There is more to December than Christmas
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. Dec. 2013
It always surprises me that despite living in such a multicultural city, whenever December comes around, all I hear about is Christmas. I’m certain that there are people just like me, floating about with no religious or cultural link to any holidays. I know I’m not the only one who has blindly accepted Christmas to be the popular choice and ignored all the rest without any recognition.
I remember a time when people were proposing that the phrase, “Merry Christmas” should be officially replaced with politically correct salutations including, “Season’s greetings” and “Happy holidays.” Christmas’ overwhelming attractiveness reigned supreme and those that still get upset about it would be considered rather uptight or having a chronic case of seasonal affective disorder.
Still, I feel it’s important to recognize other significant holidays that other people actually celebrate.
Some might be complaining about Christmas’ early start this year, but Hanukkah actually does start early. November 27 at sundown marked the start of the Jewish holiday, but you probably forgot because you were too busy putting up decorative lights or getting ready for Black Friday. Luckily, there are eight days of Hanukkah, so you still have until December 5 to spin a dreidel and put on Adam Sandler’s animated movie, Eight Crazy Nights.
Bodhi Day arrives during a time of affluence for many. We reap the rewards of a year-long drudgery and enjoy the secret Santa gifts and holiday dinners. But Bodhi Day, December 6 is not about indulgence and splurging on shopping bargains, it commemorates the day the Buddha experienced enlightenment. Different variations of Buddhism, from Zen to Pure Land Buddhism all across the globe take part in this celebration. The traditional way to mark this day is to take part in meditation, but I don’t suggest it, knowing that you’ll probably be full off turkey and red wine.
Although the African community is small in Vancouver, Kwanzaa is a significant holiday, celebrated by over 4.7-million people in the United States and 28-million people in the world. This week-long holiday that starts on Boxing Day and ends on New Year’s Day. For those who do celebrate Kwanzaa, they must face the fact that the eclipse of post-Christmas festivities blinds many people from this holiday. If you are one of those fine folks bracing for New Year’s Day with anticipation, take a moment and sit back and enjoy a movie by Maya Angelou called The Black Candle, a film that explores African culture by using Kwanzaa as the vehicle to tell the tale.
Winter solstice is the occasion to bring family and friends together and share the year’s finale. It’s a beautiful time; every region of the world has their own practices—but I don’t, and I don’t need them. We should all be cultural explorers. It’s nice to decorate trees or light candles, but with such a diverse selection of holidays this month, trying something new might just be the necessary change needed to rejuvenate the spirit and prepare yourself for another year.