Nothing gets some people going these days than saying “Happy Holidays”. For some reason, not assuming someone celebrates the biggest holiday for us this time of year in the US, Christmas, seems to set people off. I have been saying Happy Holidays for this time of year for decades. Why? Because while I’m a Christian, I’m a person living in a country of diversity and in case you don’t know it, there are a huge number of holidays that fall around Thanksgiving until the beginning of January.
On November 28th Orthodox Christians start an Advent Fast. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas. It’s the Christian faith’s preparation for the birth of our role model and the Son of God in our belief system. My denomination lights a calendar for each Sunday, each with a different theme and some have wreaths on their tables and light them every night at dinner. Orthodox Christians start a fast to prepare themselves on that day.
Bodhi Day is December 8th, the day Buddhists celebrate the historical Buddha and when he found enlightenment. Those who practice Buddhism, and many who follow that path also worship in other ways including mine, use the day to mediate, each a special meal, and focus on kindness towards others.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival of light. Due to the lunar calendar it moves throughout December but it starts this year in December 8th as well. It celebrates a miracle when oil that should have lasted only one night, supposedly burned for eight days, keeping the Temple lit and holy.
Las Posadas December 16th to 24th is a 9 day celebration of Jesus’ parents Mary & Joseph. It has been a tradition in Mexico back to the 11th Century. And it’s not as popular as it was as some consider it too festive and not somber enough. But guess where the idea of a Christmas Pageant comes from, yep.
On December 21st this year, the Winter Solstice occurs for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Welcome to the shortest day of the year. Darkness out lasts light. Practitioners of Pagan faith celebrate this date with decorations, and I hate to tell you, but decorating a tree was part of this. In fact, it’s likely we as Christians not only picked up the tree thing from here, but the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birthday around this time of year thanks to this. There is historical evidence of a guy named Jesus in that part of the world. But he was born in the spring, not December 25th.
BTW, on the same day, December 21st, and running to December 25th is Pancha Ganapati. This is a Hindu celebration that honors Lord Ganesha, the Patron of the Arts and the Guardian of culture. Spiritual disciplines are practiced each day. And people are encouraged to make amends to others, settle debts, discuss and encourage art, and make your home beautiful.
Kwanzaa December 26th to January 1st is a week long celebration of African heritage created to honor that culture among those who are the decedents of those taken from Africa in slavery. Each day celebrates one of seven core principles including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
December 31st and January 1st are New Year’s Eve and Day. And in our culture it’s time to celebrate the end of one year and beginning of a new one. The ball dropping in Time’s Square is not the only countdown to Midnight. Locally, about 45 minutes away in Port Clinton we have a Walleye (a predator fish on the Great Lakes) Drop. In my wife’s family, who are from Texas, they have a tradition of eating Black Eyed Peas for good look on New Year’s Day. My Mom’s family was very German and it was pork and sauerkraut. My family itself has been going out, like my Mom’s, to a Chinese Buffet for years.
January 6th is one of my favorites. Now depending on culture, it’s either called Epiphany, Theophany (Eastern Christian) or Three Kings Day (Puerto Rico and other Hispanic Cultures). In case you don’t know, the 12 days of Christmas isn’t a countdown to Christmas Day. It starts with Christmas Day and ends on this day. It’s the day to celebrate the Three Magi, sometimes called astronomers, kings or wisemen, making the journey to visit Jesus and give his family gifts on his birth. I spent several years in Puerto Rico, and I can tell you kids would get their presents on January 6th, as that’s when Mary & Jesus got their gifts. BTW, in the biblical story, they don’t visit the baby and his family in a manger. And don’t get too deep into what their visit does to King Herod and his response if you want to keep your Christmas cheer.
So, you can absolutely say Merry Christmas to me. I am a Christian. But if I’m not sure, and because I know that this isn’t even close to a complete list, I will say Happy Holidays to you, unless I know you are one too. We’ll be open until December 22nd. And then off on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. But no matter which, if any, of these Holidays you celebrate, we hope you have what the main theme is of all of those days, a time of light, of peace, of family and hopefully joy.
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