Monday, December 21, 2009
Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, and More!
The debate is raging full force this year. Christians are feeling shunned, persecuted, and more. And I know some people who are getting very angry about things happening this holiday season. I know people who feel that if we don't keep a bright focus on Christ throughout the season, we will lose the meaning of Christmas. I know people who get angry about the other winter holidays, even declaring them to be "made up." I've been planning this blog post since observing one of these conversations last week. It started out well enough. A small group of Christians. A shared story of a local elementary school that did a winter program that included every faith and culture EXCEPT Christianity. All agreed that to be inclusive means to include all perspectives and that excluding any Christian music- when you were offering songs about Hanukkah, something Muslim based, something Yule, something Kwanzaa- is wrong. I agree. Then it got a bit more passionate and there were loud exclamations of "Kwanzaa being a made up holiday" and so on. Then I read Karen's perspective. 12/22 edit: I am also adding a link to C Beth's perspective. Then my family and I went to visit Connor Prairie on Saturday. And it was eye opening. It's a living history museum set in 1836. Some of the "towns people" are very excited to celebrate Christmas and have a meal with their families. But some of the people are opposed to the celebrations- "The Apostles didn't have parties for the Lord's birth!" So when did Americans start celebrating Christmas as a holiday anyway? (Go read that link for a history lesson- and this one, too.) And where did the traditions come from? Made up holidays, ancient traditions stolen from other cultures and faiths, an entire world that has recognized holidays at this time of year... what's a Christian to do? Granted, I know I'm not the most common voice of Christianity. I've proven that a few times in sharing my thoughts on this blog. So here are my thoughts. I believe in the birth of Christ as the "reason for the season." I believe in gift giving and tree decorating and stringing lights and visiting Santa and being charitable and singing lots of Christmas hymns & carols and spending time with friends & family. That's what is right for me and my family and it is the lengthy tradition of my heritage. I have no intention of taking away from families that don't have the same heritage that I have. If someone is Jewish, I believe they should celebrate Hannukah as they traditionally do within their family and religious heritage. I believe it benefits me and my children to know and appreciate the traditions of Judaism. I love that my daughter learned about the Menorrah at preschool and brought home a paper one that she made. I love that she sang the Dreidel Song. I don't see the purpose in getting angry about Kwanzaa and I've known many people who do. The way I see it, Kwanzaa is an opportunity for some learning. Kwanzaa is a "created" holiday and it was an important time in our history for the Black community in this country to come together in a positive way. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966. A year of Vietnam, Civil Rights, race riots in Mississippi, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, the death of James Meredith, tear gas at demonstrations, Martin Luther King Jr was stoned during a march. Seems the perfect time to find a way to bring people together and lift them up in a positive way by focusing on Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. I suppose it would be shocking to some that some people in our country who celebrate Kwanzaa are also Christians. And that Kwanzaa in no way threatens Christianity. I will admit ignorance when it comes to most celebrations outside of those 3. I know that there are recognized days on the Islamic calendar in December. And when I go and read, the days are based on the same kinds of things that "we" recognize here... religious dates, remembering a final speech, a celebration of bringing together Muslims and Christians. I believe in tolerance. No, I believe in more than tolerance. I believe in loving others- especially those I don't understand. I firmly support those who feel so strongly that the kids who did the holiday program should have included traditional Christmas hymns since so many other faiths and cultures were being represented. Because to exclude one is still exclusion, no matter which one is excluded. I just don't find it threatening or harmful or bad for my kids and the people in my life to recognize and even celebrate these other holidays. Afterall, perhaps seeing acceptance of "their" culture will encourage "them" to check out "our" beliefs. And maybe all of that will bring us all a little closer together.