Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukah....

I just got off the phone with a friend who is Jewish, married to a Christian, and has adopted two African-American girls. When I asked if they were going out of town for the holidays he answered, almost breathlessly, "We haven't had time to go anywhere." Except, that is, to various holiday engagements, including nightly Kwanzaa celebrations (each night of Kwanzaa is an opportunity for a family or community gathering). I suggested to him that maybe they consider rolling all the different holidays into one big one that they can rename something all-encompassing....'Winter festival' or something equally non-sectarian and inocuous. But it's not so simple as that, of course, as we all have our nostalgic, sentimental, or spiritual ties to the particular holiday that we grew up celebrating (or we had such negative experiences growing up with those holidays that we've discarded them in favor of new traditions; either way, they've got an emotional hold on us).

I like to think of this time of year as a Season of Lights; a season that's cold and dreary, which is why we feel compelled to chase away the darkness and the blues with colorful lights, fancy wrapped presents, comforting food and the warmth and friendship of our loved ones. There's a reason why pretty much every culture in the world does something to celebrate during the colder winter months. We're pretty smart animals in some ways, we humans, even if we are messing up the planet.

And while I celebrate Christmas, I make sure not to homogeneize the holidays into something superficially Christian. I find it interesting that my hard-core Jewish co-worker just wished me a 'Merry Christmas'. I feel a little awkward saying 'Happy Hanukah' so I go for the generic 'Have a good holiday'. It's just a lot easier and less likely to offend.

Whatever you call these cold days of winter revelry, I hope you stay warm, fed, nourished and comforted by all the magic and positive energy that the season brings. If only for once a year, I do have hope that people's hearts open a little bit bigger this time of year. I hope yours does too.

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