Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas deserves its own season

December 22, 2005

My first impression of Christmas in America as I was growing up was one of grandeur. Big celebrations, Santa Claus everywhere, Christmas carolers walking down the streets, Christmas trees and snow -- lots and lots of snow.

Boy was I ever wrong. It doesn't always snow during Christmas, you hardly see carolers anymore and big celebrations are not a common occurrence in the Midwest. However, I was pleased to learn that the celebrations were more about families getting together and relishing the reason for the season. Over the years, the Christmas spirit that once was synonymous with Christmas has been taken over by the "Holiday Spirit." This year there have been numerous stories about how saying "Merry Christmas" or anything associated with the Christian aspect of the holiday is taboo. When I first learned about Christmas, it was always associated with the birth of Christ. Even while growing up in a Muslim country, the Christmas season was recognized for what it is, the celebration marking the birth of Jesus. If an Islamic country can acknowledge that, how ironic is it that a Christian nation is so against it.

That's why it's hard for me to comprehend why Christmas is becoming a "generic" holiday in the United States, a country that was founded on the Christian religion. Every year it seems to get worse. This year, even the Christmas tree is not spared. It's the holiday tree now. Next year, it's going to be "holiday lights" that you put up and "holiday ornaments" that will go on the holiday tree. Ever wonder why no other holiday requires a make over like Christmas? This is what I call the "extreme makeover- holiday edition," based on the popular ABC show. When was the last time you heard someone wish you a "Happy Holiday" for Halloween? Or during Labor Day or even New Year's Day. We all shout out a chorus of "Happy New Year" and not "Happy Holiday." Jay Leno made a joke recently referencing that it was now OK to acknowledge Satan during Halloween, but not Jesus during Christmas.

I understand the need for tolerance and understanding of the different cultures, but when was it OK for one religion to bear the bunt of harassment and opposition? I just read this week that in a gym in Lawrence, three women were offended and cancelled their membership because a small Christmas tree from the group Birthright displayed miniature ornaments of babies. They cited that some kids that come in the gym would be too young to understand and deal with the issue. I bet these same women have no problem taking their kids to haunted houses and dressing them up with costumes of ghosts and goblins. I guess it's easier for kids to understand witches, ghosts and goblins over the Christian religion.

When I first came to this country, I understood that there were certain behavioral and cultural changes I had to make. You know the saying, when in Rome, do as the Roman's do. I was more than willing to learn and respect and even adapt to some of those changes. I never expected that I should have the right to have my cultural believes accepted by others. Nor did I take offense to the practices that were done here. I believe that this same principle should apply during Christmas. Pilgrims who came searching for a place to enjoy their religious freedom founded this country. Christmas is an integral part of America. If there are some who take offense to that, they can then enjoy the liberty of moving someplace where Christmas is not a part of the culture.

In choosing to live in this country, one must also respect and accept its cultural and religious heritage. It is not OK to acknowledge all the other holidays for what it stands but dismiss Christmas as just a "holiday." The Muslim observe Ramadan, the Chinese celebrate their religious New Year, the Jews observe Hannukkah, and the Christians should be allowed to celebrate the birth of Christ, not just a holiday. Nobody has to accept or celebrate Christmas, but they should accommodate it as a part of this culture that we live in. So, I am doing my part to keep the spirit of Christmas going by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and may God bless this nation that has been so gracious to many of us.

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