Thursday, January 18, 2007

'Tis The Season For "Season's Greetings"

Many religions celebrate a holiday about the time of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Early in human history, long before the origin of clocks, it was obvious that for half the year the days grew shorter with the sun not getting as high in the sky, then for half the year they grew longer again. But what if they if they didn't get longer? What if each day it just kept getting colder and colder? There'd be no crops to harvest, no food to eat.

This is the kind of thing that calls out for religion, a way to appease the gods, a way to assure that the world wasn't ending. Wonder of wonders, when the proper rituals were performed, songs sung, prayers recited, and symbols displayed, the days did indeed begin to get longer. The sun got ever higher in the sky, the weather got warmer, the spring rains arrived, and plants once more sprouted new leaves.

Things like mistletoe and coniferous trees, both ever green, gave hope that the world would be right again, reminding us that there was a future. In northern Europe these plants became associated with Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, after untold centuries of symbolizing rebirth and renewal by the religions that existed there before. It's also the season when the Jews celebrate Hanukah, "The festival of lights" while the Hindus celebrate Divali, also "The festival of lights".

Our traditions here in the United States largely revolve around the Christian symbols, as shown by the Christmas tree here in North Miami's city hall lobby, but in recent years it's been joined by a Jewish menorah with it's eight lights. As our population of Hindus, Bhudists, Muslims, and others of many faiths continues to grow it may be to time to add more symbols to the public lobby. Or perhaps it may be time to just realize that all those symbols are all really in celebration of the same thing, and celebrate together as one.


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