Happy Holidays everyone! For those of us who are aware of the abundance of holiday celebrations that occur during December around the world, it’s easy and SMART to admit how appropriate that greeting is for us all. It means no disrespect to anyone, and instead acknowledges that different people experience different ways to find meaning in their world. In fact, even if you have a favorite way to celebrate, acknowledging with love, kindness and compassion the diversity among us, just might be the most spiritual and enlightened way to celebrate and enjoy the season.
This date near the shortest sun-lit day (and longest night-time) in the Northern Hemisphere (typically December 21st) is filled with current and ancient holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to study and understand that many of the world’s major religions selected this time of year for a holiday because it was already a principle time of the year for celebration—or something important happened within their history. A short breakdown of the major holidays throughout history in December include:
1) Ancient Egypt Celebrated “The Return of The Goddess” every Winter Solstice since 4500 BCE (Before the Common Era—meaning before Christ). In other words, the Winter Solstice has been celebrated around the world for at least 6,500 years.
2) Zoroastrianism celebrated the Winter Solstice since 1700 BCE as evidence of the triumph of good over evil, as nights begin to shorten and daytime lengthen. They also acknowledge December 26th as the day when Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, died and followers spend the day in prayer and study.
3) Romans celebrated Saturnalia as the most popular holiday of the entire year, which began in approximately 217 BCE. Traditionally, Saturnalia was held each year for seven days from December 17th to December 23rd and was an occasion for celebration, visits with friends, and presentation of gifts.
4) The Jewish Tradition has celebrated the eight days of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) since the 2nd Century BCE. It commemorated a holy time known as the Festival of Lights and is held according to the Hebrew calendar so that it can occur any time from late November to late December. This year it runs from December 20 to December 28th.
5) Buddhists celebrate December 8th as the day when their founder The Buddha, achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in 596 BCE.
6) Native Americans and other Aboriginal groups in the world have celebrated the Winter Solstice for thousands of years. The celebration acknowledged the end of a “darkening period” and the return of the light.
7) Christians now celebrate December 25th as the birthday of their savior. However, religious scholars acknowledge the actual birthday of Jesus was probably either in the spring or the fall of the year. However, in an effort to convert Romans and other non-believers from their holiday of worshipping the return of the sun around the winter solstice—church leaders voted to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25th beginning in the year 440 AD (Anno Domini—since Christ was born).
8 ) Muslims or those who practice Islam recognize a holiday that follows a lunar calendar that sometimes falls within December. Named Ashura—it is a holy day of remembrance that has been followed since 680 AD and this year Ashura fell on December 6th in the US.
9) Celebrating Santa Claus is believed to have originated from a man named Saint Nicholas who lived in Turkey in the 4th Century and was known for his gifts of charity to the poor. There is also some evidence that Santa Claus, or the holiday of “Yule,” originated in Germany as a pagan holiday around the Winter Solstice. Plus, in the Scandinavian countries of Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, a man named “Sinterklaas” along with his “helpers” existed. He supposedly carried a book containing evidence of whether children had been good or bad and would deliver either punishment or rewards accordingly. To this day, many people in this region still celebrate a special day in December called, “Sinterklaas Day.
10) Kwanzaa was first celebrated on December 26th 1966 and each year runs from that date for seven days ending on January 1st. The festival was created as a way for those of African-American heritage to celebrate and build strong family, history, and unity.
The human race has obviously celebrated meaningful spiritual and religious holidays on this planet during December since time began. While most of us within the United States may be most familiar with Christmas–it is clear that our traditions are just pieces of a global puzzle that is intricately connected and impossible to fully unravel. What is apparent is that no one owns December—or the right to celebrate the meaning they find there—any more than anyone owns the basic qualities and values of love, compassion, and kindness. And who can solely and rightfully claim the expressions of laughter, friendship, peace, hope, generosity, and good will? SMART Living 365 suggests that we honor and respect all traditions, religions and beliefs as long as they promote peace, love and compassion. After it is all said and done, maybe the true reason for the season is to remember that we are all connected and universally united, regardless of how we decide to celebrate.
“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”-D.M. Dellinger
“Yes, there is a Santa Claus! He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist…”–Francis P. Church
Photo by: Michal Marcol