The cathartic period


My Letter from Prague today is going to be about Christmas or rather the ever earlier occurrence of signs indicating that the great holiday is coming. If you expect now a traditionalist bashing of consumerism... you are partly right.

Although we still have almost two months to go before Christmas, there have been unmistakable signs of its advent. Actually, some places look as if Christmas was just around the corner and not seven weeks away: thickening crowds throwing cash around in shopping malls, shops eager to lure new customers in order to get rid of old stock.

Another evidence of approaching Christmas struck me at home when my wife asked me to help her this week with making the dough for Christmas gingerbreads for a traditional Christmas exhibition. A nice custom of ours - I work the tough dough, she does the fine work of decorating it.

This is a nice opportunity to slow down, to calm down, and realise what Advent was originally supposed to be: a period of catharsis, cleansing in both material and spiritual sense. Unfortunately, we often see the opposite.

Has it ever occurred to you that people bring home quite a lot of things but dispose of the packaging only, so over time, their homes become cluttered up with more or less useful items, items that they often keep just out of sentiment?

Likewise, sometimes we get the feeling we are being overwhelmed by a constant flow of information, our minds cluttered up with superfluous data.

I am no exception in either way, I must say. But with approaching Advent, I am starting to feel an urge to do something about it - to rid myself of things I haven't used for months or years. But throwing out junk is only one part of it, the simpler one. I haven't managed yet to find a reliable way to permanently dispose of useless thoughts. Any ideas?