Chalica. “Really,” I thought to myself dismissively. Yet another UU way of being politically correct. And banished even the thought of it from my mind. Until Monday when Caly said to me, “So, Chalica…” I decided I better look into this Chalica and see what I really thought after I actually knew something about it. Chalica emerged out of the desire for some theological students at the Vancouver School of Theology in B.C. in 2005 to have a UU winter holiday all its own. Daylene Marshall went home and wrote up some ideas that she had that she thought would embody UU values. She sent it off to some friends and one of them created a Chalica website and Chalica was born. As simply as that.
Chalica is celebrated for 7 days beginning on the first Monday evening in December. Marshall picked that time so as not to interfere with other winter holidays. Each night a chalice is lit from a central chalice and a principle pondered. Like Hanukkah, by the end of the week, all 8 chalices are lit and burning. Over an evening meal, folks may talk about what that principle means and how they live it out in their lives. Gifts are not a huge part of Chalica. The idea is to give notes or if gifts are to be given, to have them be handmade. UU Amanda Gregory, writing in the Huffington post says, “Chalica also offers a simplicity and flexibility enabling it to meld seamlessly into other festivities. Seven days, seven candles, and seven principles, and from there it becomes whatever you need it to be… We are a young UU family, and we are building our holiday traditions and finding our individual faith paths as we go. For us, Chalica is a perfect way to live our beliefs. It is anything but “just another winter holiday.”
I am not sure that Chalica will become THE UU Winter Holiday that is celebrated in homes and churches. But that doesn’t matter. I understand the UU longing for something distinctly our own this time of year. Chalica neither misappropriates ritual from other traditions nor tries to take those traditions and assign a meaning that was never intended. It is a holiday which is in keeping with all the other winter holidays this time of year that really have to do with celebrating light. Chalica champions the principles that serve as the one uniting commonality in a tradition which is so diverse it sometimes seems to lack a core. So if celebrating Chalica works for you as a way to honor Unitarian Universalism and the return of light, so be it. Blessed be. Amen.