Christmas, as we know, has long become a domestic holiday. We spend it inside our homes. Whether it has snowed or if our area of the country never sees snow, a hush falls over the world as for one day most businesses close and commerce stills. We have, for a moment, the time to stop, reflect, and dream.
In The Poetics of Space, Bachelard connects the dream to the house:
the house shelters day dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths.
Christmas dreams of a better world, at least in the wisps and fragments of reverie.
The consumerism at the heart of the modern Christmas is distorted, but it is the distortion of a dream--the dream of what the world could be if people acted with the material generosity to each other all the time.
Christmas may accentuate social isolation and family dysfunction, but central to it is a dream of community and family in shalom order and the home as haven. I did appreciate this Christmas card from friend Sherri Morgan:
Yet Christmas speaks as well to something deeper.
I find myself drawn this year to stories that are not Christmas stories but seem like Christmas stories to me because they touch deeply on the Christmas dream. This year I have been revisiting Peter Pan, a story that opens with domestic whimsy and humor about the intrusion of the dreams of childhood into the intensely domestic space of the Edwardian London townhouse. Peter Pan is openly the symbol of imagination, imagination unfettered by rational adult constraints. This seems at the heart of Christmas.
I reread too part of The Sign of the Twisted Candles, a Nancy Drew mystery, but intensely a domestic drama of interiors and a dream of righting the wrong in a domestic space that has been invaded by evil. Protecting the innocent and vulnerable, the very elderly and the young, is at the heart of this children's mystery and the Christmas dream.
At Christmas, we decorate the prosaic pine tree. We make the ordinary beautiful.
I came across this in the New York Times, and it has helped guide my days recently and bring a touch of joy centrally to them:
Each morning I write the words “I Will Feel Great About Today If I …” on a notepad. This is NOT a “to do” list. It is purely about creating the “reward” you describe: feeling great.George Eliot puts this a different way: “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”
It helps me to think of Christmas as a dream and a choice. The dream imagines a world of peace and goodwill, of gift-giving, community, healing, harmony and generosity. This is both a secular and a Christian dream, the dream of all tears being wiped away. If it is not here, we can start to dream it into being. We also have the political choice: we could, if we wanted, make a better world much more of a reality than it is right now.