Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wolcum Yule

In the late 1960's the celebration of Kwanzaa was started in California as an American version of the traditional African harvest festivals. This revisiting of older traditions and festivals has been embraced by America, black and some white---Happy ChristmaHannukwanzikaa! I too understand this curiosity about the ancient ways of one's ancestors. Mine are Anglo-Saxon and full of Germanic and Norse traditions.

Here in Louisiana, for some unknown reason, for the last hundred or so years, the Cajuns have been building massive bonfires along the banks of the Mississippi on Christmas Eve. I am trying to convince Mickelle to let us go to them this year.

Fire is a magical thing for me. I have always enjoyed burning things. Not in a pyromanic type way....I mean that I take great satisfaction from sitting around a fire with friends. There's just something about the experience that I find pleasing. My childhood home has no source of heat other than the massive cobblestone fireplace in the center of the house. I have always had a fireplace in my home until I got married. Natural gas heating is convenient, but lacks the charm of a warm I the only one that feels this way? Homes nowadays do not have fireplaces, or if they do, they are dinky little natural gas things. If you tried to light a fire in one, it would burn your house down.

Getting back to bonfires....I want one. It's difficult to find a place where you can legally have a big rip-roaring one safely. I have always felt a connection to the funeral scene in Braveheart when the highlanders stay up all night burning a bonfire to celebrate the death of their friend. Protestant funerals are too drab. While, yes, I think the funeral should be a sacred time to reflect on a person's belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I think a funeral should have different parts. When my granpa, Master Sergeant Raymond Vines Buckner, United States Army-Retired, 94, passes away, I want to have a massive bonfire in his honor. It might only be my immediate family there, as he is an orphan, and outlived all of his relatives by about 15 years, but I think of no more fitting tribute to him that to stay up all night telling stories about him, singing hymns and songs, and watching the flames dance and lick at the logs. We could liken the smoke the fire to our prayers going up to heaven that we can live our lives as free from sin and malevolence as Granpa has. Many times emotions run high when you're grieving from the death of someone you love. And no matter your hope and faith in the resurrection, the fact is that life is long when the ones you love are absent. Burning things can be very cathartic for a wounded heart.

I wish that modern life were as suited to the Yule log tradition as it used to be. Even though it's been raining here for 26 hours straight, a big bonfire and a pause from the cares of life, a mandatory holiday, would be a welcome relief from the stresses of life. I am not interested in reviving the pagan symbolism of the tradition. I do not believe in the gods of my ancestors. I just think they knew how to have a good time.
I so so want to go to the bonfires along the river. Something in me longs for this. Wherever I wind up getting a job, I'd like to start a St. John's Night party on June 21st, and have another big bonfire. I'm not kidding. I think that bonfires address some dark corners of our psychiis that we can't name, but feel better while and after watching coals pulsate in the dark.

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