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Some people celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25. Others celebrate the solstice or the festival of lights. Generally the season carries a universal theme of hope as we anticipate the return of the sun.

In the older Christian tradition, the season of advent leading up to Christmas was a time of penitence and solemnity. For us kids, these days dragged on forever as we anticipated the Christ child, the lighted tree and presents. Over time adults as well as kids lost patience with advent.

Now we can barely wait until Halloween to begin our Christmas preparations. This gives us almost two months to plan for a day that has become a Norman Rockwell fantasy. The holidays and our expectations have gotten a little out of hand. Maybe we need to take control of the situation, step back, take a breath and invite a little awareness into our holiday activities.

Most people are affected in some way by decreasing daylight and I doubt that frenzied activity helps to drive away feelings of depression. Winter can be an opportunity to go within. Think about the images of the season: a silent snowfall, barren fields asleep beneath a blanket of white. In the hush of winter, mother nature herself seems to be enjoying a period of self reflection. A little hibernation can be therapeutic. By winter's end, after making good use of earth's time-out, we discover an awakening of the soul that accompanies the awakening of light. Take heart. The sun returns.

Valerie Forde-Galvin, Bloomington

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