Welcome to the Memory Advent Calendar.
The mainstream American holiday season, as it is often celebrated, follows a thematic arc, moving from the modern past to the ancient past to the future.
Thanksgiving in late November is the first holiday of the season and functions as an introduction, setting the stage by focusing on tradition. Thanksgiving is usually celebrated in old places, where people tell old stories and eat old kinds of food. Together with the Fourth of July it honors, in however mythologized or confabulated or ridiculous a way, the origin of a group national identity.
Throughout December, our attention stays focused on the past. We go “home for the holidays”, often returning from our modern urban lifestyles to a family house in the countryside. We practice traditions of the “old world.” We sing old songs. We play old games in the snow. The month of December, the month of the winter solstice, is a time to observe recurrence.
Christmas arrives as the centerpiece of tradition, even for many families that are otherwise secular or even of non-Christian faiths. On this day, and on its eve, we’re made to consider the origins of Christianity. While Thanksgiving brings us back 300 years, Christmas brings us back 2,000. It is a time to contemplate past continuity and change, change in our mass identity as well as change in our families.
Less than a week later, when we’ve barely recovered from yule logs and eggnog, the narrative shifts abruptly. We suddenly look to the future. We make a flurry of New Year’s resolutions and start planning for the months to come. Christmas and Thanksgiving are holidays meant for those old enough to reminisce; New Year’s is a holiday meant for those young enough to drink and celebrate well into the morning.
In the spirit of this narrative, I would like to focus on the span of time leading up to Christmas. These weeks have great potential as a time of reflection and memory, but often become swallowed up in day-to-day affairs: buying presents, planning trips. To help guide my friends toward consideration of the past, I have assembled a Memory Advent Calendar. By providing your email address below and signing up for the calendar, you will receive, every morning from December 1 until December 25, a brief email containing a prompt that asks you to consider some aspect of your personal history. I hope that it can be a source of mindfulness. The prompts are not religiously-oriented, and people of any or no faith are welcome to subscribe.
In return for these daily prompts, I ask that you consider donation to a charitable cause. The holiday season is also a time of generosity and giving. I do not require it, but I suggest that you donate perhaps ten dollars to a local food bank such as the Arlington Food Assistance Center: https://afac.org/donatepage/donate-give/.
To sign up, please contact me directly and let me know what your email address is. You can reach me at dtr(at)DavidTaylorReich.com or, if you know them, my phone number or facebook account.
I wish you a happy holiday season.