“[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.
- What We Wish at Christmas
- The Festivity of the Just
- When a Daughter Gets Married
- Keeping Traditional Observances
- Tolkienian Wisdom for Christmas and the New Year
I also encourage you to watch the newest Concepts Made Clear (CMC) video: five minutes on the concept of festivity.
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.
I think this is my favorite thing I’ve yet read on your blog! It’s so common to hear reminders to stressed-out homemakers that the details DON’T have as much weight as we sometimes give them. And of course, it is so important not to miss the forest for the trees. If I’m losing patience with my children because I’m so overwhelmed by everything I’m trying to accomplish, I might need to simplify things and cut out a few “details”! But it can also be disheartening, when you are pouring so much time and energy into all these externals, to be told that it’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things. Thank you for this beautiful encouragement.
Chrissie, Your comment makes my day. I am so grateful and happy to hear this. Have a very Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas, John, to you and the Cuddeback family.
And to you and yours, Dan!
I second Chrissie’s comment absolutely! This article gives us ammunition to wage a war against the soulless minimalism that has engulfed our culture and told us that everything we loved and created was trivial, including family life, and artistic beauty. — in fact declares that there is a war indeed that we haven’t recognized, and so have been losing, feeling helpless, the enemy hadn’t yet been named.
I will share this article. God bless!
Thank you, Nina. I love to think about how all the little things that people like you have been doing, full of love, have had and are having profound effects, far beyond what you have begun to imagine.