Here I sit, living between Christmas Day and the start of a new year, and I wonder how these particular holidays would fare if ranked by their measure of holiness. I mean, which holiday do people regard as the most holy? Christmas or New Years Day? Is it really as obvious as it seems? What, after all, makes a holiday holy?
And what if Christmas and New Years were measured against holidays like Easter, St. Valentines or Independence Day? What then?
The list I've begun is flawed if I hope to reflect the feeling of all humans--all children of God--for the prism through which I view holy days is obviously Christian and decidedly American in its orientation. But because I recognize that, I hope I also have the capacity to recognize the holy impact brought about by Chanukuh or Purim or Diwali or Vesak, for instance. I'm ignorant of their meaning but not unaware of their capacity to reveal divine truth.
Which brings me back to where I started. Reflecting on this time between Christmas and New Years and what it might mean to people in terms of holiness. As I wonder, I remember of my affinity for birthdays: individual people's, individual birthdays. After all, a birthday is the one day set apart for a person to be held high regard. I feel birthdays are extremely holy.
Perhaps that's why Christmas has universal appeal regardless of religious affiliation. It's a holiday set around the celebration of someone's birthday. And not just any someone, but a person that a large percentage of the globe's population regards as a savior. And the Christmas birthday celebration involves gifts and parties and stories about the honoree.
And that's not something unique to Christians.
Vesak is Buddha Day, the major holiday of the year for those who are Buddhist. And guess what it celebrates? Buddha's birthday!
And guess what else: Sikhs celebrate Gurpurbs, or festivals associated with the lives of Gurus. And the most important of those festivals commemorate the birthdays of major Gurus. Birthdays, yet again!
Celebrating birthdays connects us to our belief that we, too, have been specially sent from God. Or maybe it feeds our awareness that because we are God's, we are special.
And isn't the celebration of a new year simply another way of celebrating a new start? All major religions, regardless of the calendar used, highly regard the beginning of a new year. And isn't that, really, just another version of a birthday? A start to a new year is a chance to start anew. A day of new birth.
So what an interesting week this is each year -- the week between Christmas and our western culture's new year. This year I'm focusing my thoughts on the divinity to be found in these day for all of God's children, all across the world--whatever new starts might be happening in their lives, in these moments.
May we all have a Happy Holiweek!