Winter hit us on the last day of May – well, as much as winter ever “hits” Napier. I put on a jersey and even turned on my office heater.
But, if we were on the other side of the world, where the Church year developed, at this season we would now be in Advent, heading for Christmas on the 25th.
Almost every Christmas I meet Northern Hemisphere church-goers struggling to get their heads around a hot and sunny Christmas. “It doesn’t feel right,” is the usual response. I smile indulgently and think: “Get over it.”
When we do the reverse and head north, we have less of a problem. We have been brought up in a bi-cultural environment – of snowy Christmas cards and Jingle bell Christmas songs and plum puddings in the sunshine .
It is no coincidence that Christmas coincides (almost) with the shortest day on the other side of the world. Our best guess is that Jesus was actually born in early November. However, the shortest day, when the Sun is seemingly at its weakest, was chosen to celebrate his birth because it is the beginning of a new year. New start. New life. Fresh beginnings.
We miss all that here. Christmas gets lost in the end of year, start of summer holidays celebrations.
What made me realise the significance of this was spending a couple of Easters in England. Exactly the same thing happens there: Easter for them is lost in the excitement of the beginning of summer and the holidays. Easter congregations are particularly small because people are on holiday. Whereas here, there is a quietness about an autumn holy-day that makes it easier to celebrate Good Friday and Easter day appropriately.
There have been attempts to have a mid-winter Southern Hemisphere Christmas celebration, but it hasn’t taken off. 2,000 years of tradition are hard to break.
However, Monday June 22nd is our winter solstice this year. Maybe on Sunday we’ll sing a carol to remind ourselves of the true meaning of the Christ Mass. But not “In the bleak Midwinter”. Not in sunny Hawke’s Bay.
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