Holiday Reads

The Night Before Christmas
The First Christmas
The Story of Hanukkah
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa

As a parent, one of questions I asked myself the most often was whether or not I was doing enough to prepare my children to be citizens of the world.  I tried, lordy, did I try.

But the one time I felt like I truly succeeded was at Christmastime. After my son was born, my husband and I struggled to find a balance between the commercialized Christmas, the denominational Christmas, and the spiritual Christmas. It was somewhat easy when our son was a baby.

But as he got older, and then when our daughter was born, we had come to the realization that “Christmas” is more than December 25. Christmastime transcends attempts to pin it down to one tradition, one celebration, one message. It even transcends a single faith. Pagan, Christian, Jewish, African, secular, they all have sacred celebrations at the end of December, and while we in our own household may cleave to a particular set of traditions, we wanted our children to be aware of all the joys of the season, not merely the ones that held meaning for us, as their parents.

So on Christmas Eve Day, we read four books -one that celebrated Saint Nicholas, one that spoke of the Biblical story of the birth of Christ, one that related the miracle of Hanukkah, and one that explored the somewhat new tradition of Kwanzaa. Each book was bright and beautiful, each one was full of joy. Our children loved them all. And now I see them as adults, holding on to our own family traditions, but also mindful and respectful of others.

We never celebrated Kwanzaa, for we are not African American. We are not Jewish, so we did not partake in any Hanukkah observances. I spoke lovingly to my children about my upbringing in the Protestant church, and how it shaped the person I am today, but I did not press it upon them. I let them make their own decisions, and supported them in those decisions. But they had the knowledge that there was more to the world than our own family, and that this was a good thing, a valuable thing.

So my recommendation this week is that you hold on to what is dear to you, but also be brave enough to expand your knowledge of others – not to embrace it necessarily, but to know of it. To be aware. To live fully in your own existence, but also to acknowledge that yours is not the only beauty in the world. To celebrate peace on earth, and good will to all. And that God, however He manifests Himself, will bless us, everyone.

Sharon Browning

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