Once again we are faced with political correctness. Do we take "Christ" out of "Christmas" and just celebrate a fat man wearing a red suit and driving a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer? Do those of us who believe that there is a God and there was a Christchild just bow our heads and go away? Are we expected to forget that "He" is the spirit and the reason for Christmas? Should we smile and nod when we are wished a "Happy Holiday" and then hide our religious convictions in a pretty box with a red ribbon on the top? I can't do that.
I refuse to take Christ out of Christmas. I acknowledge that December is filled with various holidays. This fact may be a valid reason for wishing someone a "happy holiday" rather than "Merry Christmas." But, I can't go along with those who want to make the change because they may offend someone who is a non-believer or of a different faith.
On Dec. 5, Shia Muslims mourned Karbala of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. To the Muslim community, this day is celebrated by fasting to commemorate the day Noah left the Ark, and the day that Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God.
Now, don't fret. For the non-believers there is always the day when St. Nicholas (the gift giver) arrives. Early in the Advent season (sorry, it seems there is some religious connotation here after all), St. Nicholas leaves gifts and small treats in the shoes and stockings of little girls and boys who have been good. However, the gifts from St. Nicholas are meant to be shared, not hoarded or kept for oneself.
On Dec. 8, many Buddhists commemorated Bodhi Day - Buddha's Enlightenment. History has it that on this day Siddhartha Gautuma (Shakyamuni) experienced enlightenment or Bodhi. Siddhartha had forsaken extreme ascetic practices and sat under a Pipul tree meditating until he found the root of suffering and how to liberate ones' self from it.
To my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukah! This year the eight days of Hanukah were Dec. 8 to 16. While many of the religious traditions have remained constant during the celebration of Hanukah, many families now incorporate the custom of gift giving to children on Dec. 25.
Let's us not forget the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which occurred on Dec. 8. Pope Pius declared her to be the Empress of all the Americas in 1945.
Saint Lucia Day was celebrated on Dec. 13. This day is celebrated in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Bosnia, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovakia, St. Lucia, and the West Indies. In the United States it is celebrated with cookies on the mantel. This day of celebration is often centered around church events (oops, there I go again).
Mexico is almost as prolific as the United States when it comes to holidays. In addition to Dec. 8 when they commemorate the Virgin Guadalupe, they spend nine days of celebrating Las Posadas (Dec. 16 to 25). Las Posadas has its origins in Spain but is celebrated today in Mexico as well as in parts of the Southwestern United States. Posada means lodging or accommodations and the nine-day novena represents the nine months of pregnancy. (I wonder if this has any correlation to the birth of the Christchild celebrated on Dec. 25.)
On Dec. 26, some celebrate Boxing Day as well as St. Stephens Day or the Feast of St. Stephens. To the dismay of many, this is not the day to box up all of our unwanted gifts; this day has nothing to do with pugilistic competition. This "holiday" began in England during the middle Ages. According to historians, this day was a way to say thanks to servants who were required to work on Christmas Day. They were, however, given the day after Christmas off to be with their families - and surprise! They were also presented with a gift box.
But, alas, the church just had to get involved (that's religion for you). There is a theory that rather than giving gift boxes, boxes were actually placed in churches so parishioners could deposit coins for the poor to be distributed on Dec. 26.
When did Kwanzaa happen? Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of Black heritage, unity and culture. It starts Dec. 26 and lasts to Jan. 1. It was founded by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966-67.
Did I forget Christmas? Dec. 25 is the traditional birthday of Jesus. It is also shared with Santa Claus (sharing is a good thing). This day is celebrated throughout the United States as well as in homes all over the world. Whether one goes to church, practices gift giving, spends time with family or takes the day for themselves, most do so with some amount of peace and love. Christmas is a day for all believers and non-believers alike. It is a day of giving and loving - kind of like what Jesus did for us.
So, from our house (Richard's, Sam's and mine) to yours, Merry Christmas!
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to email@example.com