This first week of December comes with the anticipation of what 12/21/12 will bring. It also comes at a time when the world is in a period of deep soul-searching.
The signs of the holidays are all around, have been since before Halloween. The traditions we have known and followed for generations have begun to take hold. Every culture or religion takes ownership of the season and fervently appeals to the masses that their manifestation of holiday recognition is the right one. These traditions bring us together but also drive us apart. The symbolic meanings of each ritual, object, and character become lost in the competitive drive for ownership of the holiday.
Our free market self takes full advantage of the holiday season to generate revenue. This is true for the giant super stores, mom and pop stores, churches, and even public institutions. Fund raising for nonprofits becomes most lucrative during this season as everything from candy to candles are great gifts that “need” to be purchased anyway, so why not help someone out in the process. This surge of frenzied shopping and spending has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of this season, however even the most pious of organizations will gear up for what they may financially reap this time of year.
The economic expression of holiday giving is the creation of capitalism, and a tradition that began with the establishment of the free market. The traditions we enjoy stem from generations of a great melting pot which brings culture, religion, superstition, and regional dynamics into one big batch of holiday stew. The mixture sometimes becomes a toxic brew of anger, hate and greed.
Our need to fight for individualism, which stems from our natural tendency to compete, causes us to cling to our particular tradition as the right one. When we feel that something different is threatening our hold on what we perceive as “right,” we attack. The reality is that no one philosophy has a hold on the holiday, no one belief system is more deserving of holiday expression, and no particular tradition holds more meaning or truth than another.
The more we stay frozen in our traditions, the less we allow ourselves to expand into experiencing the joys of difference. The more we cling to our way without recognizing that there are many ways, the less joy we express and the less joy we receive.
So express greetings this holiday season in whatever way you feel works for your tradition. But let’s try to also respect anyone else’s right to express their own. Whether it’s Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just another day, we are all equally justified in our celebration. Thus, when you hear “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas,” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Happy Hanukkah” perhaps this year we can smile and appreciate the diversity among us, and melt that need for our tradition to be the only one. We are one, and this is a beautiful time for renewal and unity.