Saturday, November 23, 2013

A New Idea for the Holidays

...because inclusiveness doesn't seem to be working. And yes, I said "Holidays." I said "Holidays" not because I am ignoring Christmas or "waging war" on Christmas, but because Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice.  Over the past several years I've gotten very used to saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" for a number of reasons; I worked retail for many years, and retail establishments cringe at the thought of alienating customers, especially during the biggest shopping season of the year; as mentioned previously, Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice, and what's so wrong with being inclusive, anyway?; and, as a non-Christian, I don't actually celebrate Christmas myself. I am a Pagan, and I celebrate the Yuletide. However, it does seem that the more people like me try to embrace holiday inclusiveness, the angrier certain other people become because they feel we are trying to exclude Christmas. We're not, we're simply trying to acknowledge all the other holidays (including our own, in many cases) that tend to get pushed aside by the Christmas juggernaut every year. But obviously, we need to look at this differently.

So I had an idea today. Let's forget all about "Happy Holidays" and inclusiveness. Let's celebrate our spiritual and religious differences, but let's do so in a neighborly way by celebrating the one thing that all our different holidays have in common.


Think about it: Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates the miracle of the oil during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Pagan Yuletide is a celebration of light returning to the world in the form of the Sun after the autumnal months of darkness and the promise of the coming spring. On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they call The Light of the World. Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting candles that represent the Seven Principles of African Heritage.

But what does light represent? Well, think about this: slightly earlier in the autumn, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, uses lamps and lanterns to celebrate the inner light of spirituality and higher knowledge that all human beings possess. To quote Wikipedia: "Central to Hindu philosophy is the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings ananda (joy or peace)."
Light, the element that is common to all these different religious and spiritual celebrations, is nothing more or less than the human soul. That's pretty deep. What's more, it is the human soul that is seeking connection: to other souls, to universal love, to the Divine Spirit. We may look different, and speak different languages, and worship different forms of the Divine Spirit, and eat different foods, but essentially we are all the same. You're a shining star, no matter who you are.

So this holiday season, go ahead and wish people whatever you want. My Christian friends can wish me a Merry Christmas, my Jewish friends can wish me a Happy Hanukkah, and I'll wish everyone a Blessed Yuletide. But whatever you choose to say, why not acknowledge everyone's humanity by following it up with "And may your days be merry and bright."

I think this could work.