Today, 16 December, marks, according to some but especially our colleagues on our Mexico City campus, the official start of the Christmas Season. December 16 is the beginning of the Christmas novena – during the nine days preceding Christmas, faithful visit 9 different churches or shrines to offer a special novena prayer. In Mexico, festivities (already at a high pitch) hit their full stride, with fiestas and gatherings that won’t stop until the feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on 6 January. Our colleagues of the Orthodox Christian faith celebrate Christmas on 7 January 2014, so please take a moment to wish your instructors and students of the Orthodox faith a Merry Christmas after we return from the break. Orthodox Christians often give the following salutation at Christmas “Christ is born!” to which the response is “Let us glorify him”.
As I traditionally remind everyone, Christmas is, by definition, a Christian holiday, but one that has its roots in religions that far predate Christianity – in European cultures, Yule celebrated the winter solstice, another marker of the great cycles of the sun and moon that governed life in those pre-industrial days. Often, the “floating”, or lunar holiday of Hannukah coincides with Christmas (though early this year, at Thanksgiving time). So in addition to religious observances (if any) the Christmas season offers us the opportunity to reflect on how deeply tied we remain to those earth-bound cycles of planting and harvest and to consider our stewardship of earth – the only home we have.
We reconvene on 6 January (recall that staff have been granted an additional two days leave on 2 and 3 January) for the Candlemas Term – so called because the feast of Candlemas is celebrated during this term. This, too, harkens back to pre-Christian festivities, when, at the mid-point between the solstice and spring equinox (2 February, or Ground Hog Day) people gathered together to celebrate, if nothing else, mere survival in the dead of winter.
So – regardless of professed faith, or none at all, take this time to rest, rejuvenate, and rejoice. Spend time with those you love. Celebrate what we share together, and be compassionate for those who have little or nothing to share save the bonds of humanity that tie us all.
Morgan T. Sammons, PhD, ABPP
Dean and Professor
California School of Professional Psychology
Alliant International University
1 Beach St., Ste 200
San Francisco, CA 94133