As Dec. 25 approaches, many in the Golden Belt are celebrating Christmas. Others may be celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or nothing in particular.
Winter began on Dec. 21, but Kansans know it arrived a week earlier, when temperatures turned bitter cold.
The winter solstice was the longest night and the shortest day of the year, so from here on out, logic would tell us, every day should be a little longer and brighter. In reality, the entire winter season lies ahead.
Since ancient times, the winter solstice has signified rebirth and a return to light. Hopi Indians celebrate Soyal with ceremonies and rituals, dancing and gift giving. The Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” around this time. (This year Hanukkah starts on the evening of Dec. 24 and will end the evening of Jan. 1.)
Many African Americans celebrate their cultural heritage and traditional values with a secular holiday called Kwanzaa. (Also Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 this year.)
There’s even an imaginary secular holiday, “Festivus,” created in 1966 by Daniel O’Keefe Sr. His son Dan wrote it into a script for the TV show “Seinfeld” in 1997. “A Festivus for the rest of us!” is celebrated on Dec. 23.
And for Christians, Dec. 25 is Christmas, the day selected to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even those who believe Jesus is “the reason for the season” should be able to appreciate a greeting of “Happy Holidays” or the humor of the movie, “Christmas Vacation.” Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas should be able to appreciate a greeting of “Merry Christmas,” or the beauty of “Handel’s Messiah.”
Muslims learn from the Quran: “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally.”
Somewhere out there, a person is offended by the design on a coffee cup or the fact that children sing “Frosty the Snowman” in school or believe in Santa. Somewhere out there, a person is offended that children sing Vespers songs at school, or that a Nativity scene can be found on public property. The rest of will not take offense where none was meant. We all can coexist and embrace the spirit of the season, assuming the best of intentions behind a cheerful greeting: Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and hope Santa brings you what you want.