I believe in life-long learning. As an educator, I believe in the power of knowledge to help us make good decisions. Hence this post….Apologies if this is stuff you already know.
As a kid, I had a friend who was Jewish, so from an early time I was aware of the differences and the similarities between Jews and Christians. One of my older daughter’s best friends when she was growing up was Jewish. As an adult, I have many Jewish friends.
Those Jewish friends are just finishing their celebration of Hanukkah, which this year ran Sunday, December 6 through Monday, December 14.
Hannukkah From Wikipedia we read:
The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem….Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.
Muslims celebrate Mawlid around this time of year, though their calendar is a lunar one and changes more than the Gregorian calendar.
From my friend Wikipedia:
Mawlid (Arabic: مَولِد النَّبِي mawlidu n-nabiyyi, “Birth of the Prophet”, …. is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which is celebrated in 2015 on December 23 by the Sunis and December 28 by the Shias.
I’m sorry. I couldn’t find a good symbol for Islam. Perhaps one of our readers could share that.
As a principal in a public school, I became aware of Kwanza. Again from Wikipedia, we read:
Kwanzaa (/ˈkwɑːnzə/) is a week-long celebration held in the United States and in other nations of the Western African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–67
Picture is from Maulana Karenga
Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture
2008, Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press
Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 ending the season of Advent. All across the world, people celebrate Christmas and Santa Clause and all that goes with the season. (In fact, the celebration of Santa Clause begins before we celebrate Halloween, but that’s a subject for another blog post. :))
I find it remarkable that all these groups, separate though they may be, have major celebrations around the same time of year. In a recent series of Sunday school classes, we looked at the similarities and differences between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Frankly, my mouth fell open more times than I could count because of all the similarities. Why have we been killing each other for centuries?
Take a moment a look at the principals of Kwanza. Who could really argue with the Self-determination, Faith, or Collective Work and Responsibility to name a few?
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and what was I thinking to jump into religion as a topic for the SOS blog. I always try to write about something that is timely. What is more timely in December, especially this December.
As a principal, I strove to be inclusive, to not do or say anything that made others feel uncomfortable. Our country was founded on belief in religious freedom. That means to me that everyone is free to worship (or not) how they’d like without others putting them down or worse threatening them or forcing their beliefs on others. In my schools, we had Christmas trees, but also Menorahs. We hung Kwanza posters around and were careful about serving alternatives to pork in the cafeteria for our Jewish and Muslim students.
Lots of folks struggle with this period when all purports to be so joyful, but yet we have people starving, thousands of refugees, worldwide terrorist tragedies, and in the US, almost monthly domestic gun violence events. How much worse is it going to get before it gets better?
My husband gave me a small plaque that says: “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not the end.” This gives me great comfort.
My prayer for our world is that more of us would act out of a sense of love for those sharing this planet with us, rather than fear. That we’d respect each other and allow for those differences that really make us all stronger and richer.
What people of different faiths or nationalities do you know? How do you deal with the inconsistencies that seem more graphic at this time of year than others? Was this maybe too deep for this blog? Maybe I should’ve just said, “Happy holidays, y’all.” Love to hear your thoughts.