Wednesday, December 23, 2015

White Christmas

A rather obscure beloved book of my childhood, called Wu-Han of Korea if memory serves me right, depicted an idyllic pre-war but post-Catholicism Korea with its traditional customs and folkways.

One of the lines I remember vividly explained how in Korea, white was the color of mourning, and there was a rigid procedure for how many years it must be worn: so many years for the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, child. The result of these customary long years of mourning, the book explained, was that adults pretty much only wore white. Only children and an occasional young adult would still be wearing bright colors.

As a child, I figured this must be because people died a lot more in the olden days.

Well, perhaps they did die a bit younger, but the death rate is, of course, the same. Because the grownups in my life didn't wear mourning, I could not see the loss that walked with them. A once-met uncle or great-aunt was just a name to me. I did not remember the hands who had written the recipes, the faces in the faded pictures.

Now I know that they did. Now I have my own loss that walks with me. And now I realize it is simply part of life, in the past, the present, and the future. The longer you live, the more dead people you know. The more Christmases you celebrate, the longer the Ghost of Christmas Past shines his light backwards to places and people forever gone.

3 comments:

Uglemor said...

Oh, trying to make up for the year of fewests posts you are. The ghost of Christmas past shows us the past in a enchanted ligth. Yes we're missing people and places, but Christmas with a family of ine's own is not the worst you can have. I wish you a blessed Christmas and happy memories for the Christmasses to come.

Wendy said...

So sadly true. The flip side of this is that the trimmings become less as they are tinged with sadness, and the Child becomes more.

Congratulations on surviving the first year of the new practice! May it continue to get easier!

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Love this. Entirely too true.