One event that is getting bigger and bigger in the city is the "Burning of the Clocks", it marks the shortest day of the year, it is a very secular ritual. Now I have never been, I always end up hearing confessions at one of the Penitential Services here but in a way it is a sort of secular Penitential Service. Lanterns are made in the form of clocks lit with candles inside, they are processed through the streets, and then, I think, are taken down onto the beach and burnt.
We used to do this type of thing with young people and sins written on little bits of paper, I bet it still happens in some places.
I must say, I do regret that we have handed over the whole idea of procession and even spectacle to the secular world. I once tried to persuade a certain Prelate to take part in a Eucharistic Procession through the streets here, he was so incredibly uncomfortable with idea, not just of him doing it but anyone else, even me doing it, I haven't dared propose it to anyone since.
Burning of the Clocks though reminds us that this is the week of the shortest day, we have lost that sense of seasonality in the Church which seriously impairs our concept of Christmas, God becoming Man is the the super-Cosmic event. As the shepherds were tending their flocks, we might presume that Jesus was actually born in the spring, one ancient writer suggests it might have been at Passover I vaguely recollect, but the Church chooses to celebrate it at the time the days begin to lengthen, it is more about Christ our Light overcoming our darkness, than a commemoration of Jesus' actual birthday. The three Christmas Masses, Midnight, Dawn and Day gives us an insight into this wonder. Zechariah speaks of the Christ as the "Dawn from on High", in John's Prologue, he is the "Light that enlightens those in darkness". He is the "Sun of Justice", in him a "new age has dawned".
In Pope Benedict's Spirit of the Liturgy he argues very eloquently for us to recapture the sense of the Cosmic in the Liturgy, good to think about it at this time of year.