My kid went trick-or-treating, my mother-in-law made a turkey, and I only heard one dumb political comment during Thanksgiving.
That means it’s officially Christmas season.
Christmas music is now playing in the car, we’re setting up a tree, and snow is falling.
I’m not super huge on holidays, but my wife and I have kids so I got to do what I got to do to make the holidays great for them.
One thing we aren’t doing, however, is decorating the outside of the house.
There are a bunch of reasons for that though. First, I don’t need to climb up a ladder in the snow to hang up lights with a bum arm. I’ve seen “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” too many times to think getting my fat butt on a ladder in the snow is a good idea. Second, we just moved here a few months ago and we’re still trying to sort out what’s financially feasible. And third, you never have to take down Christmas lights that you don’t put up in the first place.
We might put up lights one year, but not this year.
The only exception to the Christmas decoration rule is one single, solitary candle that we have lit at night in our front window.
It’s an electric candle, but a candle nonetheless.
A candle in your window is an old Irish tradition that I’ve inherited from my mom’s side of the family.
It hearkens back to a time when all of Ireland was under English rule and that rule includes severe Catholic persecution. So much so that Catholics, by and large, couldn’t practice their faith.
In the late 1600s and 1700s, Irish Catholics would light a single candle in their windows and leave their doors unlocked. To appease their protestant rulers, they said it was to help symbolically light the way for Mary and Joseph and to provide Mary a place to give birth to Jesus, but in reality, it was so priests could slip into their homes unnoticed and perform Mass for the believers inside.
Putting a candle in your window may have been a small action, but it came with major religious and legal consequences should you get caught.
Into colonial times, the candle would eventually become a symbol of safety, letting visitors know that the homeowners with the candle in the window would offer them refuge from danger if they needed it.
I’m a big fan of Holy Envy, the act of finding meaning in faith practices outside your own. And since moving to this new home, I wanted to make sure to keep the tradition alive in my family.
After all, Christmas shouldn’t be about unchecked consumerism. It’s about a couple who found themselves in desperate need for help, gave birth to a perfect baby boy, and due to religious prosecution, found themselves to be refugees in a foreign land.
It’s the start of a story where a single man who went about doing good for the outcasts of society, chastised religious leaders for their hypocrisy and paid the debts of all of mankind, even though he owed them nothing.
Whether you’re Christian or you view the story of Jesus as Bronze Age superstition, I’d hope that we could all find elements of that story that are both deeply inspiring and personally applicable to our lives.
The candle in my window represents all of those different elements of Christ’s story as well as a flair of that Irish heritage I’ve inherited from my Mom’s side of the family.
It also reminds me that it’s my religious duty to be there for others.
For a lot of people, Christmastime is a time of fun, family and celebration.
But for others, it’s a holiday marked by intense loneliness, isolation and depression.
Not everybody has a family to visit this Christmas and many people have nowhere to go for the holidays.
If you know somebody in that position, please be kind and invite them over for cookies and hot chocolate or something. Help them find a place where they can feel that love and kinship that they need. Don’t silo yourself off from those who need help the most.
And if you don’t know anybody in that position, write a check to a charity, or volunteer your time.
Just because you don’t know anybody who needs help this Christmas doesn’t mean those people don’t exist in your community. Those people could still use your help whether you knew them previously or not.
Christmas is a time to give but that implies that it’s also a time to receive.
Let’s make sure that those who need the most are receiving what they need this season.
You don’t have to light a candle in your window to give to others this season, you just have to be the light.