Monday, December 24, 2012


This time of year always puts me into a reflective mood.  I enjoy all the music of the season, both religious music and secular music. I love getting together with family and friends. I love the renewal of giving that always comes this time of year.  So many people reaching out to strangers with their hearts and their service: serving meals, providing warmth and companionship, and giving gifts.  There are many holiday traditions at this time of year.

As I have friends and family of many faith traditions, and some without faith, I strive to be particularly respectful at this time of year.  I've listed some of these traditions below.  The one theme that goes through all of them is ending darkness and bringing light, as well as forgiveness of past mistakes and a commitment to being a better person moving forward .  I know I am a better person for getting some understanding of the different ways we celebrate in December, and I hope in sharing these with you it will bring some light into your understanding as well.

First week of December, Chalica - Chalica begins on the first Monday in December and lasts seven days. It is a way to honor the seven principles that congregations of the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition promote. Each day, a chalice is lit and the day is spent reflecting on the meaning of that day’s principle and doing a good deed that honors that principle. The seven principles are: 1) recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person; 2) strive for justice, equity and compassion in human relations; 3) accept one another and encourage spiritual growth in our congregations; 4) promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5) affirm the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6) work toward the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and 7) promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Dec. 8 , Bodhi Day - This Buddhist holiday commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment.Bodhi Day is observed in many mainstream traditions including the traditional Zen and Pureland Buddhist schools of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. In Japanese Zen, it is also known as Rohatsu. In Tendai and other Japanese sects, it is called Jōdō-e.  Services and traditions vary amongst Buddhist sects, but all such services commemorate the Buddha's achievement of Nirvana, and what this means for Buddhism today. Individuals may choose to commemorate the event through additional meditation, study of the Dharma, chanting of Buddhist texts (sutras), or performing kind acts towards other beings. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea, cake, and readings.

Dec. 8-15, Hannukah - This eight-day Jewish holiday starts the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. Also known as the Festival of Lights it commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE.  During Hanukkah, on each of the eight nights, a candle is lit in a special menorah (candelabra) called a 'hanukkiyah'. There is a special ninth candle called the 'shammash' or servant candle which is used to light the other candles. The shammash is often in the center of the other candles and has a higher position. On the first night one candle is lit, on the second night, two are lit until all are lit on the eighth and final night of the festival. Traditionally they are lit from left to right. A special blessing, thanking God, is said before or after lighting the candles and a special Jewish hymn is often sung. The menorah is put in the front window of houses so people passing can see the lights and remember the story of Hanukkah.  In many Jewish households, Hanukkah is also a time for giving and receiving presents and gifts are often given on each night.

Dec. 21-22, Winter Solstice - The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural traditions for celebrating this date have arisen.  Many people mistakenly believe this holiday is celebrated today only by pagans or witches. In fact, it is celebrated by many cultures around the world, including: Zuni and Hopi (Soya); Persians (Yalda); Romans (Saturnalia); and Saxons (Modraniht).

Dec. 21-25, Pancha Ganapati - This Hindu festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture. During each of the five days of Pancha Ganapati, the family focuses on a special spiritual discipline to bring forth a new beginning and mend past mistakes.The entire five days is focused on creating a vibration of love and harmony. The first day begins with immediate family. The second day includes relatives and close friends. The third day includes business associates. The fourth day includes music, arts, drama, and dance. On the final day, love and harmony is experienced in all three worlds (the physical plane, the astral plane, and the spiritual plane) and especially from the great God himself.

December 25th, Christmas - Christians around the world celebrate this as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Though the precise birth date is not known, in the mid fourth century, the Western Christian Church placed the date as December 25th.  The original date of the celebration was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church.  As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6 on what for the majority of the world is January 7 and January 19. For this reason. Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7.

December 26-Jan. 1, Kwanzaa - This week-long celebration is held primarily in the U.S., and more recently in Canada. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture. Kwanzaa has seven core principles: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

My wish for each of us is that in whatever way we celebrate the holidays, that we do it with a commitment to understanding, a commitment to bringing light into the world, and a commitment to search for a way toward peace for all of us.

Happy Holidays to all my friends, family, and readers!


Jessa Slade said...

Wishing you much light! We just gotta be patient :)

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thank you, Jessa! I hope your holidays have been filled with light too.

Unfortunately, patience is one of those virtues still on my constant practice list. I keep trying.

Jamie said...

Solstices have always seemed special to me. Nice post.
Now as for above-mentioned patience... we are in the right business to be practicing it. Lots and lots of patience as we wait and wait and wait.

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Jamie, thanks for stopping by. Both summer and winter Solstice is special to me too. In fact, I was quite disappointed to miss a solstice celebration this year because I was sick. But next year I'll be ready. :)

On our honeymoon, my husband and I had the wonderful experience of going to New Grange, a stone age passage tomb, in Ireland. Though we weren't there at Winter Solstice, the guide was able to show us what it would be like.

At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.

The accuracy of Newgrange is remarkable given the age of the creation. It was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
Some archaeologists believe it was the intent of its builders to mark the beginning of the new year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.

Melia Alexander said...

Here's to much light and happiness, Maggie!

Happy New Year hugs,

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thank you, Melia. Happy New Year to you as well. I'm really looking forward to 2013.