Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Associations

Winter as I remember it from growing up in north Alabama was brown pastures alternating with vast stretches of bare reddish-brown soil lying open to gray skies, and woods on the horizon. The picture below is not the view from the house I grew up in, but it’s very similar (it’s near a house belonging to my brother-in-law, where we stayed when we were there a few days ago). This is what I think of when I think of a December landscape—snow was rare.

And in contrast there was Christmas.

People who live in the northern hemisphere above a certain latitude have a great advantage in appreciating Christmas. Coming so near to the winter solstice, and being a thing of light and color, it brings home the significance of the coming of the Word of Light in an immediately sensual way not available to those living where there is no real winter, or where December brings the longest, not the shortest, day of the year. Where I live now is about as far south as you can go and still get much of that symbolism. There is a winter here, but it’s mild, and there’s still a lot of green. The area where I grew up is 350 miles (about 560km) north of here, and has something more akin to a real winter, though of course it’s pretty mild compared to the real north.