Updated: Jul 20
After a year of uncertainty and heartbreak, we can tap into the restorative power offered up by the holiday spirit to reset, refocus and reclaim the good.
When we watch the Christmas movies and holiday advertisements, that start to roll out this time of year, we would tend to believe that the season is supposed be filled with family, food, and fun, topped off with lots of happiness, contentment and excitement. In reality this is not always the case, and as we face this winter season and the upcoming holidays with the added dynamic of COVID, it may be more common to be grappling with a lot of difficult emotions. Many people are experiencing grief over the loss of loved ones or lost experiences. Some feel anxious and fearful about the pandemic, politics, sick family members or finances. Others are experiencing anger and frustration over various aspects of life that are currently outside of their control.
No matter what our experience has been during the preceding months, there is a certain mystical quality to this time of year that inspires awe and reverence in people from different faiths across the entire globe. The various spiritual traditions celebrated between November and December can provide us a unique perspective on universal concepts that we can use to shift our consciousness and strengthen our wellbeing. In these traditions may lie clues to help give us relief and restoration during these trying times.
Let's start by sharing some brief highlights from a few of the sacred traditions celebrated during this time of year.
Beginning in mid-November, Diwali originated as a Hindu holiday, but is now celebrated by most Indians of all faiths including Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. The history of Diwali varies from region to region and between the various faiths who now celebrate it, but is generally known as the "Festival of Lights". It lasts five days, during which candles, firecrackers and clay lamps are lit to signify the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. The celebration serves as a time of personal cleansing, signifying the release of the past year’s worries, and troubles and immersing oneself in the light.
In the dark night of all beings awakes to Light the tranquil man. But what is day to other beings is night for the sage who sees.
- Bhagavad Gita
On December 8th, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, the "Day of Enlightenment". This is the day that the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) experienced enlightenment, while meditating under a Bodhi tree. The Buddha was born into much material wealth, with every want and need tended to. When he was 29, he encountered an awareness of suffering for the first time. He realized that all beings were subject to this experience no matter how much material wealth one possesses, and he dedicated his life to understanding the root of suffering and how to free himself from it. His teachings which include, The Four Noble Truths and The Eight Fold Path, became the foundation for the Buddhist religion.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. Suffering is temporary, enlightenment is forever.
This Jewish holiday, also known as the "Festival of Lights", occurs in late November or early December each year, and commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, as a way to commemorate a miraculous event, when the soldiers at the sacred temple only had enough oil to light the menorah for a single night, but the little bit of oil lasted for eight full nights. The Hanukkah menorah has a central light which alludes to the light of the Divine that guides the eight inwards inclined lights that symbolize human awareness and knowledge.
We light the Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle that even a small light can dominate a vast darkness. The light represents the holiness that lies within each of us.