The terrible red hats with which the staff in the supermarket is supposed to make a fool of themselves are not in sight yet, still in the box I assume and it’s questionable if they’ll come out this year. Bali has other things to do for the moment. Galungan, the celebration of the ancestors visiting and of thankfulness for all received in the period passed, is just over. Thanksgiving for Balinese. The penjors, see picture, that belong to the celebration are still erect and will stay till after Kuningan, just after Christmas; another celebration because the ancestors go home again then. The Balinese live strongly connected to all that was before, it gives them roots but, alas, it’s quite in the way of growing wings.
Apart from some silly decorations and hats at the supermarket and a few products that, with a lot of good will, can be considered Christmas-like, you wouldn’t notice here that Christmas is just around the corner. They have no connection to it whatsoever and that’s quite understandable, considering the acts and deeds of the west that make one think that conviction is basically something for home or Sundays in church. Few were persuaded to abandon their own culture.
It’s convenient that Maria gave birth just in those days in December. That way the church was able to annex a pagan party, (some exorbitant habits excluded). Maybe they did see the hand of god in his birth on that particular day as well? The dark days before the coming of the light; very strong metaphor and no quarrels with the heathen that didn’t want to give up their solstice celebration. The meaning of it all got quite overshadowed by tree, bling, a lot of food and presents. In Europe nature helps a bit to grab the underlying picture, here we have to do without such hints, today is the longest day. It doesn’t matter really, I think. Darkness is not something I have to look for, the world offers it in huge quantities and, sometimes, it’s available in my own heart as well. (Not too abundant we hope.)
The longing for light in such darkness is know to all of us, I think. Without claiming exclusivity; where I come from Christmas is an occasion to celebrate the birth of that light.
Presents (unfortunately nothing to expect from Balinese in that respect), good food (but please, not in those restaurants that have paper hats and hooters ready), joy and a Christmas tree (but not one of those bling-noise-music-things in the Mall), it all can be part of it. What Christmas is really about happens within us and is not confined to any time of year. Christmas every day is a bit much but it can’t be the meaning of it all that we gather around the manger and, after a few days, leave the child to take care of its own.
I wish that Christmas may be a moment for you to celebrate light and love. That love may surround you; that love and light may shine from you towards others. That you will find courage and strength in the New Year to make a difference, where and whenever needed. That you, specially now and irrespective of your beliefs, will be willing to receive light and to shine in darkness.