Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A reflection on the season

As we fight our way toward the end of this holiday season, it’s time to remember what they used to teach us in civics class: America is the Great Melting Pot. And let’s consider this last couple of weeks at the end of December 2009, leading into January 2010.

Yes, you know about Christmas, but are you aware that it’s supposed to go for 12 days? Remember the carol, with all the lords leaping and stuff? Yeah, it runs through January 7th (also known, conveniently, as Twelfth Night). And every one of those days is actually a holiday in its own right: don’t forget the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, for example.

(For the record, Christmas was banned by the Puritans in early America, and our Founding Fathers disapproved of it because they thought it was a British custom. It wasn’t made an official holiday in America until President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law in 1870. Just so you know.)

Some of you (at least 1.5% of you, by most estimates) are aware that Hanukkah started December 12 this year, and ran for 8 days. (If this is the first you’re hearing of it, you missed out.)

The first day of winter 2009, or the Winter Solstice (see also Yule) was December 21. (Yes, Yule. As in "Troll the ancient Yuletide carol" – work with me here, people!).

Festivus (for the rest of us) is set on December 23. Enough on that.

While many of you think of December 24 as Christmas Eve, among Tibetan Buddhists in 2009, this is a day to meditate on Red Tara, one aspect of the Holy Mother.

Large portions of the world celebrate Boxing Day on 26 December (also called St Stephen’s Day, except where the Feast of St Stephen is celebrated on the 27th, or sometimes January 9th). Our Zoroastrian friends mark that day as Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) this year, and Tantric Buddhists (primarily initiates) celebrate Dakas’ Day by making offerings to Father Tantra.

Kwanzaa also starts on December 26 and runs through January 1, which also happens to be New Years Day if you’re a big fan of the Gregorian calendar. On the other hand, Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was back in September this year, Islamic New Year (al-Hijra/Muharram) was December 18, and Chinese New Year will be February 14 next year.

December 27 marks Ashura for the Islamic peoples, and December 31 brings Hogmanay to our Scottish brethren (it’s mostly like New Years, but runs two days – sometimes three, since January 2 is a Scottish Bank Holiday).

And this is barely scratching the surface; I’ve probably left out more than I mentioned.

So, as we enter the first of our two four-day weekends (for those of us fortunate enough to get that), remember to greet each other in the way that seems most appropriate.

Happy Holidays!

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