Monday, December 31, 2012
Spirits of the Season
When it was my turn tell them what I had done for Xmas, my friends expressed surprise that I actually went to church Xmas Eve. A few marveled at how I wasn't vaporized upon entering holy ground--the bastards. True, I haven't gone to church regularly since the last millennium. But I do make an effort to attend a religious service at least four times a year--New Year's Eve, Good Friday, Easter, and Xmas Eve.
This year, I went out of town to join a friend for Christmas. We attended a Catholic midnight mass. I quite enjoy the Catholic rituals--so pretty and ornate; and I love the smell of the burning incense--cedar, basically like burning pencils, a sweet, pleasant scent.
It still surprises me to see girls serving as altar boys (altar girls? altar persons?). I'm so used to it being a boy's job. Well, things change--but not fast enough for my liking sometimes. I do confess that I wasn't really paying attention to the sermon, because there are things that the church stands for that I disagree with. No church should should dictate how you relate to your god--that's a personal matter between you and your god. But like I said, that's just my issue, and it shouldn't take away from the beautiful pageantry and pomp of the religious ceremony. But as much as I enjoy sharing in the experience, I always forget just how physically active Catholic services are--stand, sit, chant, kneel before God!, line up for the Eucharist, stand, sit, and kneel some more. It sure does make the service pass by real quick with all that movement.
My favorite part of the midnight mass was the Christmas caroling performed by the choir. Granted, they weren't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who wore uniforms and had well rehearsed performances. Come to think of it, I don't think these choir members rehearsed more than once, as evidenced by their somewhat unique and not quite harmonious singing. But I do enjoy the joyous spirit they displayed as they sang for us and invited us to join them. Listening to them sing kind of reminded me of my old church and the Christmas pageant and the stuff we did to put on a show on Christmas night (not to mention I also remember hating the hours I spent toiling in rehearsals for a month before the Xmas show).
My enjoyment of the choir caroling was somewhat marred by the piano player, who once gave us the wrong hymn page number, sang too hard, and quite often ad libbed her own words loudly on the microphone, confusing the rest of us following the hymn and drowning out the choir at times. I couldn't help but wonder if she had helped herself to some sacramental wine before giving us this slightly jarring performance. This is church, for god's sake, not a reject audition at American Idol! Save the cabaret act for the karaoke bar, sister!
I was thinking of filing a complaint with the priest to have this piano playing volunteer fired for ruining my church going experience. Dammit, I only go to church but four times a year, and I expect a great performance for those very rare times I do make the effort to show up to church!
For a few seconds, while I was sitting in the church pews with my ears assaulted by the guerrilla attack that was this woman's singing, I actually fantasized about converting to Islam, just so I could issue a fatwa and declare a jihad to ban this woman from ever performing in public again! Her appearances would be restricted to those specific times when we need her shrilling skills to ululate the declaration of war upon the infidels and to signal our victory over the enemy! Alalalalalalalalalalalala!
But that would be wrong. And it is not the spirit of the holidays. It is the season for giving. And I forgive this woman for almost ruining my Xmas experience.
Instead, I shall focus my energy into welcoming the new year and celebrating the event amongst friends. Ordinarily, my New Year's Eve has always been about going out with friends, dancing, getting drunk, counting down the clock and watching fireworks and having a good time with friends (and strangers) til the sun comes up. This year, however, we will be spending it indoors, watching the season three marathon of AMC's The Walking Dead. The idea is to take a shot every time a zombie gets killed in a really cool and exciting fashion. Which means we'll most likely be hammered before the marathon reaches the halfway point. I just hope we're sober enough to countdown at midnight. I'm pretty sure we'll be walking and sounding like zombies when we wake up tomorrow.
I have always held New Year's Eve to be one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is the celebration of new beginnings. Yes, I enjoy the partying, the drinking, and the dancing and good times. But more importantly, it is a celebration among friends, to come together and revel in each other's company and to remember our friends who are not longer with us in body but stay with us in spirit and in our hearts. We raise a glass to them and celebrate them for the impact they've had on our lives, and we embrace the fullness of life and savor the joy of living and having time to enjoy the company of good friends and loved ones.
Life is short. And nothing like a zombie apocalypse marathon to remind us of how precious and fragile life is. Time keeps moving on, as every New Year's Eve reminds us. Hold close the ones you love; revel in the company of your friends; and live life to the fullest. Each day is a chance to do the things that make you happy, to go after your dreams and make them happen, to seize the day and do something new, something fun, something exciting.
This New Year's Eve, I shall raise a glass of spirits to all you good friends and thank you for all your support and well wishes. Cheers and thank you for everything. Your presence and your words have given me so much joy and laughter and made life just a bit more wonderful. I would be honored to have you by my side, fighting for survival against the hordes in the zombie apocalypse. And here's to wishing you all a Fantastic New Year, full of good company, good fortune, and good times!