The idea that the spirit of the holidays has been overshadowed by commercialism is not a new one. Santa‘s presence in stores, sponsored parades and a tidal wave of advertising to boost sales has muddled the season’s message with financial interests for a very long time. Yet we maintain a sense of hope based on the desirable notions of peace on Earth and good will to all. Christmas trees reflect the pre-Christian traditions that celebrated the return of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere after the year’s shortest day on the winter solstice. We warm ourselves around the fire, enjoy our holiday food and drink and give presents in a spirit of hope and renewal. For many this is also a time of family gatherings that are meant to reinforce the ties that bind us together. Yet even religious faith and the celebratory mood do not untie the knots that complicate our most intimate relationships.
Family gatherings can be like theatrical productions with elaborate preparations and moments of drama. The highs of expectations are often met by the reality of the complex connections that both nurture and limit us, This year the planets are aligning in ways that are likely to be challenging for most households. On December 22 the Sun forms a stressful 90-degree square with revolutionary Uranus. The solar presence in orderly Capricorn suggests a love of tradition and a desire to follow the rules but that’s not easy when volatile Uranus challenges it from independent Aries. Friction on the home front comes all too readily with this dynamic alignment. For some it’s tempting to play the rebel who pushes back against authority with impulsiveness and resistance to the usual rituals. For others, being responsible and sticking to the plan leads them to try and control individuals who don’t want to cooperate. Many of us will play both roles, enforcing rules in some cases and breaking them in others.
On December 29 the Sun joins Pluto, the mythological Lord of the Underworld and symbol of our psychological shadow. This transit, which often spurs mistrust and power struggles, is another complicating factor this holiday season. Control issues can spur resentment and expose fears that have been bubbling under the surface. Yet in the interest of group harmony most of us will try to suppress these feelings. Making nice for Grandma’s sake or for the kids sounds reasonable, but if denial perpetuates this simmering toxicity throughout the coming year, this is a booby prize that we can all do without.
The higher meaning of the creative Sun’s connections with disruptive Uranus and Pluto is that this is a time of transformation. While celebrating old traditions they are reminders that there are elements of the past that need to be swept away to make room for a better future. Holding the line is not the best option for our individual and collective well-being, and when we recognize that change is healthy we can be more gracious about making it happen. Finding ways to update family patterns helps give the holidays a spirit of discovery and renewal that spurs innovation. The greatest gifts we can offer this year are those of originality, discovery and passion in pursuit of higher goals. Transformation often appears messy and can be uncomfortable, but a light dose of experimentation and kindly delivered honesty helps us grow and create a healthier future for everyone.