December is also a month where other religions celebrate their holidays also. Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, which honors Gautama’s attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgava, India. Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, which is also called the Festival of Lights and is observed for eight nights and days. Kwanzaa is a celebration that honors African heritage. And then, of course, we have Christmas which is celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians, though Christians celebrate it as the birthday of Jesus. I’m sure there are many more, but these are just a few that I am aware of.
Along with the holidays, we participate in festivities that include a lot of food and gift giving. We also decorate trees, rooms, houses, lawns, and sometimes we decorate ourselves. The season is very colorful and beautiful. I love it that people get together to share the holidays with each other and we seem to care a little more for our fellow beings. People are a little kinder to each other, and charities see a huge boost in their donations. We fix meals for the hungry, and give toys, food, and other items to children and families who wouldn’t normally be able to celebrate.
I love the spirit of the season! But I have to be honest. I’m not so sure about the rest of it anymore. It seems that the holidays have become more about consumerism than the spirit. People don’t think they can have a Christmas (or other holiday) if they don’t receive presents. Many people will spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars during the holiday season on gifts for others, as well as on decorations, cards, stamps, food, and the list goes on and the money adds up. Many people go into debt just to celebrate in the way they are accustomed to.
Then add the stress that accompanies all the above! This doesn’t even include deciding which relatives to spend what holidays with, travel arrangements, being stuck in airports, families not getting along, or someone being upset because they didn’t get what they wanted. And I haven’t even mentioned Black Friday and other big sale days yet. People will literally fight to get the item on sale, and some people have been seriously hurt or even killed because of it.
How many of us could give all of this up, stop all the fanfare, and still be able to celebrate without feeling we’re missing something? Could we do it? Probably not too many could, especially if they have children. Santa Claus has pretty much become the main symbol for Christmas nowadays.
There are people and children all over the world who don’t have anything, let alone get to celebrate a holiday the way we do, so we get them presents and ship them for the holidays, but what about the rest of the year? They still need shoes, clothing, and food all the other months, too!
And, of course, there is the arguing over what holiday greeting we should say and some people can get quite nasty over it. Personally, I’m secure enough in my faith that it doesn’t bother me one bit what greeting someone uses. If someone says Merry Christmas, I’ll say Merry Christmas in return; or Happy Holidays/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/ Bodhi Day or whatever. I’ll happily return their greeting with the same. I’m just happy someone said anything to me at all! Normally when I say hello to someone, I’m doing good to get a hello in return.
To me, the spirit of the holidays means to spread love, peace, and joy to everyone regardless of what holiday they are celebrating. I honor everyone’s beliefs and whatever holiday they embrace. I love the diversity! There is something to be learned from all of them, and I’m blessed to have friends from all faiths who have shared their celebrations with me.
So, this year, let’s remember to be the examples of our Spiritual Masters and spread the love and joy of the season! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Bodhi Day! Happy (add your holiday)! Wishing everyone of all faiths a beautiful and wonderful holiday season and the best of new years!
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 6, 2013.