Sunday, December 21, 2014

Illuminating the Holidays

"...the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and think of [other] if they really were fellow-travelers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.  

There was an erotic, holiday story writing contest and I wanted to win.

...I didn't win. I came very close to winning, but tales of naughty, toy-making elves and lusty Santas tend to have the upper hand in such contests. So I wasn't all that surprised when my old fashioned, holiday-spirit romance lost out to such a story. Nor did I regret for a minute writing it. I only mention the contest to explain why this particular stocking is so stuffed with holiday elements: from wreaths to chestnuts to colored lights.

I even made the story multicultural and interfaith to cover all the holiday bases. While this aspect of the story started out as part of my über-holiday trappings, however, it didn't stay that way. In fact, it turned out to be the story's shining star. You see, to me, the most important aspect of this time of year is sharing. Yet so many people get proprietary about the holidays, insisting that this or that celebration or tradition is theirs and theirs alone. No one outside it should be allowed to enjoy it.

That seems pretty contrary to the "good-will-toward-all" message of the season.

Thus, as I began to explore different seasonal traditions my goal changed from winning the contest to illuminating that shared center. The holiday spirit, if you like, which doesn't focus on what gifts are offered, or how they're wrapped, but on the wonderful wish we all have to give of ourselves. 

I ended up with a fable, of sorts, a romance between a odd woman and a desperate man both looking for love, yet fearing themselves too strange or broken to give or receive it. It's a story about those lonely times we all go though--sometimes short, sometimes long--when we feel like outsiders. Either outsiders to the world of love, or outsiders with no place to belong. Such a feeling is most keenly experienced during the holidays when everyone is gathering together; and it doesn't help if our relatives, nation or culture has told us that we must be something that we're not if we want to be welcomed in and sit at the table. 

Those who guard the door during the holidays, letting in only those who conform to their dictates...they prove, I think, that the shelter they are offering is false, a facade rather than a true haven.  

Those who maintain true sanctuaries refuse to harp on differences. They don't care if a stranger's appearance or faith or background isn't the same as theirs; their hearts are open, and when they look on that stranger, they see a kindred spirit, someone to be invited in and given a place by the fire. Which is why we should never lose hope of finding a people, a neighborhood, a family...and someone to love. There is a lantern out there to guide us all home. And once we arrive there, we should, in turn, make sure it stays lit to guide others home as well.

Which is why I called this holiday romance: A Many-Colored Lantern

I did not win the contest with this story, but as often happens, I got something that mattered a great deal more to me. Which is why I'd want to wish everyone reading this blog a very happy holiday season. My thanks for the gift of your readership. Whatever my stories might mean to you, that you enjoy them means to world to me.

Have faith in each other, fellow travelers. We've more in common then you think.

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