“[T]he whole of man, soul and body, is nourished sanely by a multiplicity of observed traditional things.”
Hilaire Belloc, ‘A Remaining Christmas’

Real festivity, like a human person, has a soul and body. A person’s thriving is most of all in the well-disposed soul, which can be profoundly alive even when the body is ailing. And similarly, if the soul of a feast is in place, a great festivity can be had even with a minimum of externals. Christmas celebrations through history make this apparent.

Nevertheless, the health of the human body is a great good, most of all in how it serves spiritual goods by cultivating them, giving them a context and embodying them. We take special care of our bodies because of their unique proximity to the spiritual and the divine.

So it is with festivity, that central and defining activity of human life. The soul of a festivity needs a body. We count ourselves blessed when we can give our festivity a body that is fitting. This is a duty–to the extent it is within our control, and a privilege and a joy.

And Christmas is the primordial instance of the opportunity to do so. I have always loved observing—and trying to imitate—the spirit of my wife at Christmas. Every little detail matters. It’s not that this particular garland, or dessert, or carol, or candle… will make or break Christmas. Rather, these particular things matter because together they are how we embody and express our irrepressible joy, as well as our love for one another. Attention to these things is how in this most special of seasons we come together, and we express our root convictions and live out our identity.

Our shared traditions of celebration are thus life-giving and life-enacting. And unless and until circumstances somehow take the externals away from us, we can do them gusto, according to our life circumstances. If such a bleak winter ever comes, we will have been fortified in raising our eyes, hearts, and hands together through these years. In so many small ways.

Something within us will have grown strong in and through the externals, the details. This something we will share in memory and we will still have together. This, I know, can never be taken away from us. Ever.

I wish each and all of you a most blessed and Merry Christmas, lived to the fullest! To any who are today in a bleak winter of any kind, may your memories remind you of something that has not been lost. And more importantly, may your hope give you a foretaste even now of an everlasting Christmas of joy.

 

Related reading:

I also encourage you to watch the newest Concepts Made Clear (CMC) video: five minutes on the concept of festivity.

 

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