Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Holidays

December Holidays

I’m not sure why so many holidays get log-jammed right here at the end of the year. Let’s see, we’ve got Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. And oh yeah, there is Ramadan too, although I never really know when it’s going to show up. I think it operates on the lunar calendar, which is a few days shorter than the “normal” calendar.

This December, I decided that I would learn a little bit more about these holidays so I could figure out which was the right December holiday to celebrate. Now, my lifelong practice has been Christmas. I’m a fan of the Christ-child. I like Mary a bunch, too. The star, the shepherds, the wise men – all good. I love Christmas, so it is going to be difficult for any other holiday to knock it off the top of the heap.

But in the spirit of exploration, let’s try out Hanukkah first. About one and a half centuries before Christ, Greek Syrians tried to take over the Jewish Temple. In fact, they tried to get the Jews to bow down to an idol and eat pig flesh. If you know anything about the Jewish people, worshiping idols and eating pork products are not high on their religious to do list. A Jewish revolt was unleashed on the Greeks. This revolt was lead by Mattathias and then carried on by his son Judah Macabbee. After three years of fighting, they reclaimed their Temple and went to rededicate it. Many Jews martyred themselves for the cause. Part of their rededication was lighting the menorah. They had only enough oil for one night, but it burned for eight nights. A miracle.

Hey, not a bad holiday. Heroes of faith. A miracle. You know, I wonder if Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. He would have known the story. He was Jewish. Hmmm.

Moving along, let’s try out Kwanzaa. This one is touted as a non-religious, African-American holiday. Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966 after the Watt’s Riots. Kwanzaa means “first fruits,” in Swahili. Hey, that almost sounds religious since I first heard of the term “first fruits” in the Old Testament. Any way, there are seven principles that serve as the foundation of Kwanzaa: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. I understand the origins of Kwanzaa being rooted in African-American culture, but I do not see anything about the seven principles that are exclusively African-American. When my marriage, family, church, community, nation, world follow these principles, each of these is better off for it.

Another not bad holiday. Healthy principles for living. A positive response to something negative. I wonder if Jesus would celebrate Kwanzaa if He were walking the planet today.

Let’s try one more holiday. According to (the first result when I Googled), Ramadan is a holy month of fasting wherein Muslims, who are physically able to refrain, do not eat, drink, smoke or engage in sexual activity, from the first sign of dawn until sunset. This month is a time for spiritual reflection and discipline. Pious adherents remember past sins. They express gratitude to God for his guidance. Many read through the entire Qur'an during this month. The traditional Arabic greeting for Ramadan is "Ramadan Mubarak," meaning “may God give you a blessed month". Response is "Ramadan Karim,” meaning "May God give you a generous month.”

Ramadan is a pretty decent holiday. Fasting is good…I’ve heard. Spiritual reflection and discipline can’t be all bad. Showing appreciation to God for guidance – again, not too shabby. This is not such a bad holiday. Now, I’m not likely to cuddle up with a copy of the Qur’an night after night for a month, but I might bust out my own sacred book for some reflection.

All of these holidays bunched up at the end of the years can be troublesome for people. I know of a lot of people who want just Christmas. I wonder if rather than doing the annual holiday bashing that I hear so much of, we can embrace the embraceable from any of the holidays that appear on our radar during December, or any other month.

Christmas is still on the top of my list. At the same time, these other holidays are not without merit. There is good to be drawn from each of them even if you are not African-American, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.

No comments: