Take a Holiday (Take Two)

As the storm rolls south and the end of the year vacation pops up on the calendar, it’s a moment to think about culture and how we do that. Taking a holiday is a human tradition that stretches back a long, long way. 

While the 21st Century has seen ‘Christmas Vacation’ shift to the more inclusive language of ‘Winter Break’ it feels as if we have come into a space where adding more celebrations does not feel as if old traditions are being discarded – just improved. 

Like the old light-string Christmas tree that used to shine from the top of the tower at the Vets, the ‘tree’ has been updated to a tree of light projected onto the building. Change can be lovely.

New things, different things, might take a bit of getting used to – you actually use more of your brain to understand them – but then they become the tradition. Until they make way for new celebrations, or more celebrations, or bigger celebrations. 

We used to have two city tree lightings – one at the Vets, and one downtown. Rolling both of these into one tree lighting has made it so much more fun. The crowd estimate this year clocked about 5,000 people enjoying music, playing in ‘snow’ and cheering as the lights went on.

Not only did the downtown plaza see the annual Christmas Tree lighting, Culver City lit a menorah there too, celebrating Hanukkah with all the music and latkes needed for the celebration. Maybe your biggest festival is Kwanzaa, and you are stocking up on candles for the 26th, gathering family and community to celebrate. 

The oldest holiday, as ancient architecture around the world illustrates, is the Winter Solstice. Structures that feature the rising sun on the shortest day of the year are all over the planet, from Cambodia to Bolivia, and of course, England. The human race has long, long honored the day when the light begins to return. Dating the festivities back to the first Goddess figurine discovered in Europe, a friend of mine celebrates this as ‘Happy New Year 252024. ‘ That’s a lot of human history. 

Here’s the quiet moment, that candlelit season to enjoy as we stroll towards January, towards another new year when we will get loud again. 

The human race is still here (more than 25,000 years is a lot) figuring out how to holiday. There will be friends and family, music, food, laughter, probably evergreens, and very, very probably candles. 

Enjoy as many as you want. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang