Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflections as a New Year begins

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she felt the winter Solstice made more sense to her as a time to reflect on the past year than January first. While I concur, I also see the validity in waiting a few days before looking back. It makes sense that we actually see the days begin lengthening, however infinitesimally, before engaging in reflection.

I often reflect beyond the last year. I frequently reflect upon and remember with fondness my earliest New Years traditions. I remember when I was a young boy, Mom would allow me to stay up until midnight with her as she watched Guy Lombardo's orchestra on Television. I can still hear that rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” before Mom said. “OK, now off to bed!”

When I became older, around eleven, the Youth Group (Young Peoples) from our church would meet at the home of one of the families whose children were very numerous and active in the Youth Group. The Minister and his wife would chaperone as we played records and danced, and there was always lots of food! Then at Midnight we would wish each other a Happy New Year and prepare to head home. Once again, the Minister took an active role, stuffing as many of us as humanly possible into his car and stopping at the various houses along the way to drop us off.

Once I became a teenager and began playing drums, my “tradition” changed and I spent my New Years Eves on stage, providing the music for others to dance and celebrate to. This tradition continued as I progressed through my teenage years and into my twenties. At various times I found myself between bands during the Holidays and found New Years to be frankly quite boring if not on stage. This pattern of playing for New Years eve parties became less exciting as I entered my thirties. By that time I had become a professional touring drummer and the musicians with whom I performed all valued time with their families. Oddly, I still felt out of place when not performing, but eventually began to enjoy time at home, reading, or watching television. Now into my fifties, I still enjoy performing, but am cautious of drunk drivers when making my way home. Fortunately, with the disassembling and packing of the drumset, I am generally late enough departing that the revellers are mostly off the streets by the time I am driving home.

I also reflect, if that can be said of a time before my own, on those who have come before me. My ancestors who came to Canada in previous centuries, bringing their traditions with them and celebrating them to the best of their abilities. There were certainly no wealthy barons in my family tree, so I am certain my forebears celebrated quietly, at home or possibly at church. Perhaps a visit to the nearest neighbour by sleigh for a cup of tea and some stories.

I think too of the first arrivals on these shores; meeting the First Nations peoples whose customs would have seemed so strange to the Europeans. These Natives of Turtle Island would have gathered in their Lodges and Longhouses to partake in their Traditional Ceremonies to mark the Solstice. They would have given thanks to the Great Spirit, the Creator, for the bountiful harvest and good hunting of the previous season, for the close bond of family and Clan, for the lengthening of the days, however imperceptible. Songs, prayers, perhaps a Sweat, and the telling of stories passed down from generation to generation for millennia...

And the ancestors of the Europeans, mostly from the British Isles, who were descended from the Druids, Celts, and Picts, whose Solstice Traditions were as strange to us today as were the First Nations peoples of North America to the early Europeans. Traditions so cloaked in mystery we can only speculate on the happenings. These people would gather at Mystical, Magical places such as Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and Carnac and bargain with their Deities for the return of the sun. Some speculate human sacrifice may have occurred; we can be certain beverages containing alcohol or mind altering drugs were present. There would have been music, dancing, probably for days on end. It's fun to speculate what else may have taken place there.

As I sit here on this night, writing this, I feel a duality within; the stir of the ancient Druid, intoxicated and drumming out rhythms for the dancers, (perhaps one in particular with long flowing red hair and emerald green eyes) and the peaceful quiet of a late night when the temperature outside makes silent reflection wrapped in a warm blanket most desirable.

Happy Solstice, and New Year everyone!

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