I just did a quick Google search for religious holy days and holidays in December. I found 14, and I'm sure there are a few more that I'm missing. For a point of reference, those of us who trace our faith roots back to Abraham; that means anyone who is Jewish, Muslim or Christian--we all have celebrations in December. One of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, the Zoroastrians honor the death of their prophet, while Buddhist friends celebrate Buddha's decision to sit under a very special tree waiting for enlightenment--which he did receive. All of these celebrations are poignant, beautiful and special to each faith tradition.
As Catholics, we have a unique strong hold on December, in addition to Christmas, we celebrate a special holy day devoted uniquely to Mary on December 8th, we have a whole bunch of saint's feast days, and if that wasn't enough, we take all four weeks leading up to Christmas and call it Advent.
Despite what the advertisers tell you, for Christians, the Christmas season isn't our holiest of times--no we save that for Easter.
But that said, I'm a big fan of Advent, I love that we are reminded to prepare for the birth of the Christ child. We need to make our hearts ready, we are also required to pray... To slow our lives down and be open to hearing the voice of the Divine. Those requirements are a tall order in a world fueled by consumerism.
Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Often folks are still celebrating with family when we all roll into mass. For Christians, it's a our New Year, our calendar begins again, and it ushers in a time of reflection, repentance and preparation. Each of the four weeks of Advent provides Christians a chance to refocus our gaze on a stable in Bethlehem and the birth of our Messiah--not on Santa, and our ridiculously long shopping lists.
As parents, its hard... Let's just be honest.
To raise humans that are focused on the "real celebration" of our holy days and not the pursuit of stuff.
We are all also striving to teach our children about gratitude. Being grateful comes in many forms; one of the best is to say, "thank you". This year in an effort to assist in the focus--both of the Beauties are writing four letters. The idea is that each letter represents a week of Advent.
As a family, we sat down and discussed who would be the recipients of the letters. Our requirements were simple, each letter was to be to an adult, someone over 18. They needed to be someone the Beauties admired and were instrumental in helping them on their path to adulthood. They could be a couple or individual, teachers, family member or adult wisdom figure (insert awesome family friend). What captivated me was as the Beauties assembled their list (of the 8 letters) only two are being sent to Catholics. Which is why the letters are so exciting. My children are being raised in faith, but the people who influence, challenge, and love them-- offer a beautifully full picture of the world. We remind the Beauties all the time, you are constantly building your tribe, the people who will stand with you in the storm and eat cake and toast you in times of celebration. That is an awesome job, so it's our job as parents to help you (them) identify the qualities that they will need in their adult tribe.
Which gets me back to the reason I wish folks a, "Merry Christmas".
In our culture, we work very hard to create a world that is more respectful of diversity. In doing so, we have turned away wishing friends specific holy days, instead we turn to the generic:
I'm not a fan but, when someone wishes me a "Happy Holidays," I say, "thank you," with love in my heart.
I'm what you would call a multi-cultural friend, I love celebrating holy days with others. I have celebrated oodles of holy days with friends who aren't Christian. I've celebrated Passover, enjoyed lighting candles for Hanukkah (Norah's best friend's menorah is beautiful). I have been wished the joys of the Hindu celebration of Diwali by my friend in London. She wished me prosperity, the joy of hope over darkness, and the removal of negative forces from my home and life! If had been lucky enough to be in London; I would have feasted on delicious food, seen her home illuminated with candles to remove the negative forces from her home and her life-- I would have gotten to celebrate the joy of her holiday.
Don't you wish you were wished a Happy Diwali?!?!
NOTHING makes me happier, then when one of my friends wishes me the joy of their faith's holy day!
Have you ever stopped to think how much love comes from someone when they share the joy of their tradition?
So if I were in a shop and someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah; I would say thank you! I would be delighted that someone would wish me the joy of their Festival of Light! When I wish someone Merry Christmas, whether your Christian or not, I'm wishing you the sentiments of my holy day and my faith tradition which is Peace, Joy and Love.
Let me be clear about what I'm not saying:
I'm not saying, sorry your messiah hasn't come and mine has. Nor am I saying that because I'm a christian and maybe your not, you are destined to some ring of hell; because you don't believe what I do.
I'm sharing with you that I meet the Divine through my Catholic tradition. And in December it's a special time for me. It is a beautiful season that by its very origin celebrates love. It is a holy and special time in my faith. So when I want to share that love, that joy, it's not me being unkind--it's me trying to be gracious, loving and thoughtful.
In the same token, when my friends wish me the joy of their holy days, I'm humbled, touched and deeply moved that they would share the very love of their tradition with me.
As I have shared in earlier post, the world has been showing profound ugliness of late. I will be the first to share that my faith tradition has done some horrible deeds in the name of religion. The humanness of the world is painful in all its forms. I know in my heart that the Divine shares that pain and sorrow; when as humans we spread darkness, hate, evil-- not light, peace and most profoundly LOVE. I stand by my assertion that the world is full of way more beautiful people (because I have meet so many of you)! When you surround yourself with the goodness of the world, it then becomes our duty, as the good ones, to stand even taller and share our love and light with others.
AND I will further add....
No one who has wished me the joy of their holy day has ever tried to convert me, disparaged my faith tradition or my families....or told me my traditions are wrong or another faith is superior.
That has NEVER been my experience--ever.
Along with my family, we will attend a program at Norah's school called a Festival of Light, where we will go and experience other family's holy days for the month of December. What makes it so special is that afterwards, we come home and discuss the commonalities of our other friend's faiths. My Beauties will then explain that some of their friend's celebrations are way better than our traditions. Where we remind each other, it's yet, another reason why we like to celebrate with our friends!
As you hustle and bustle this year; share your love and light... And to everyone who is expecting my Christmas card, consider this post your card. Here's hoping, I'm less disorganized next year!
With all the love I have, I wish you and yours the blessing of my tradition; the beauty of a season filled with peace, joy and love. I send this wish by saying the simple words, "Merry Christmas."
The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you, today and always.
photo credit: Katrinitsa