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Different Holiday Traditions: Aren’t We Really More the Same than Different?
by Marjorie Dorfman

page 2

islamic prayerMany faiths share the same attitudes about the holidays as well as the trappings (albeit in different wrappings and from different points of view). For example, Christian, Jewish, and Kwansa celebrations all involve decorative lights, or candles, gift-giving and a general celebration of the spirit of family and fellowship. Some Moslem ceremonies embrace the decorations of streets and houses and celebration of the family and community as well, even though their ultimate goals are beyond rejoicing and concern the maintenance of a balance between spiritual life and material well-being (the concepts of din and dunya).

For those of the Christian faith, gifts are exchanged around a Christmas tree. For Jews, gifts are an integral part of an eight-day festival of lights and a menorah that burns brightly to honor the memory of Judah Maccabee and commemorate the miracle of the oil. Kwanza is a seven-day holiday based on African harvest festivals that begins on December the 26th. Gifts abound here as well, as well as a karamu or feast, and children are paramount in this celebration as they are for all of these holiday observances. (It’s hard to say how kids fare better; one night with Santa Claus, eight nights under the menorah or seven days receiving gifts, feasting at the karamu and honoring their ancestors.)

The point is that there is a tiny thread of similarity that runs through all these traditions, even if the sewing needles utilized (symbols) are worlds apart. Once it’s seen, this connection can never be unseen, for it is a powerful and irreversible revelation. It is the attitude about our lives in relation to the singularity of all of our deities, whatever their sacred names, that is the same for all peoples. There is only one God, no matter what He (or She) is called. All the major religions of the world teach us to love our children, our traditions and our history. In the best of times, it is our humanity that makes us wish to leave the world a better place than the way we found it. That joins us all in a much greater cosmic plan than that of individual beliefs and nirvana.

Islam teaches the principles of material and spiritual significance as well as the need for education to acquire knowledge and use it for the benefit of others. How different is that from any concerned citizen helping his or her fellow man or woman? (For the answer, just look at the outpouring of aid whenever there is a disaster of great proportions.)
kwanza karamu
It’s like that old guy from England once said about a bell. He told us not to ask for whom the bell tolls, because it tolls for thee. Well, my friends, thee is you and me and all of us together in the same big boat. The question is do we sail, land or sink to the bottom with all of the conflicts besieging our kind. (A recent news story about a sinking ship in India revealed that more than 150 people drowned because when a rope was thrown overboard, many would not touch the same rope as those from another lower caste.) Surely Benjamin Franklin had the right idea when he said: "We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately."

So instead of hanging, why don’t we celebrate? It’s more fun, less painful and so much more rewarding. Not only that, we can do it every year and get a lot of practice, which is more than can be said about hanging! Whether you practice one of these religions, all of them, some of them, none of them or something else entirely, remember that we are all one in the ways that really matter. We would do well to remember that not only at this time of year but all others as well.

happy holidayHappy Holidays To All and To All a Good…Whatever!

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Culture is one thing and varnish another
R.W. Emerson, Journals, 1868

In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo
T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock

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