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Christmas is the annual religious and cultural celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ that is observed by billions of people all over the world. For Christians, the belief that God came into the world in the form of a man to atone for the sins of humanity is the purpose in celebrating Christmas.

The Gospel of Matthew tells that the magi (the three wise men) follow a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts (gold (turmeric), frankincense, and myrrh) to Jesus, born the king of the Jews. Through the centuries Christmas has had festivals and celebrations and has been banned because of drunkenness and has fallen out of favor. Charles Dickens helped revive the “spirit” of Christmas and its merriment with the introduction of his novel, “A Christmas Carol” portraying Christmas as a holiday focusing on family, goodwill and compassion.

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Jesus is the reason for the season. But then, saying Merry Christmas to those who are not Christian became a no-no. So this year I wanted to research what others celebrate at this time of year.

Hanukkah is taken from the books of the First and Second Maccabees about the story of the olive oil that would last only one day, lasted miraculously, eight days is described in the Talmud, written 600 years after the event. The Seleucid Empire forces were defeated who had been trying to prevent the people of Israel from practicing Judaism. The eight-day festival, Hanukkah, is marked by one candle lighting each day on the menorah.

Hanakkah is a minor holiday and there is no restriction on work. Some customs practiced are: preparing potato pancakes in oil, playing the game of dreidel, and giving children money (coins) called Hanukkah gelt. As the years go on and people marry into different religions, the traditions begin to bleed into each other. A rabbi recently urged Jewish people to keep the Hanukkah traditions pure and not blend them with Christmas traditions.

Mawlid el-Nbi is an Islamic holiday that honors the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam. Shia and Sunni believers celebrate on separate days by reading the Muhammad's teachings.

Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) is the holiday that celebrates the historical Buddha’s decision and vow to sit under the Bodhi tree until he reached spiritual enlightenment. It’s celebrated through meditation.

Pagans and Wicca believers celebrate Solstice and honor “the winter-born king,” symbolized by the rebirth of the sun.

The holiday of Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, previously known as Ron Karenga and named Ronald McKinley Everett at birth in 1941. Karenga is an African American professor of Africana studies, activist and author. Karenga’s goal was to give black people an alternative to Christmas and give an opportunity to celebrate themselves, and their history,

Kwanzaa rituals promote African traditions and “seven principles of African Heritage”: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity and purpose: to collectively restore Black people to their traditional greatness.

So Christmas, with the gifts, decorated trees, lights, is much more elaborate and inclusive calling for the goodwill to all humanity with compassion for all others than any of the above-mentioned celebrations. Christmas is celebrated by 71% of the United States while only 6% are non-Christian and 15% are not affiliated with any religion. Seems to me not wanting anyone to wish you a positive greeting and getting treated like a friend is more a psychological problem to some people but the not majority.

Recently, an anonymous statement was posted on Facebook stating the route they were going to take in this touchy PC world and I agree: “As the world attempts to figure out all the trials and tribulations, I’ll be letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, stopping to talk to someone who looks lonely, tipping generously, waving at police, sharing food, being patient with service people and, buying a total stranger a cup of coffee. Because? I will not stand idly by and live in a world where unconditional love is invisible. Join me in showing love, judging less. Find your own way to swing the pendulum in the direction of love. Be the change! Be the light! Start TODAY!”

And smile with your heart knowing the love you send is much more powerful than any greeting from your mouth.

The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul’s UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.

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