Special feelings are attached to seasons, holidays and occasions of all kinds. But few are as carefully orchestrated, richly defined, and laboriously recreated as those around Christmas. We all know the feeling, and we know pretty much what to do to bring it to life. We have our own recipes and traditions, all of them different. But all of them, or almost all of them, are recognizable parts of the familiar pattern that makes up the American, or more broadly Western, Christmas.
The Heavenly Doctrine explains how food plays its role in our celebrations:
“It may also be seen by anyone who stops to reflect on the matter that understanding what is true and desiring what is good constitute spiritual food. If someone who is enjoying material food that serves to nourish the body is at the same time in a cheerful state of mind and is engaged in conversation about the kinds of things that accord with that state of mind, the material food for the body becomes all the more nourishing. This is an indication of the existence of a correspondence between spiritual food, which feeds the soul, and material food, which feeds the body.” Arcana Coelestia 5576
Food is therefore understandably near the center of what we think of as Christmas spirit. It accompanies the more important nourishment that it stands for – the instruction and stories connected with Christmas, and the kindnesses and useful services performed with love that we recognize as the true spirit of the season.
Another key ingredient of the season is not what is there but what is lacking. The theme of loneliness, sadness, darkness and need, a need that the season both accentuates and promises to heal. We are overwhelmed with the absence of those we love who have passed on, or who cannot be with us, or who do not yet exist in our lives, leaving us isolated and lonely. This is the sadness that the Lord was born to heal, but it is a healing whose effect may be barely felt, like a star on a cold night, not a warm sun on a summer day.
All of these feelings, both sad and joyful are often movingly presented to us in music and art, creating both laughter and tears. These emotions connect us strongly with the moving force behind all celebrations and goodness, which is the Lord’s love and His purpose in creating the world. This makes worship in all its forms a very important part of recreating Christmas in our hearts, pulling together all of the other elements of Christmas joy.