkness that is closing in upon us.

Remember Eleanor Roosevelt's words? “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Happy new year! Light a candle. Let your light shine.

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