Reflections on Winter holidays

I was raised Christian—American Baptist specifically—and I love Christmas. The most potent memories are, not surprisingly for me, filled with singing. The Christmas Eve service at the First Baptist Church in Franklin, Indiana, was especially magical. There were carols, choirs, string instruments, organ, candlelight and the story of Jesus’ birth. Together, it made me weep with joy and hope for the world.

I still love Christmas music, and yeah, I probably start listening to it way too early. My favorite CD right now is “More Joyful Sounds” by North Central High School’s Counterpoints. My eyes fill up when I listen to those young people (many of whom I know) sing, and I know that the world is going to be okay because of the light they carry.

For the last 13 years, I’ve celebrated this darkest season of the year with the annual Winter Solstice Celebration, an earth-affirming, non-denominational event presented by Central Indiana Unitarian Universalists. This free, family-friendly evening has the things I love from my childhood celebrations—choir, crowd singing, strings (cello specifically), stories, candlelight—with the addition of tingsha (a small cymbal used in Tibetan Buddhist prayer), West African drums, raucous clapping and aisle dancing (voluntary, of course), stretches of meditative silence (always with babies chirping because this is for EVERYONE), a stunning altar in the center of the room created by local artists, and a large feast to conclude this festive night of sound and spirit.

I always—ALWAYS—come away feeling different … centered, grounded, and whole. This celebration helps me honor the darkness (that’s where seeds grow after all), celebrate the Light, and reclaim the communal joy that is too often missing in our lives.

However you name that Light, where ever you find that Light, and however you mark this season, I wish you joy and peace, and yes, singing!

Pam Blevins Hinkle
Director, Spirit & Place
(and also music coordinator for Winter Solstice Celebration, co-director of SongSquad, and co-founder, Indy Justice Choir)