|« Christmas..Time to reflect and Deflect||des moines klus-a-thon »|
Today- December 21 - is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. I am glad we are on the verge of moving into a season in which each day grows longer than the last and the available light lasts longer, day by day.
We are also on the cusp of Christmas. Yesterday I felt a definite switch in energies – the sort of quiet that usually descends on Christmas eve and lasts a few days, though that could have simply been created by the fact that many people take holidays at this time of year, the schools close for the season, and there is less rushing about in the city in general.
This past Sunday afternoon I once again attended the sing-along performance of Handel’s Messiah, which has been a long-standing tradition here in Toronto. The theatre (Massey Hall) is filled to the brim with people clutching their music scores, sorted according to the musical parts they sing. As per usual, sopranos were there in overwhelming proportions. The production is part of the concert season of Tafelmusik, a baroque ensemble which is greatly appreciated here and elsewhere. They have a small orchestra with period instruments, a small choir and four greatly talented soloists. The conductor comes out dressed as Handel would have been dressed, in lace and blue velvet and long white wig, making genial jokes with a German accent, and setting the tone for the afternoon. The entire audience becomes the choir as each choral piece is sung, and it is quite an experience to be surrounded by 2700 people, most of whom are singing this very inspired – and inspiring - music. Being surrounded by the Hallellujah Chorus is an experience one can never forget, and this music is chosen as the encore after the first rounds of applause have died down at the end.
The warmth of the experience was perhaps even more emphasized by the fact that Toronto has been in the clutch of sudden extremely cold weather – more than -25C, with a windchill factor that made it much, much colder. It is the sort of weather that we normally associate with January, not December, so none of us were really prepared for the wintry blasts that greeted us when we left our homes a few days ago. Being a winter baby, I love the cold and snow, but even I was surprised when I went to the concert, and happy to get inside for any reason.
My Christmas celebrations are very non-traditional these days. I rise early to meditate for several hours on Christmas morning. I have done this for quite a few years, and I prefer this activity to the frantic opening of gifts indulged in by most of my neighbours and the merry-making that follows. Several years ago I attended a 10-day Buddhist retreat north of the city which encompassed both Christmas and New Year’s. The retreat was in total silence, and we meditated for 10 hours each day. I was amazed, as we were signing in, to find that many of my fellow retreatants also liked to be very quiet and meditate on Christmas morning. It’s good to know we’re not alone!
In preparation for Christmas, I bought treats to nibble on throughout the day (following the meditation) – some brazil nuts (hazel nuts for my A housemate), dried pineapple and ginger, Turkish figs, and some dark German chocolate that I particularly enjoy – in small quantities. I will have lamb that evening, with beneficial vegetables on the side. And after eating, I will walk throughout my neighbourhood, enjoying the air and the quiet and the decorations. All this I find infinitely more fulfilling than any number of expensive gifts could provide.
I wish all of you reading this a wonderful Christmas in whatever way you choose to celebrate it, and for those who are not following the Christian faith, a wonderful holiday season. Good cheer to all!