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December 21, 2016Pauline Irving

Christmas Memories
By Pauline Irving

This contribution is a personal reflection on the meaning of Christmas by a local member of the Ottawa Baha’i Community - Editor

Christmas time is a time of reflection and memories, but it is a religious holiday that I no longer celebrate. Yet, it was a big part of my life for over 50 years. It is intertwined with all the memories of my childhood and three cherished family members who have “abandoned their physical garments and ascended to the spiritual world”, my father, my mother and my younger brother.

When someone asks “Are you ready for Christmas?” it seems too much to go into an explanation that we have a time of hospitality and gift giving. It is in late February. The Baha’i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days, with four “Intercalary days”. These days come just before the month of Fasting when we abstain from food and drink between Sunrise and Sunset.   Also referred to as Ayyam-i-Ha, these days are devoted to spiritual preparation for the fast, hospitality, charity and gift giving.

But still, the Christmas music plays and the questions come about Christmas. The music is beautiful and it brings back many memories.  Each one of my cherished lost loved ones comes to mind with a particular song. For my father, it is “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. The memory goes back to when I was 15 years old. My older sister wanted to go to Mass on Christmas morning with her husband. They had a three-month-old baby, so they asked me to walk over and baby-sit for them.  My father did not want me to be alone on Christmas morning and came with me. As we walked along on that snowy morning, he sang in his best Jimmy Durante voice, “It’s Commencin’ to look a lot like Christmas”. It is one of my most precious memories.

The song that brings my mother to mind is “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” Although she loved the song, she pretty well always reversed the order to Jolly, Holly. This happy light song personifies my mother. She loved to laugh and getting the words tumbled was so like her and it did not matter to her at all. I picture her laughing and happy when I hear this song.

In the case of my brother, memories of him come flooding back when I hear “Feliz Navidad”. He loved this song and he loved Christmas. He worked as an ambulance officer and sometimes had to work on Christmas. I remember this was always very difficult for him. He cherished spending Christmas with his wife and two daughters.

When I made the decision to embrace my new Faith in January 2001, it was after a great deal of prayer and thought. One of the reservations I had was that I felt I might be increasing the degree of separation from the three family members, whose memories are wrapped in the Christmas Traditions. I found comfort in learning that in the Baha’i faith, there is a belief that we can pray for those who have passed on and they can pray for us. So, even though I no longer observe Christmas, I am still connected to my loved ones.

So, no I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I am happy to be included in the celebrations of others and the spirit that envelops Christmas is an essential part of my Faith. “To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with my virtues.” is a quote from the Persian Hidden Words written by Baha’u’llah , the Prophet of the Baha’i faith. This quote summarizes the love and generosity that surrounds the celebration of Christmas.

Pauline Irving

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