Once upon a time, a very long time ago on the planet Earth, a species of ape evolved named homo sapiens sapiens, or human beings. At first glance, there seemed to be a lot wrong with these creatures. Their hips were too narrow, their two feet exposed their upright bellies to the world, and when they got frightened little goosebumps on their skin tried in vain to puff out non-existent hair in a futile attempt to look bigger and stronger than they really were.
But human beings had some tricks up their yet-to-be-invented sleeves, too. Their opposable thumbs helped them to fashion tools to make up for their deficiencies. With their special brains, they joined sounds to the world around them. And they were born to be social: they shared these sounds with other human beings, passing them on one to another, making connections, looking for patterns. Not all of the sounds were for the here and now. One human could tell another what was ‘over there’, or ‘back then’, or even ‘yet to be’. They could even imagine things which had never existed at all. Not bad for a hairless ape.
These animals were different to us, but also the same. They had not yet imagined credit cards, original sin or international shipping. But they did know, at least among those who made it to the northern fringes of their planet, that it gets dark at this time of year. The days turn to nights almost as soon as they have begun, and the air is cold, and the trees are bare. It is not an easy time if your body must keep its blood warmer than its surroundings, never letting up for a single moment, just to stay alive.
Some animals sleep through the winter, but apes must see it out. And so they turned to their sounds, their words, and their stories. They told each other, at the darkest moments, that the light would come back. They began to celebrate, and drink, and feast together. They gave each other gifts, and made fires from the logs of trees, and sang songs of the harvests to come.
There are lots of songs, lots of stories and now lots and lots of humans. But Christmas, which is older and wiser than the name it now wears, is not about any particular one of them. It is about the coming together – those apes in the dark – and what they choose to share with each other. And if you celebrate it, you might take a moment to remember our collective ancestors, and how we owe our existence to their making it through.
Oh, and it’s also about hats:
Randi Lawrence, Gillian Self, Sue Buxton, Cloak Dangerfield, Ermila Moodley, Abigail Osbiston, Steve Bowen, Matthew Hull, Emily Sharp liked this post.