by Annette Dashofy
As a farm girl, I led a sheltered early life. Everyone I knew celebrated Christmas. So we said, “Merry Christmas.” After I got out into the world a bit and became aware of the diversity of human beings in the world, I came to the realization that there were other faiths, other beliefs, other holidays taking place during the month of December. By that time I was working retail and so my typical wish to my customers as they left the store with their purchases became “Happy Holidays!” Seasons Greetings just sounded too greeting cardish. It was my attempt at not excluding anybody. Even if you only celebrated Thanksgiving and New Years, those were holidays and included in the wish.
How was I to know what a stir that simple greeting would create in these ultra-sensitive times???
At the risk of creating a fury here at Working Stiffs, I’m going to voice-in on this controversy.
Anymore, I use both greetings. I figure I split their usage about 50/50. When I wish someone “Happy Holidays,” I don’t mean disrespect to Christians or Christmas. It’s my attempt to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Celebrating during this time of year goes back tens of thousands of years. The Druids celebrated the turning away of darkness and the return to light during the Winter Solstice. Many Christmas traditions were adopted from these times including the burning of the Yule log, decorating a pine tree, hanging wreaths made of evergreen, holly and ivy and even kissing under the mistletoe.
Hanukkah is the celebration of lights and the survival of the Jewish people. At the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, there was only enough consecrated olive oil left to light the eternal flame for one night, but miraculously it burned for eight, long enough to prepare and consecrate more oil.
Younger holidays include Kwanzaa and Pancha Ganapati, the latter created for Hindu children, so they wouldn’t feel left out of all the merriment.
Pancha Ganapati runs from December 21 to the 25th. The focus of day one is creating harmony within the immediate family. Day two focuses on harmony with neighbors, relatives and close friends. In the days that follow, attention shifts to business associates and music, arts, drama and dance. Finally on the final day, the family experiences an outpouring of fondness and tranquility from God. Gifts are then opened.
Kwanzaa runs from December 25 to January 1 and celebrates the principles of unity, self-determination, community responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
I’m happy to say that of those listed, I’ve taken part in all of them at one time or another in one form or another. One year, I had such a wonderfully diverse group of yoga students that I received from them Christmas gifts, Pancha Ganapati gifts and a Kwanzaa gift.
There are probably more that I’m not aware of. If I’ve missed something, I apologize. Please leave a comment and enlighten me.
So as we approach the longest night of the year and celebrate by chasing the darkness with our decorative lights, let me wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Pancha Ganapati, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice…and Happy Holidays!